I’m going to try something this week and write up some quick product reviews in case you are looking for something to buy your dad or husband for Father’s Day. This year, budgets are tight so even spending $100 may be pushing it, but when you make a tech decision, you should do some careful reviews prior to pulling the trigger. The Netflix Player might be a good gift right at that $100 level.
I have been a Netflix subscriber for many years (with a slight diversion where I was with BlockBuster until they started taking away features and raising the price). It was actually kind of neat that when I came back to Netflix, my old user name and password still worked, AND all of my moving watching history was still there.
But anyway, this is not about the standard Netflix service, but rather about their newly released Netflix Player. Announced about a month ago, the first player to hit the market is the one made by Roku (other manufacturers are lined up for later releases). The premise is simple, assuming you have a NetFlix account of over $8.99, you simply choose movies you want to watch and they magically appear on your NetFlix Player. Ok, that is a bit oversimplified but essentially true.
The Player Details
The Roku player is small, black and unobtrusive. I was truly impressed with its size. You can easily hide it away or place it gracefully out in the public. Its footprint is square and is less than two inches high, just big enough to have just about every possible video/audio connection on the back. The box comes with standard RCA jacks, S-Video, component video, HDMI and optical audio. You would be hard pressed to find a TV that doesn’t work with the NetFlix Player.
The other nice thing is that it is incredibly mobile. Once you have it configured, you can move it around your house from TV to TV. That is one of the the things I like best about it. I may actually try bringing it to other people’s houses (all I need is a network connection) – I haven’t tested this out so it might not be possible.
Even the technically challenged can set up the Netflix Player (not that there is anything wrong with being technically challenged, that’s part of the reason I’m around, to help out!). But with this set-up process, you will be hard-pressed to get confused. The hardest thing is probably figuring out which A/V connection to use and getting that to work. That is if the first step. I started with the most simple, the basic RCA jacks connected directly to an old analog TV (later did an S-Video and RCA to an HD-DLP/5.1 A/V receiver).
Once you have your TV/Audio connection set, you need to chose whether you want a wireless or wired connection. The Roku box supports both with an Ethernet jack in the back and WiFi built in. If you have Wifi, be sure you have all of your wireless network information handy. Next, fire up the box and work your way through the connection process on the screen. My steps involved entering in the wireless network security information (after my wireless network was automatically discovered) and waiting through a software update. After the mandatory reboot, I went through the setup again (all of my previous data was preserved) and I quickly came to the activation point. To activate, you need to go to the activate section of the Netflix site and get a series of numbers/letters and enter those on the Roku box. Activation took less than 1 minute. Once that was completed, my on-demand queue was instantly there. The entire setup took about 10 minutes (if that).
If you already know how to use Netflix, you will not have any problem with the Netflix Player. The ONLY difficult thing (currently) is that the movie and TV show selection is a bit sparse with only about 10,000 movies and shows available. This number is growing though and HD content is said to be coming soon as well (and supported by the Roku box).
To watch a movie, you simply select the item by clicking the special Play button. If you mouse-over the Play button, you will see it change to Add to Instant Queue. Clicking Play will, assuming you have a compatible PC, will allow you to play the movie on your computer. If you click the “Add to Instant Queue”, this adds it to your Netflix Player queue.
Some titles have hybrid buttons (e.g., for “Weeds,” for example) which allows you to add the entire series to your queue for watching one episode after the other. You will, however, find that many movies simply have the red “Add” button and not the blue “Play” button which can be a bit frustrating at times.
Browsing your shows or movies and selecting the one you want to play is incredibly easy. When you select the item (depending on your Internet bandwidth) the player starts to download it (pulling the item into a buffer). Within a few seconds, your movie will start. To fast forward or rewind, you see a series of screenshots in a row. You don’t see movie chapters but rather these screenshots that seem to be take every 10 or 15 seconds (?). When you are done viewing, simply delete the item from your queue. If you want to continue watching it later, just stop it. When you come back, you can resume where you left off.
But here is the really cool thing, if you pause your movie, you can resume it on your computer and visa versa. So, if you didn’t finish your movie at work, you can watch the rest at home (don’t get in trouble watching movies at work though!).
The Netflix Player is a great gift for $100. The price gets you just the box, you must have a Netflix subscription to get movies. Being a dad, this was a great addition to our media environment (even allowing us to cancel many of our premium channels). I introduced my girls to the classic Pink Panther (the item that I downloaded from Netflix has over 60 episodes!). My wife and I are watching the original Battlestar Galactica before we dive into the new series. Getting one of these boxes is a no-brainer if you have have a Netflix account. You can get the newer releases mailed to you and watch older movies or classic on-demand using the Netflix Player.
HTD says: This is a great gift for Dads. Easy to set up, functional and entertaining (literally), the Netflix Player is truly a gift that keeps giving day after day, movie after movie!