Killer Roku: Why We Chose Roku Streaming Box Over Apple TV, Google TV, and Cable

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We decided to get (and proceeded to purchase and install) a Roku. It's kind of like Apple TV, Google TV, On Demand, etc. But cheaper. Here's the story:

Why'd We Want A Streaming Box?
For better or worse, I'm an on demand kind of person. The only show I consistently tune in to at exactly the time it airs is Revenge, and even then, it's only because, if I don't, someone will spoil it for me (I know too many people who watch that show...). And, let's be honest, Revenge is pretty much all about the surprise factor.

Other than that, I prefer watching TV online. I use Netflix or HuluPlus, where I can pull up what I want immediately. I have Netflix and HuluPlus accounts so that I can watch my shows at the gym. I bring my iPad and set it up on the Stairmaster, Elliptical, or Bike. Somehow, I generally make it through at least an entire 45 minute episode without stopping. For the record, my favorites are Alias (Netflix), 30 Rock (Netflix), Nikita (Netflix Seasons 1,2 and HuluPlus Season 3), Modern Family (HuluPlus) and Arrow (HuluPlus).

So, when I'm already paying for Netflix and HuluPlus, and my boyfriend uses AmazonPrime (which also has lots of movies and TV shows), I just can't bring myself to pay for actual cable every month. I already can watch most of the TV shows anyway.

For a while, we hooked up my MacBook Pro to the TV using an HDMI cord and a converter for Macs. While this does work, it also means extra cords, issues in general (like keeping the computer charged, formatting the sound to come out of the right speakers, etc), and the simple hassle of always having to give up control of my laptop while the computer is on. Not to mention... NO REMOTE.

What'd We Consider?
We wanted to be able to watch Netflix, HuluPlus, and AmazonPrime programs on the actual TV, without a lot of hassle or extra charge. During the "research" phase, we considered a few options:
  • Cable (which was quickly ruled out, because it wouldn't use those programs as its primary entertainment) - Cost Unknown
  • Apple TV - Cost around $100
  • Google TV  - Cost varies depending on what you run it through (Sony makes a few models you can run it through for around $170)
  • Roku - Cost between $40 and $100, depending on model

The Options (And How They Fared)
After ruling cable out, we decided to also rule out Apple TV. The way Apple TV seems to be set up, it seems like we'd get stuck ordering a lot of things through the Apple Store. Plus, on top of the rental/purchase charge we would undoubtedly incur (I don't trust myself with that many paid options and would prefer to limit myself to the TV shows included in Netflix/Hulu/Amazon packages we already have), there's also the fact that it just costs more money than some other players (hint: Roku) to begin with. Additionally, Apple TV won't allow you to use much beyond Netflix, YouTube, Apple Store and your own personal iTunes library... so we wouldn't be able to use HuluPlus or AmazonPrime. Last, according to FixYa polls, a lot of people have issues connecting their AppleTV to iTunes libraries. Isn't that kind of the point of going with Apple?

Google TV also kicked the bucket, for a number of reasons. Similar to the way that Android phones (pardon my mature language here) sucked when they first came out, it sounds like Google TV still has some bugs and the apps are really hit or miss. Perhaps in a few years they will perfect it, as they seem to have done with Android phones, but for now, we decided not to jump on that boat. Also, FixYa's results suggest that Google blocks a lot of content. Luke Hulu, for example. I don't like being told "No."

Next, Roku. Roku says yes to Netflix, HuluPlus, AmazonPrime, Pandora, Youtube, and the list goes on and on. They have such an extensive list of available "channels" (which are more like different menus for you to choose from, because everything is still on demand streaming) that I found everything I wanted here. There are numerous free exercise channels (such as a channel filled with Pilates workouts, for example). And, if your phone is connected to WiFi, you can use your cell phone as a remote. Amen. Perhaps most importantly, though, I've read that Roku is extremely stable. So far, we agree. The biggest FixYa problem people had with Roku was difficulty connecting to the internet... we took a chance, with our internet being pretty darn solid, and it has not let us down.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
What did we choose? Well, if you read the title of this post, you know we bought the Roku. We ran the cable for the Roku up through the wall, but left the actual Roku box sitting on the floor under the credenza. It's a tiny box and hardly visible.

The way the Roku-issued remote works, it has to be directed at the box to work. So we couldn't hide the box behind the TV or in the cabinet if we wanted to use that remote. That said, for those of you who want to hide everything in a cabinet, have no fear! Cell phones work as Roku remotes over Wifi, so I can legitimately change the channel in the Living Room while I'm laying in bed (if I want to... which I don't... but still).

Image Credits: Apple, Google, Roku


  1. I love this review! We've been debating about getting roku for a bit now...

  2. The remote included with Roku XS is a bluetooth remote. Therefore, it doesn't need to be pointed at the box. But, yes, if you have an iOS or Android device, get the Roku Remote app because it has streaming features too.

  3. I got a roku3 and a roku lt. one for the living room one for the bedroom and I love them. I had to take a hard look at my monthly bill and make the long over due decision that the sat bill was way to high, I said out loud to myself when was tv worth 162.00 dollars a month, it is not. I use netflix and hulu+ along with youtube and it is so wonderful and way way better if you are a night owl and sick to death of infomercials. Now I never have to see another one ever. I do not mind the few commercials on hulu it is cool that they are short and the stream shows you how many seconds they are on for. Also love the hulu as a channel of original entertainment. Plus for all the All My Children fans, wow they are going to be on there too. It has only been 2 months and I already feel so much relief from not having the high tv bills.

  4. Great article Carly. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Roku by using UnoTelly or similar tools.


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