Streaming boxes such as the Roku, or the New Apple TV (Latest Model - Launched Mar 2012) are single purpose devices. Unlike consoles such as the PS3 and the Xbox 360, which also play discs and of course, games, these devices live or die by how many third party streaming services they give access to. The Apple TV is still a total dud for UK audiences, so the market is wide open for Roku to fill it.
Sadly the results are rather poor, and improvements arrive at a glacial place. The easiest way to illustrate how useful this box will be to anyone reading this, is to list which streaming services it provides access to.
Amazon Instant Video - No Amazon MP3 - No ITV Player - No Sky Go - No Animax - No MUBI - No Curzon on Demand - No Blinkbox - No Sainsbury's Entertainment - No Knowhow Movies - No Wuaki TV - No Last FM - No BBC Sport - No
The big omissions are clearly the Amazon services (ironic, given how Roku originally distributed the Roku in the UK exclusively through Amazon), and of course, ITV. As a film fan, I can't manage without Amazon Instant Video, which I find to be the best of the UK film streaming services by quite some margin. If you're a fan of art house, classic, and non English language cinema, MUBI is also essential.
Roku are very keen to trumpet their hundreds of channels, and that's true, there are plenty in the channel store. However, the aim has clearly been quantity over quality. Outside of the well known services everyone looks for, you'll find little of interest in the store. The mix is spread fairly evenly between obscure films - and by obscure, I mean straight to video efforts made for pennies, non-English language TV - which are mostly Indian and African, UFO/Ghost/Conspiracy Nut/Nonsense channels for crazy people, and most terrifying of all, a very wide array of ultra hardcore religious channels. The abysmal quality of 99.9% of channels makes looking at the channel store a total waste of time.
I should add that there is no support for DLNA streaming in the Roku, although you can install the very bare bones PLEX app if you run a PLEX server on your PC and stream local content that way. It's worth stating the obvious however, that PLEX won't stream anything which has DRM on it, such as video bought from iTunes. One nice feature of this latest Roku is a headphone jack in the remote, which could be useful for those who don't want to disturb others in the house.
Sky now sell a variant of the previous generation (and now discontinued) Roku 2 box as a way to push their Now TV service, and presumably because of this Demand 5 and 4OD have recently appeared on the platform. Given that Sky block Netflix from their own branded Roku 2, it seems highly unlikely they will want Amazon Instant Video to arrive. Roku UK seem totally disinterested in acquiring new services, so if you want to watch Amazon Instant Video, or use Amazon MP3, then this isn't a box I would recommend. If you're happy with iPlayer, Netflix, 4OD, Demand 5, and Now TV, then this may suffice, although I'd still recommend a PS3 instead, which does a lot more for only a small premium over the price of a Roku 3.
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