It’s Heeeeeere – The Netflix STB Is A Reality

The rumors started way back in February, 2006, reappeared in June, 2007, and got another boost last October. And now it is a reality.

CNET is reporting on the Netflix Player by Roku. It is a very simple device that allows you to stream Netflix’s ‘Watch Now’ content right to your TV, via the box, over your broadband connection. No PC required. It is very basic, that’s all it does – allows you to stream Watch Now content you’ve already placed into your queue. But they did get something major right – it retails for $100, which means it will almost certainly be available for less. And the Watch Now content is available ‘free’ as part of a standard Netflix membership, so there is no pay-per-view pricing to deal with.

The biggest issues are the lack of content, there aren’t many first tier titles available via Watch Now, and the quality – no HD here, it is all 480i. This is all about convenience. As CNET put it:

We watched video on TVs ranging in size from 19 inches to 50 inches. While there wasn’t a huge difference in sharpness on any of the sets, the picture did look a little better on the smaller TV. Still, as long as you sit far enough away from a larger TV, the picture will seem OK. Just don’t expect the same kind of sharpness you’d get from a high-quality DVD. Think in terms of watching programming on one of the stations that your cable company doesn’t devote quite enough bandwidth to, and that’s the sort of picture you’ll be looking at.

The box is very simple. It has a wired Ethernet connection and built-in 802.11g WiFi. Output includes HDMI, component video, S-Video, composite video, optical digital audio, and stereo audio. So it should work with pretty much any TV shy of an ancient one with only coax RF input. CNet does say that you want a broadband connection that can sustain 1Mbps at a minimum, and ideally 2.2Mbps. So those with slow connections need not apply. The streams use the VC-1 codec, same as used when streaming to a PC. (Interestingly, the TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD have a decoder that can handle VC-1… I’m just sayin’.)

CNet has a full review if you’re interested. Since we know this capability will be coming to other platforms via partners like LG, I think I’d recommend holding off. It’d be a much better value to get an upscaling DVD player, or Blu-ray deck, with Netflix streaming built in. And Netflix hasn’t revealed all of their hardware partners yet – we could yet see Netflix streaming to TiVo, Xbox 360, etc.

EDIT: Gizmodo has also just posted a review which offers some more details.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
This entry was posted in Broadband, NetFlix and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Tom

    The amount and varied type of connections seems to indicate that they’ll offer HD at some time in the future. I also wonder if they’ll have a lot more content by the time the box hits the market.

    I gave their streaming a try over the weekend on my 50″ Pioneer (thru HDMI connection from my laptop after downloading using one of the free Windows media center extenders). The quality is substantially worse than DVD but a little better than Medium-High TiVo quality.

    Right now, I don’t have problems with the content, as I like watching the older films and TV shows they offer (I’m probably not typical). “Watch Now” is essentially free with a subscription. But if netflix upgrades their Library with more current films, I wonder if this will become a premium service.

  • MHA

    I’m intrigued by the absence of hard drive. There must be volatile RAM for caching video as it streams to you, and I suppose something like flash memory for storing session info and handling firmware updates. Not hearing anything about such specs, though.

  • TIm

    Looks pretty sweet, and for $99 it’s almost free. No wide screen and limited selection are kind of a bummer at the moment. I’ll wait a couple of months and see how it develops. This is actually something the wife won’t give me any crap for buying.

  • Dave Zatz

    MHA, CrunchGear says it buffers about 4 minutes of video so I’d agree there’s some storage. I have an older streaming video box (ITVN) that operates in a similar fashion, though not sure about the buffer size.