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25 Days of Gadgets - Day 10

December 10, 2008 - Dave Hecei
While this item doesn’t really have anything to do with Macs, it is a very cool gadget for anyone with a Netflix movie subscription. For those two people who don’t know what Netflix is, they rent DVD discs through the mail. At the beginning of the year, Netflix announced that they would let subscribers with an unlimited type account access to a special selection of online movies and TV shows.

Unfortunately, Mac users couldn’t stream Netflix videos since their player software was PC only (they have since fixed this flaw). Netflix then introduced the Roku, a small stand alone box that could receive streaming video content from Netflix allowing you to watch on your TV.

The Netflix Roku box is definitely small; it measures just over 5-inches square and is 1.6-inches high. On the back of the Roku is a wealth of output ports. For HDTV owners, there is an HDMI and component output. Surround sound audio is available through the HDMI cable or through an optical audio port. For standard televisions there is S-Video or composite RCA outputs along with left and right audio. There is also an Ethernet port to connect the Roku to your home network.

Netflix keeps adding more premium content to the online service. In the beginning there were only a few “good” movies, some old “good” movies, old TV shows, and lots of “B” movies. After almost a year the number of online videos is 12,000. There are plenty of TV shows to chose from. There are current shows – Heroes, CSI, 30 Rock, The Office – plus the movie selection has improved immensely.

It’s small, easy to set up, and has enough connections to work with pretty much any TV. The Roku is definitely one cool gadget. You just need high-speed Internet access, a home network, and a Netflix unlimited account, which starts at $8.99 a month. The Roku box is $100.


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