Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Roku Review - Roku Radio not Roku's fault

I wrote in an earlier post that I was buying a Roku. My daughter took the Wii to college, making me lose my Netflix/TV connection. I love British dramas on Netflix and I am frankly sick of cable reruns. So I killed my cable as an experiment and bought the Roku .
205627_Lowest Price Ever on Roku $49.99

It is too expensive to justify it as just a Netflix player but I liked the other available options. So it's a brave new internet TV world and I wanted to try it. Unfortunately in many cases it is Roku Radio on my TV. Here is my review:

First, Netflix works perfectly. I am all caught up with Downton Abbey and on to the second season on the PBS site.

But other options that Roku offers as "television channels" or show options, especially news, have been a huge disappointment because the channels themselves don't offer TV, just audio. The Roku forums are full of voiced disappointments like mine and all say Roku doesn't control the channels content. Much of the daily news broadcasts are audio podcasts. Anderson Cooper 360 - audio podcast. CBS Evening News - audio podcast. Anything else that is a 30 minute television program is broken into small segments, individual stories without an auto play function such as the CNN news videos on their site. They are labor intensive to watch. I read a Roku forum complaint that NBC Nightly News was in a whole chunk as video, but it disappeared.

This is especially glaring on the weekend. On Sunday night, I don't want to watch/listen to news from the previous Friday but that is all that's available. The Roku forums say the problem lies with individual networks who are slow to update, don't have the streaming capability, etc excuse after etc excuse. Why would I want an audio podcast of small segments of a two day old television newscast? The bottom line is they don't want to give it to you on Roku, they want you to go their websites - to click their ads, look at the sponsors - I get it - commercial TV. It paid my salary for 30 years, I appreciate commercial TV.

A google search for specific shows and channels has helped, and I will admit it has taken me a while to figure out how to find things on Roku. The biggest savior has been Nowhere TV, because that led to my finding live CNNi and BBC news live which is really all I need to feel up to date (and in the case of the BBC - 6 hours ahead of the game).

A quick, unscientific survey of Roku Newscaster and some of the other channels had this result:
Fox News - individual segments from their commentators that I have to launch, launch again and then play something else when that 6 minutes finishes. Most of it is from yesterday (which I get - this isn't commercial TV).

NBC News - a complete mess. Dates all mixed up, thumbnails of stories so it's a lot of work just to see what is there. Not worth my time. I do see they have the Today Show clips similar to my CBS This Morning viewing - more below.

WSJ - News Hub - Almost never there unless I hit it at just the right time. And their anchors and reporters are - forgive me - not meant to be on TV. Delivery is terrible, interviewing is embarrassing. The rest of them are thumbnail pictures of stuff I have to scroll through. Not interested.

Weather4us and other weather sites. The Roku remote isn't sophisticated enough to make typing into their online keyboard comfortable. I can get my current weather on the internet in 1/100th of the time the Roku channels would take me. Not worth it.

Livestation - stations from around the world. Interesting but not of daily use for me.

WTHR Indianapolis - again - many thumbnails to scroll through and I don't live there. I thought having other stations would be fun - too much work. Was interesting during this year's Super Bowl.

Blubrry - not news.

KLAS Las Vegas - ditto WTHR

Democracy Now! - not news

Nowhere TV - thank goodness for that channel. They have everything in video. I have taken to watching the CBS This Morning clips there when I get home from work. That has been worth my time. Huh - right next to CBS This Morning is Anderson Cooper 360 - video podcast. It's only 10 minutes but the CNN exclusive site has his 43 minute 'audio' podcast. It must all be about bandwidth and streaming. I gave up my cable - but I don't want to substitute audio podcasts!

I like having NPR, PRI, CNBC, PBS - but for the radio options I will just re-activate my Sirius rather than use the Roku. I also think all the personal channels individuals are creating are fascinating. This is citizen TV at it's infancy and it will be interesting to see what's around the technological corner after Roku.

In conclusion, if you buy a Roku and are disillusioned - here is my advice. Google what you are looking for and you might find a Roku option. The Roku forums are up to date and very helpful. Don't think this has anything close to real TV, nor was it meant to be. If you can live on movies and some TV shows for viewing you will be fine. If you want news, it's Roku Radio. EXCEPT for my beloved CNNi live and the BBC. This morning the CNNi was streaming the deaf signer with the actual channel in a smaller box so I don't think the kinks have been worked out yet for live streaming (and I learned some sign language for soccer so that was fine). If you need news immediately in the morning like I do, the CNN 4 minute audio podcast update is as new as you will get for the United States.

Stay tuned...

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