Monthly Archives: November 2013

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Ryan Michael Downey

Amazon is currently selling the Roku HD for $39.00. The previous generation streamer normally sells for $59.00. The HD was replaced in Roku’s lineup by the Roku 1 when the company rolled out new models, see our article on the releases here.

Roku has a huge selection of channels.
Roku has a huge selection of channels.

The Roku HD is a strong product, offering both 720p and 1080p HD. The Roku HD can also be attached to non high definition TV’s with an included audio video cable. If you choose to utilize the Roku HD on a high definition television you will need to purchase an HDMI cable as the item does not ship with one. 

Channels and Features
The Roku HD like all of the Roku line of products features over 1,000 channel’s (or apps) including the heavy hitters like Netflix, Hulu Plus, PBS, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora Music, Vudu along with new entries Watch ESPN and Disney. Roku also has a popular app for both Android and Apple mobile products that allows users to control the box via the app as well as view video and pictures that are stored on the mobile device on the television. The available firmware update will also add the M-Go on demand Movie and TV service along with a news service powered by AOL for more on Roku’s new firmware click here.

Don’t Forget About Price Matching
For great savings it is more than worth the time to check out other online retailers and or take advantage of price matching at big box stores like Walmart, Target and Best buy. In order to get the store to match the price you will have to bring proof of the Amazon price. They will not slash their own profits on your word.

Happy Streaming !

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Amazon is out to match the Black Friday sales at the physical retail stores. If you missed out on the door buster savings or just decided to sleep off a day of fun you can pick up the Apple TV on sale at Amazon.com for 84.99. There are also used models for 77.00 if you want more savings.

Apple TV can add a lot of value to existing Apple devices
Apple TV can add a lot of value to existing Apple devices

with free shipping for Amazon customers. Apple TV for this price is a really great deal. While it does not have as many overall apps as the Roku line of products offers it is a great item as an add-on to a home that has other Apple. This is because of Airplay and mirroring. AirPlay is a video protocol that allows users with compatible iPads, iPods and iPhones and Apple computers to beam video and audio content from their devices straight to the Apple TV. In the case of games AirPlay can even allow the device to become an interactive controller. Any video content that can be played on an iPad from websites, apps and locally stored media can be played on your TV through Apple TV. Its powerful processor and smooth interface launches apps quickly in 1080p. For more details on Apple TV see our review. Best Buy and many other retailers are offering door buster sale prices online also. This is great way to avoid crowds, parking nightmares and general frustration.

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The Google Chromecast has been a top seller since its debut.

Are you looking to save money on streaming products during the holiday season? The streaming Advisor has become aware that the Google Chromecast is currently $29 Amazon.com. The small HDMI dongle is one of the most popular new products to hit the market. We here at the streaming advisor do not know how long that price will stay in place. The device has been one of the top sellers for the online retailer since its debut and spent many weeks as the number one seller in the electronics catagory. For more holiday savings take a look at our Black Friday sales guide.

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Ryan Michael Downey

The biggest shopping day of the year is tomorrow and the Streaming Advisor has looked over a number of adds to find savings on streaming related products at the major retailers.

Home Depot
HDMI Cable 2 Pack $9.88: If you have an HDTV the best way and in some cases the only way to hook many streaming devices up to your TV is with an HDMI cord. This goes for streaming boxes Blu-ray players and the game consoles used for streaming. While you can often find great deals on HDMI cords via online retailers shipping costs do add up. The package includes an 8 foot cord and a six foot cord along with a 90 degree adapter to help fit the HDMI cord in to a tight space.

Sam’s Club
Play Station 3 $200.00 and X-Box 360 for 200.00: Last year the best game systems on the market both for online game play and streaming were the X-Box 360 and the Play Station 3. With the release of new models of each this year the X-Box One at $500.00 and the Play Station 4 at $400.00. This year it’s out with the old in with the new which means great savings for the consumers on the old models. Sam’s Club members can purchase either the Play Station 3 or the X-Box One for just 199.00 apiece. This means that you can purchase both of the old systems for the price of one play station 4. Both of the older models offer numerous great streaming options including the ability to run Plex as well as the top streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Crackle and many others. The X-Box 360 also offers the Watch ESPN app. Special note, X-Box unlike other streaming options, requires users to pay a $60.00 yearly fee for the X-Box Gold service in order to access streaming features. In the case of the Play Station 3 the $200.00 price includes one of the better Blu-ray players on the market and free online streaming along with Internet game play access.

Target
Apple TV $89.00 Regularly $99.00:  Apple TV is Apple’s industry leading streaming box offering a majority of the top Apps including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube along with HBO-Go and its latest addition the PBS app. The product will continue to rise in value as it continues to add apps

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HH Greg
Roku HD 59.00 Regularly $79.00: The Roku HD is a previous generation streamer that has been since replaced with the Roku 1. While supplies last the HD is still a good buy for an introductory model. The Roku HD is capable of rendering 720p HD picture quality and like other Roku models will now offer on demand movies and TV shows through M-Go after it is upgraded with its new firmware.

Best Buy
Apple TV $85.00 Regularly $99.00 The Logitech Harmony Universal Remote $39 Regularly 79.00 Google Chromecast $29.00: The traditional Black Friday destination is offering the Apple TV for 15 dollars off. At $85.00 the Apple TV is an incredible value especially for  those with Apple devices that can utilize Air Play. The Logitech Harmony Remote for $39.00 is a fantastic value for anyone with multiple home theater items and streaming boxes. A five dollar savings on the Google Chromecast makes the item more of a steal then at its regular price on $35.00. The Chromecast started with a very limited amount of smart phone related apps but it has been adding new partners slowly but surely.

Radio Shack
Roku XD $49.00 Regular price 59.00: A ten dollar savings on a previous generation Roku makes for a good stocking stuffer.  The older models are still a great value.

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Ryan Michael Downey

Roku has been rising in popularity over the past few years as more and more people have discovered the convenience of streaming content from the Internet to their television sets. There are a lot of positive reviews concerning the device, but one common My Video Buzz Image cropped editedcriticism of the set top device is that it lacks a YouTube channel to go along with its numerous other offerings. Those who say this about Roku have never used “My Video Buzz”.  With My Video Buzz and a customized YouTube profile you can create a Roku channel with endless personalized content.

How you add My Video Buzz to your Roku
The channel has to be side loaded on to the Roku which means that it is not in the channel store. In order to do this first go to the My Video Buzz set up site here. I suggest using the automatic set up. Once you follow the 3 simple steps Video Buzz is loaded and you have a fully functioning channel that will access the entire YouTube library. The steps include Typing in the Roku’s IP address (which is found in the settings), Enabling Developer mode, and pressing a button to launch.

Categorized for your personality
Once signed in to myvideobuzz with an existing YouTube name users can view their favorite YouTube Channel subscriptions provided they have set up a YouTube account. Users can also access their play lists. In order to access playlist they must be classified as public.

My Video Buzz is organized in to multiple categories to make the finding the videos as easy as possible. The categories include settings (where you add your Facebook name), Search (traditional subject search), What to Watch (suggestions from your subscriptions), Your Playlists, Your Subscriptions, Nursery Rhymes, Top Channels, Top Rated,  and Most Discussed, Top Favorites and Most responded.

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The Google Chromecast has been a top seller since its debut.

imageWith Black Friday almost here and Cyber Monday close behind it shoppers should have their eyes trained for sales on the Google Chromecast. The Chromecast is a great value at its full price of $35.00 but if it gets a discount, as many items do on the biggest shopping weekend of the year, it will go from being a great deal to a steal. While the Chromecast cannot do everything its competition (see our comparison between Roku and Chromecast) can do, the things that it does do well are worth a small investment. Our Chromecast review shares it’s abilities in great detail.

Besides the versatile ability to mirror video and audio from Google Chrome web pages from a computer to a television, iPhone and iPad users can use the device to beam Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go  and YouTube to an HD television as well as stream Pandora music to their TV speakers. Android owners get the added benefit of access to Google Play movies, TV episodes and music. Popular apps are continuing to line up to add support to the device. All in all the Google Chromecast is an elegant entertainment hub that can fit in your pocket with a delivery system, a smart phone that can slip in right beside it.

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Ryan Michael Downey

Hulu Plus has added full episodes of Sesame Street to its kids content lineup. Hulu Plus which costs 7.99 per month has been adding more children’s programming as numbers show that kids content leads to higher viewership.

Hulu Plus has been adding more kids shows recently.
Hulu Plus has added more kids shows recently.

Customers without Hulu Plus can still access numerous clips from over the years through the free web based service. This addition continues a trend that started with Netflix and its popular Just For Kids section.  Amazon’s pilot experiment this year also showed the power of children’s programming when it gave a nod to three kids shows “(Annebots,” “Creative Galaxy” and “Tumbleaf) this May. Those shows were three of the five selections out of a group of 14 series hopefuls. Netflix is continuing to develop original children’s and will debut a show based on Turbo the racing snail in the upcoming future. Viewers can access Hulu Plus via Hulu’s website via a computer, via a tablet or smart phone and watch on their televisions via a set top streaming device such as a Roku or the Apple TV. The service also has apps available for game consoles including the Playstation 3-4, the Nentindo Wii and Wii U  as well as the X-Box 360 and the X-Box 1.

Ryan Michael Downey
In a highly anticipated move the Google Chromecast has added HBO Go to its list of officially supported apps. HBO-Go, which is an Internet based service from Time Warner owned HBO, provides on demand viewing of its library of original shows and movies along withimage a large selection of feature films and documentaries. The films change frequently to reflect what is in the TV stations rotation. Until now Chromecast  users could only access HBO Go via a laptop using its Google Chrome tab mirroring abilities. The service is only available to those who possess the ability to authenticate a cable subscription. Besides cable access smart phone or tablet users will have to have the HBO Go App installed. This brings the number of officially supported app for the device to six. The device also supports Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora and Google Play movies, TV and music. The Chromecast has been adding support for the most popular internet services slowly but surely as it builds partnerships with media companies who must first Integrate DIAL support.

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Ryan Michael Downey

The PlayCast App is available in the Channel Store
The PlayCast App is available in the Channel Store

On November 18, Roku and PlayOn announced a new capability for Roku called PlayCast that allows those with a PlayOn server on a Windows computer to play web based videos on their TV’s. The Streaming Advisor recently took a look at the new app.

How Can I access PlayCast on My Roku?
First add the PlayCast channel to your Roku. It is available under the Internet TV heading in the channel store. In order to use PlayCast you must have the PlayOn server installed on a Windows PC. Once installed, the PlayOn server (which also has a private app for the Roku) provides access to numerous TV channels and third party apps.  Next you must add the PlayOn extension to your browser of choice. Detailed instructions as to how to integrate the PlayOn extension in to four major browsers; Microsoft Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome are provided in PlayOn’s user guide. In our test the only browser that was able to easily integrate the extension was Google Chrome. This should be no surprise considering the investment the company has already made in second screen technology. While the PlayOn server is free, the actual PlayOn service is not. There are numerous pricing options including a special $29.00 onetime fee offered to Roku users. PlayOn’s pricing guide can be found here.

How It Works

The new feature builds off of PlayOn’s  PlayMark service, which allows users to save videos from anywhere on the web and watch them via the PlayOn. First navigate to the website where the video you wish to view is. Queue the video by or clicking the PlayOn Icon in the tool bar. Initially you will see a mini screen where the video will be displayed without sound. Click the green next button to continue. This brings you to a screen where the video is saved in an automatically created PlayMark folder for later viewing.

How I Evaluated The Service
For my test I took a look at three popular video sites that are not currently offered as Roku Channels. Those three sites were Yahoo more specifically “Yahoo Screen” CBS.com and YouTube. I accessed the sites from In the Chrome browser, which as mentioned earlier was the only browser to smoothly integrate the PlayOn extension on the first try.

Performance
The videos from all three sites loaded relatively quickly considering that they have to be transcoded and sent from the computer to the Roku. Once the videos loaded there was no buffering or audio problems.

The video played in standard definition sticking with PlayOn’s normal playback quality. As I viewed each video it became part of a library automatically organized by folders indicating the source of the material, CBS shows were put in a CBS folder, Yahoo Videos in a Yahoo folder etc. Afterwards I was able to access the videos is the PlayMark plugin channel.

PlayOn saves videos for later viewing on your computer.
This screenshot is the last step before videos will play on the Roku. Click image for a larger view.

When using Yahoo Screen the site automatically played other videos in the order that they appeared in a given category without having to be launched individually. YouTube videos loaded and played very well. Unlike Yahoo screen videos do not automatically load so each video must be loaded individually.  On CBS.com I chose to watch a full episode of Elementary. The video loaded cleanly and displayed through the CBS video player that can be accessed from its website. When viewed as it was playing there were no problems but there is no way to skip ahead to another point in a show. This is because the content has to download in real time. For those with a slow internet connection or a poorly performing computer this might cause some video playback issues. The video feed closed at the conclusion of the show.

Only Launches From A PC
An important note about PlayCast. The only piece of hardware capable of launching the service is a Windows based PC. Users can not send videos to their TVs from a smart phone, tablet or any Apple computer to the television. PlayCast is likely Roku’s first step in its push to offer a Roku based option to compete with Apple TV’s AirPlay and the Chrome Cast ‘s casting capabilities.

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Ryan Michael Downey Roku‘s new firmware is available for manual download via its settings menu. the update unlocks many new features. From new looks for familiar apps to freshly integrated features  like M-Go on demand services and Roku’s news service, the update gives Roku a new shine heading in to the holiday season. New Universal Search Features The universal search now includes results from M-Go along with all of the other choices in the select group of video apps linked to the search feature. In fact the universal search feature is the only way to look for specific titles  in M-Go, which has no native search feature,

The M-Go on demand movie and TV service is now available.
The M-Go on demand movie and TV service is now available.

more on this later. Also included in the search results are Netflix, Block Buster on Demand, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Vudu, Crackle, Red Box Instant and HBO Go.  This means that despite Roku including M-Go in its main menu it is not attempting to stifle competition from other on demand apps when searching for individual titles or actors. The look of the interface gets a slightly different feel also but still remains a helpful way to find selections across a wide spectrum of the set-top box’s featured apps. Netflix Changes The visually stunning new Netflix interface brings it in line with Netflix’s cross-platform upgrade meant to give the service a uniform look across all of the devices that offer the industry-leading streaming app. Roku users will now be able to select personalized profiles before launching the app, which means no more cartoons and children’s movies taking up real-estate in mom or dad’s queue. While this feature had been available on other platforms already this marks its

The new Netlfix interface uses more of the screen to  to highlight  it features.
The new Netlfix interface uses more of the screen to to highlight it features.

debut on Roku. The personal profiles are not the only new experience. When navigating Netflix’s menus  any given selection launches a loop of pictures from the film or TV show to give viewers a sneak peek at the visual style of the feature,  like the feature art on the back of a DVD or Blu-ray disk. A description for the given selection is prominently displayed in the upper left hand corner of the screen which also includes ratings, video playback quality and length (for movies).  The app even lets users behind the curtain to know why a given selection was recommended.  Last but not least video selections load more quickly. No more similar to Feature One major omission from the functionality front is that users can no longer view selections that are similar to a given movie or TV show with the push of a button. Under the original format pressing the asterisk on the remote previously brought up a menu of selections either related thematically to the current selection or other selections featuring the stars of movie or TV show. This would link a tittle such as Batman Beyond with the Avengers because they are both comic book movies or Thor to Charlie Bartlett because Cat Denning appears in both features. It was a helpful discovery tool that will be missed by those who utilized it. Unchanged Features Not everything about the Netflix experience has changed. If you had a “My List” it will still be available as will all of the specially created niche categories based on personalized ratings and preferences. Everything from because you watched “given title” and the specifically tailored selections “Zombie Based Dark Comedies” are alive  and well. M-Go On Demand TV Shows and Movies While Roku has for years featured many ways to access newly released movies and next day viewing of television shows it has up until now given all of the platforms equal treatment. Users have had the option to add Amazon, Vudu and most recently Target Ticket at their leisure or leave them out of the equation completely. That has changed with the new firmware. Just under the “My Channels” heading in Roku’s main menu is a heading for “Movies” and a heading for “TV Shows”. Both of these selections will shuttle users to M-Go, Roku’s official partner in on demand viewing. The feature is similar to Apple TV’s integration with the iTunes store. M-Go though is not owned and operated by Roku. Because it is partnered with Roku an M-Go account can be created with the push of a button using the email registered to the your Roku account as well as the credit card used to register the device. This saves users the trouble of having to go to a website and enter all of their information before diving in to the selections. Using M-Go TV: The TV selections are broken down by Top 50 TV, New Releases, TV Deals (which is a selection of bargain prices on lots of popular content) and of course “All” which will populate all available titles. There are also separate sections for purchased content and a watch list for those who want a reminder to purchase the latest episodes of their favorites. Television shows can be purchased by the episode or by the season. Movies: Movies are set up in a similar fashion to the television section. They are broken down in to genre categories along with the “My Movie Watch List” and “My Movie Library” for purchased digital content where purchased movies will stay readily available. Not unlike Vudu and other services M-Go also includes sub sections such as “Marvel Super Heroes”. Try For Free As an added bonus M-Go will give new users two free movie selections from its catalogue Lack of Discovery Engine One drawback of the M-Go service is that it does not have a service specific search. Unlike Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon and others who have a search feature embedded in to their apps, users looking for specific content on M-Go must use the Roku’s universal search. This means that M-Go titles will be populated side by side with selections from other services. Also despite its genre categorizes  selections are also not organized in any way. When searching for TV shows there is no separation based on Network affiliation nor are the selections listed in alphabetical order. This is a curious omission that almost emulates the days of the discount DVD box at a big box store. When accessing media on a device that is built on the idea of customization of media it is off-putting to search for a movie or television show in that fashion. Roku’s New News Section Roku has partnered with AOL to bring an integrated video news service on to the device. The News heading is listed under TV shows and features short video segments from categories across the spectrum. The categories include News, Entertainment, Technology, Business, Health, Travel and Weird News. The service is easy to navigate and will help users quickly catch up on the headlines of the day with a few clicks. The segments load fast in full HD and will continue from story to story until the user stops. With a selection of models starting as low as $50.00 before various holiday mark downs Roku’s continued firmware improvements and apps may well make it a big winner this Christmas.