Wednesday 14 May 2014

Roku Streaming Stick (Round 2).

Well after the complete nightmare of the last Roku Streaming Stick, that I returned to the store, I am pleased to say that the replacement actually works fine out the box. The remote control paired itself this time with no problems. After the initial setup and signing in on the website, things worked just fine. There was a tense moment when the credit card detail page came up on the website, but a refresh of the page got rid of it. I still think Roku should remove the credit card page from the initial setup on the device, since it was not there in the first place, and was totally unexpected on the first Roku device and having to call up the premium helpline (and get them to call me back) was a pain just to get them to create an account without Credit Card details being entered. It's fine if you have one or were prepared to use it but I find it off-putting.

There are only a few channels installed by default, but there are plenty to add. The most useful channels for me are 4OD and Demand5 TV catchup channels, which work better than their websites, and also online radio channels such as Tunein, Shoutcast Radio etc. I was surprised YouTube was not selected by default so I added that too. There are also lots of Independent film and music channels that are essentially like podcasts. There are plenty of ways to get media onto the device from a server including Plex which I have been using already with my Chromecast. The Roku can of course also access Upnp devices too. One useful 'channel' is a Squeezebox client which works very well playing music from Logitech Squeeze Server on my Ubuntu Server. I notice that on my Nexus 7, I can now cast both to my Chromecast and to the Roku Streaming Stick, though the Chromecast has a smoother experience. 

Hardware-wise, the Roku's remote is simple and fairly easy to use, though I wish the OK button was in the centre of the direction buttons rather than underneath, i just cannot seem to get used to that arrangement, I end up using two hands, one to press OK and one to do directions, just to do things with some speed. The device itself seems solid enough, it would be nice if they bundled a little HDMI extemsion cable like Google do with the Chromecast.

Overall, it's a reasonably useful and usable device, slightly marred by the wireless connection problems on some devices. It seems to be pot-luck whether they work or not judging by mine and others reviews and experiences, and I am still not keen on the credit card info in the setup. Maybe it's that that's making me feel a little underwhelmed at this device, it does kind of put a dampener on the experience. I think maybe once I have used it for a month I'll see how it goes, at the moment I still prefer the Chromecast, even though it does less, it does it very well, though the Roku's hardware remote is one advantage it does have.

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