Netflix announces set-top box
The leader in online video rental is now expanding to hardware. Netflix has announced a set-top player for their “Watch Now” movies (about 10,000 titles). This player is built by Roku and will retail for about $99.
Currently all subscribers to Netflix with the $8.95/mn. package have unlimited access to stream movies, and this carries over to the hardware. There is no additional subscription charge. Before this you were confined to Windows based PC viewing with Internet Explorer web browser. I never took advantage of Watch Now exactly for this reason.
The box is small and unassuming. The 5-inch x 5-inch x 1.75-inch player is black with a simple Roku logo on the front, but it has HDMI, component video, s-video, composite video, stereo audio and optical audio on the rear. It connects via ethernet on the back panel or with built-in wireless-g network.
The downsides for streaming video over receiving the DVD in the mail may be a deal-breaker. Most titles are not in widescreen, they don’t have surround sound audio and worst of all the picture quality is not close to DVD quality.
You cannot add movies to your queue from the TV. You simply browse your existing queue of Watch Now titles. Netflix separated the DVD queue and Instant queue a while back, but all DVDs added to your DVD queue are automatically added to the Instant queue. The movie buffers for about a minute before it starts playing.
While I would never consider this box at this quality on my normal movie watching 50″ screen, I am considering picking this up for my bedroom to watch things quickly when nothing is on TV (which is most of the time).