Roku 1 Review

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The low-end Roku set-top box (starting at $50, Amazon) represents a savings over most of the company's other streaming media players, but Roku 1 reviews point out it's not the best value for the money. The Roku Streaming Stick costs the same amount and has a native YouTube app, supports casting from mobile devices for YouTube and Netflix, and has dual-band wireless for a faster and more stable connection. The Roku 2, which costs an additional $20, also comes with dual-band wireless and a remote with a built-in headphone jack. Many owners use this feature to watch TV late at night without disturbing the rest of the house. The Streaming Stick and Roku 2 remotes also use radio frequency technology, which controls the device even without a clear line of sight.

The Roku 1 and Roku 2 are otherwise nearly identical set-top boxes. They sport curvy corners, a design that helps Roku media players stand apart from boxier competitors. Both have three ports on the back: one for power, one for an HDMI cable to connect to an HDTV, and one for an RCA connection to a standard-definition TV (a composite A/V cable is included but an HDMI cable is not). The RCA plug is one selling point for the Roku 1 vs. the Roku Streaming Stick, which costs the same but plugs into HDTVs only. On the company website, Roku 1 reviews generally praise the device's performance. Some consumers say this is their go-to source of content and a sufficient (cheaper) alternative to cable.

Where to buy

Roku devices make use of the company's vast ecosystem, which includes hundreds of channels and popular streaming services. Roku 1 users can watch content from Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, RedBox Instant, and WatchESPN, among countless others. The Plex channel lets owners supplement the offerings with content stored on their computers. Independently created "private" channels also add to the offering. These don't appear in the Roku Channel Store, so websites such as StreamFree.TV compile lists of channels and access codes. CNN, Fox Business, and YouTube have private channels and many others are still in testing, so they may not work perfectly at all times. Although Roku 1 users can't broadcast videos from their mobile devices or computers onto a TV screen like they can with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Chromecast, the set-top box stands on its own as a worthwhile addition to the living room. (The Roku Streaming Stick and Roku 3 do feature casting for some apps and Roku is aiming to support more apps and bring this feature to more of its media players in the near future.)

A Roku 1 offers access to the same wealth of content at a lower price than most other Roku devices but has less impressive hardware. For the extra savings, buyers sacrifice features such as dual-band wireless and a headphone jack on the remote, but the low price and ability to connect to a non-HD TV make this a good choice for some consumers.

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer who specializes in credit, debt, and practical money-saving tips. He loves stacking savings opportunities to get amazing deals, traveling for free using credit card rewards, and teaching others how to do the same. Connect with Louis by visiting louisdenicola.com.

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