I have had my Roku Netflix box for about 2 weeks now and so far the Pros far out weigh the cons.
Setup was so easy that I am comfortably considering getting my parents one of these for Christmas and knowing that they could open the box and set it up themselves. Take it out of the box, plug it in, power it up and follow the set of simple onscreen instructions.
Connectivity is excellent, I have had playback over my AT&T DSL without glitch, hitch or hiccup.
The software interface is clean, easy to use and you can easily browse movies in a “cover flow” style, get details on the movie and jump back to the flow without difficulty.
Because the box only displays the items in your instant view queue, and does not browse the entire instant view library, you will need to either spend some time building up a long queue, or be satisfied with just a few choices when you use the box. Since I can never be sure what anyone will be in the mood for, I now have an instant queue that is 334 titles long and manually organized by movie genre. This was not a fun process and takes time to maintain when new movies are added to the queue.
Allowing profiles to have their own instant view queues and being able to select a profile from the Roku home screen would simplify this. Since we have a wide range of tastes ( elementary school boys, teen-aged girls and grownups) the titles I had to put in the queue vary widely and you have to wade through everyone else’s possibilities to find the ones you might be interested in. I do not like that I have to either closely monitor the kids and make sure they do not choose the more adult content in the queue, or else add and subtract it all the time to keep them out of it- but this is not a killer issue. I will just keep my fingers crossed that since they are officially keeping profiles on the regular queues, they will soon let us have multiple instant watch queues. Having a search feature to be able to search through the queue ( by title, by actor, by director, by genre) would be a great addition to the interface as well. I believe that Roku and Netflix think that people are going to put about 6 movies in their queue and dynamically change it all the time. I don’t see this happening. It is much more useful as a sort of streaming video on demand box with a broad list of options to choose from. Once you get more than about 20 movies in the queue, you really start to wish for search.
We have also learned that losing power unexpectedly will cause the box to lose it’s brains and hang- luckily a simple power hup seems to bring it right back again. The power up and reload process takes about 4-5 minutes ( I have a queue that is over 300 titles long, remember…????) so this is an annoyance if you are in a hurry- but not many people are on a tight time schedule to watch a show. Since power outages here are limited to about a weekly episode during thunderstorm season and this is not a daily occurrence, it is a livable problem. A cleaner failure would be nice- the hung interface would be frustrating to most users without the savvy to figure out the power hup trick ( then again in an age when cable companies make commercials telling people to power hup their routers and modems when they have problems, maybe it is becoming a common solution).
The biggest issue is the available content. Netflix is adding new movies and TV shows to the list of titles that are available through the instant view option on a daily basis- but if you are the type of person who only watches first run movies, the current industry licensing policies will keep you from ever enjoying this little box. If you like classic movies, strange B Science fiction, really great documentaries, musicals, music specials or like to watch TV shows on DVD, you will love this little box. Since there are tons of classic movies I still want to share with my kids, I like to watch musicals and bad science fiction while folding clothes and we are a documentary hungry household, this is a good fit.