If you have a subscription to a video streaming service like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime then you likely have a way to watch that service on your television, or you are looking for a way to do so. Whether you are looking to save some money each month by cutting your cable cord and replacing it with streaming services, or you want a simpler way to access your content from your TV, then you are sure to have stumbled upon the name “Roku.”
Roku is a company that makes set-top video streaming boxes exclusively. A set-top streaming box is a device that you plug into your wall, connect to the Internet and connect to your TV. Unlike a video game console, computer or smart Blu-Ray player, a set-top streaming box exists exclusively to stream video and audio to your TV. While other video streaming options do offer that additional functionality, set-top boxes can do so with a focus on streaming, which allows them to improve their devices and service, while offering them at a lower price.
What else is comparable to a Roku 3?
There are a number of other Roku models available for purchase, including the much cheaper Roku HD. But if you are looking for something that will become a major part of your home entertainment setup, then the added cost of the Roku 3 will be significantly outweighed by the benefits it offers over other Roku models. You can read our comparison of the Roku 3 and the Roku HD here.
Apple also has a set-top streaming box called the Apple TV. While it is does offer streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, the best reason to get an Apple TV is if you already have other Apple products. This means that you can use a feature called AirPlay that allows you to wirelessly stream content from your iPhone, iPad or Mac computer to the Apple TV. You can read our comparison of the Roku 3 and Apple TV here.
There are additional options in this market as well, and you can see many more of them on Amazon.
How difficult is the Roku 3 to set up?
The Roku 3 is remarkably easy to set up and, if you have your wireless network name and password ready, it should take about 10 minutes from start to finish. You will need to create a Roku account on your computer during the process as well, so make sure you have that available, too. But the setup process basically consists of plugging the Roku into a power outlet and connecting it to your TV via an HDMI cable. You then turn on the TV to the correct input channel, then follow the on-screen instructions.
The Roku comes with a number of popular channels pre-installed, but you can use the channel store on the device to choose from hundreds of others. Many of them are free, but there are some that require a subscription or an upfront free. Those will be appropriately identified in the channel store, however. There is also a free USB channel that you should download if you have videos on an external hard drive or flash drive that you want to watch through the Roku.
For the channels that require a subscription, such as Netflix, you will need to activate them on your computer, or by entering your email address and password for that account. The exact process varies depending upon the service, but typically falls into one of those two categories.
Outside of the initial cost for the purchase of the Roku device, there is no monthly or yearly charge for using it. However, your streaming services that charge a fee, such as Netflix or Hulu Plus, will continue to cost you money each month. The monthly service charges for those services will not increase because you are using a Roku, however.