Among my all time favorite things, both the Netflix service and Roku digital video players, it is with great pleasure that I encourage you to read more and to see for yourself why this combo of great technologies and products are wonderful, affordable gifts.

Let’s start with my earlier review of the original Roku Player.  By now you know that Netflix is a membership service that delivers movies and TV shows on DVD through the mail fast and some movies and TV shows instantly to your TV.  Plans from $8.99 per month and up allow the instant streaming.

You should know that this instant streaming is unlimited and in addition to your DVD plan, at no added fee.  Some streaming titles are available in 720p High Def, which you can get IF your Internet speed is fast enough and the signal to your streaming device connected to your TV is strong enough via wireless or if it is a wired connection.

Now, Roku’s lineup has grown from that first digital video player with Netflix to three.  There is still that original model, now known as Roku HD, for $100.  Now there is a new $80 version that will play ONLY SD called, appropriately, Roku SD, that is Standard Definition and not High Def, and a Roku HD-XR.  The HD-XR version, which I have not yet tested, has all that the HD model has plus extended range wireless N, the latest wireless Wi-Fi standard. 802.11N, or just Wireless-N, must be used along with your Wireless-N router, so if you only have a “g” router now and will not be upgrading soon to Wireless-N, it is of no use to you.

The players connect either wired or wirelessly to your home network to receive their signal.  Each player then connects directly to your TV, with those capable of High Def having the ability to connect to the TV’s HDMI port for the best possible video.

However, with a Wireless-N router and with this technology in most of the new computers, and now with the new Roku player, data streaming inside your home will have greater range and significantly greater speed.  What does this mean in practical terms? With so many computer users sharing data within the home, using Wireless-N allows more of it, faster, without running out of steam.  It’s just better all around and this new Roku HD-XR is available for only $130. Period. That’s it.

 

Netflix streaming is becoming an internal part of a growing number of devices that now include ALL Windows and Mac computers, Roku digital video players, TiVo HD DVRs, LG network TVs, Samsung Network Blu-ray players, Xbox 360.  The service is being embedded in more products to come, including more networked TVs (watch for these announcements), Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii and more!

What’s the big deal?  The big deal is the unspoken benefits and extras Netflix members can use.  With just one Netflix membership in your family, mom, dad, and, if mom and dad allow, all the kids may choose and watch streamed Netflix on all the different devices they may have, even if the members are not all in the same place at the same time.

Think about it.

Netflix members may have multiple Roku players at home or with the account holder anywhere.  Once the box is linked to an account, it will work anywhere in the US.  For example, I tried mine out taking it with my to my daughter’s college dorm room and connecting it to her university super high speed wired Internet. It was plug-and-play on the TV in her room.

Of course, Netflix also works on desktop and laptop computers, so my entire family can sign in to our Netflix account on their computers and manage DVD ordering AND manage instant viewing on their computers, all from my one account.

With a qualifying Netflix account, members have access to all the movies via DVD, but it is also important to take advantage of what else Netflix provides; music and concert videos, documentary movies AND TV shows, including many of the fabulous Ken Burns documentaries shown on PBS stations, and lots of other educational programs, many of which are available through instant streaming to TVs and computers.

  

Roku “boxes” are ideal for taking along to US-based vacation homes that have high speed Internet access as well as for multiple rooms in the home.  What could be better than that?  How about this for better?  Roku players also link their owners to Amazon Video on Demand service, MLB.TV (major league baseball games) via their Premium subscription and more services on the way!

I use my Roku player on one TV while on another I use the Netflix capability built into our TiVo Series 3 DVR.

Value?  In spades! For as little as $9 per month, the entire family has access to unlimited DVDs (sent to one address) and everyone has access to unlimited streamed movies and TV programs, every day throughout the year.

Netflix+Roku+other Netflix-enabled devices=never-ending entertainment and video-based education for the entire family, at home and away!

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