I am a big fan of movies. I had an enormous VHS collection, then lasterdisks, now DVDs and Blu-Rays. I worked in a video store back in the early 1990s. I minored in film in college. For a period of time during college I saw literally every movie that was released in the theater, even if I had no desire to see it. I wanted to appreciate any artistic value it may have. Before we had kids we spent a great deal of time and money on going to the theater. I frequent the ebertfest film festival. I guess I was “that guy”. I wanted to be a film maker or a cinematographer. I’m probably a step or two away from the folks in the movie “cinemania“. All that said, I clearly like movies and a lot. So, I tend to take my experience fairly seriously (within the budgetary constraints I have).
I like the streaming media options available now and use them a lot. I find a digital format easier for consumption and am a big fan of the plex platform both for its transcoding functionality and it’s ability to present web media in a convenient, standard format on my TV. I had been using a hacked AppleTV for this. I like the Apple ecosystem for many things, but having to jailbreak the ATV and install sometimes fairly untested apps into it was a pain, especially since other people need to use this device.
Enter the Roku.
This device is everything that I had hoped that the google TV was going to be. It doesn’t have the apple ecosystem integration, as much as I wish it did, but it’s got so much more I don’t actually miss it.
With the Roku, the big win for me was the channels, more specifically, the Fandor channel and the Plex channel. For those that don’t know about Fandor, look into it. It has a monumental amount of art and indie film. It’s got a niche for everyone, is all streamable and is very reasonably priced. They have mobile apps which are all very elegant and a well put together Roku channel.
With the newest interface update the usability and capabilities of the Roku (I have an XS because I wanted a wired ethernet port) allow me to do Amazon streaming, connect to my Plex instance running in a linux VM in my basement, connect to NetFlix, PBS streaming, HULU Plus, the list goes on and on. There are so many channels that as long as I have a reasonable internet connection, I can stream just about anything I want, and it’s easy. The remote is simple and functional (and I’m pretty sure it’s bluetooth, not IR). There is an iOS app for remote and other administration that works well. It is an all around great device. Oh, and it’s only $80.
The other option I’m playing with is the raspberry pi with the plex build, rasplex. It allows for a USB powered device with all of the capabilities of plex. So, I can plug it into the USB port of my TV for power and it streams plex over the existing network. Very cool stuff, albeit not quite as elegant as the roku.
I guess the point is that there are a lot of budget friendly ways to get great streaming film options in a user friendly way, which is a big win for consumers of this media.