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Netflix $99 Set Top Player from Roku

by May 20, 2008
Netflix Set Top Box

Netflix Set Top Box

Netflix has pulled the ultimate move. They have partnered with Roku (either ahead of, or in lieu of LG) to release a $99 set top box, dubbed the Netflix Player, that allows Netflix subscribers access to their entire 'Watch Now' movie database... for free.

That's right. Aside from the $99 box there are no additional fees to watch the Netflix movies on your home TV. The PC tether has been released and Netflix has apparently taken the lead in delivering home movies to users in massive quantities without bilking them for more money.

The 'direct-to-consumer' model is one that is headed for the big time, but certain issues have to be ironed out before it arrives at "mainstream" status. For one, consumers need compatible hardware - but more importantly, content providers need to step up and stop nickel-and-diming people for older movies. Netflix is the first company we know of to step up the the plate.

I'll be buying mine as soon as they can ship it to me.

The Roku Netflix Player features composite, s-video, component and even HDMI video output. Audio is delivered via stereo analogue, TOSLINK or HDMI. We don't expect uncompressed audio - and to be honest, we're just hoping for 5.1 Dolby Digital for movies - but the idea is sound. Improvements can come later as bandwidth opens up and as Netflix improves the infrastructure of its offering system.


Musch like the current Netflix Queue system, there is now a "Watch Now" queue which users will fill up in order to populate the system. This new queue is what the Netflix Player will access when you play movies.

Netflix Watch Now Queue

Here are a list of sample titles available for instant viewing:

  • 30 Rock (2007; TV)
  • The Good German (2006)
  • La Vie en Rose (2007)
  • Weeds (2006; TV)
  • Absolute Power (1997)
  • Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
  • Heroes (2007; TV)
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (2007)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • The Office (2006; TV)
  • 2 Days in Paris (2007)
  • Mean Girls (2004)
  • The Sum of All Fears (2002)
  • Misery (1990)
  • The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
  • One of the more intriguing statements on the Roku website is this:

    The Netflix Player is HD-ready. It has all the connections you need to connect it to your HDTV, and it’s capable of playing back HD content. When Netflix releases HD content for Instant Watching, the Netflix Player by Roku will be ready.

    It seems that Roku and Netflix have already peered into the future and are readying HD content for deployment. Let's hope its not at a premium, but in either case this is a far better business model than charging $1.99/ea. for old movies and TV shows.

    For now the big question centers around whether the system will support Dolby Digital surround decoding (we're hopeful, but that's about it) or whether Pro Logic will be the audio limit until HD movies become available.

    One thing is for sure - this is a HUGE movie in the right direction for those betting on the downloads camp as the future of content distribution.

    Check out Roku's website for more info: http://www.roku.com/netflixplayer/

    About the author:
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    Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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    Recent Forum Posts:

    gus6464 posts on June 10, 2008 18:56
    Pyrrho, post: 421909
    We are opposite on one point only: If BD is worth bothering about, then obviously picture quality matters. This box currently provides a picture inferior to DVD. What I don't understand is why you don't complain about the picture quality. If this is good enough, obviously BD is totally unnecessary and a waste of money. The only reason to upgrade from DVD to BD is for picture and sound quality, and if this box is good enough for you, then DVD is better at both picture and sound than you require.

    Because not all the stuff I want to watch is on BD and sometimes I don't feel like waiting for the DVD to come in the mail. Especially when I don't even know if the film or show is going to be any good yet I have to waste a space on the queue which could have been occupied by a BD I actually want to see.
    Pyrrho posts on June 10, 2008 08:39
    AverageJoe, post: 421864


    Some of the selections I've watched are things I would never buy or even rent, and sometimes I don't even finish watching them, but that's part of the appeal. Sort of a no-risk preview of films I know nothing about but might be worth watching. If not, I've only wasted a few minutes to find out.


    Yes, it is good for that. And that gives it a great deal of appeal. It is, however, unfortunate that the picture and sound is no better than it is. We are currently at a point where the AVERAGE person has DVD quality picture, but this is unfortunately a step backward in quality from what the average person now enjoys. Never mind a comparison with actual HD.
    Pyrrho posts on June 10, 2008 08:35
    gus6464, post: 421786
    I got my Roku box today and have watched a movie and some TV shows on it and have found it to be very good. On my connection I get 4 bars quality (max) and that's with 2 PCs, 2 laptops, PS3, and Wii on the internet as well. It was a breeze to set up and the menu is very easy to navigate. I will mostly be using it to watch TV shows and old movies so the quality doesn't bother me one bit. I get my new movies on BD from netflix anyway so I don't understand why people complain about the quality. For $99 it was well worth it and will probably be getting another one for the bedroom.

    We are opposite on one point only: If BD is worth bothering about, then obviously picture quality matters. This box currently provides a picture inferior to DVD. What I don't understand is why you don't complain about the picture quality. If this is good enough, obviously BD is totally unnecessary and a waste of money. The only reason to upgrade from DVD to BD is for picture and sound quality, and if this box is good enough for you, then DVD is better at both picture and sound than you require.

    Also, old movies on 35mm film that have been decently stored are capable of containing more resolution than BD is capable of delivering, so I don't understand why so many people say that they are fine with low resolution copies of them, but want higher resolution copies of more recent films (many of which are also on 35mm film). If picture quality matters to you with a film made in the past year, why do you not care about picture quality with a film made 70 years ago? Such films, if well made and properly stored, are capable of providing an amazing picture. If you get the chance, you might want to go to a theater to see the restored version of the Wizard of Oz from 1939. I did so, and I can tell you that the picture quality is comparable with films made today. (In fact, I think it looks better than most films today, but that is unimportant to the present discussion.) I have also seen less than ideal prints of some old Hitchcock films, and they were a revelation, as I had only seen them on TV, VHS, and DVD before. Truly, you are missing out on a great deal of detail on old films if you settle for low resolution copies. And if you are willing to view copies of them in which much of the detail has been discarded, why do you feel differently about more recent films?
    AverageJoe posts on June 10, 2008 01:32
    Clint DeBoer, post: 421710
    …My first impressions are still good, but only because I view this as a simple $99 add-on for people already using Netflix and high speed Internet…

    I agree. I have Dishnet for basic channel viewing and HD, Cable TV for modem and premium movie services, DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD players for quality viewing in the theater room, and an off-air antenna in case everything else fails , and this device still fills a niche not covered by anything else: Impulse selection from thousands of titles and viewing with no trip to the store ar waiting for the mail.

    Some of the selections I've watched are things I would never buy or even rent, and sometimes I don't even finish watching them, but that's part of the appeal. Sort of a no-risk preview of films I know nothing about but might be worth watching. If not, I've only wasted a few minutes to find out.

    Perfect for those days when there are two hundred and “57 channels and nothin' on”.
    gus6464 posts on June 09, 2008 20:17
    I got my Roku box today and have watched a movie and some TV shows on it and have found it to be very good. On my connection I get 4 bars quality (max) and that's with 2 PCs, 2 laptops, PS3, and Wii on the internet as well. It was a breeze to set up and the menu is very easy to navigate. I will mostly be using it to watch TV shows and old movies so the quality doesn't bother me one bit. I get my new movies on BD from netflix anyway so I don't understand why people complain about the quality. For $99 it was well worth it and will probably be getting another one for the bedroom.
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