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Roku 2 Media Streamer (2015) Review



Roku LogoMedia streamers are hugely in vogue at the moment with products from Roku, Apple, Google and Amazon, and good a few of these are going to appear under the Christmas tree in a few day’s time. Although hard numbers are difficult to come back, it’s generally thought that the market leader by a good way is Roku, with Google, Apple and Amazon following in roughly that order. Once the figures are in for the Thanksgiving and Christmas sales, this could all change. Regardless, on review here is the UK 2015 version of the Roku 2, which now sits in the middle of Roku’s British line-up, between the Streaming Stick and the Roku 3. Let’s take a look.

Roku 2 in Box

In the box, you get the Roku 2, remote control (with batteries) and power supply with four plug adaptors, including UK, US and continental. There’s no HDMI cable.

Roku 2 inside box

As with the previous Roku 2 models, it’s in the “hockey puck” style, though it’s a little bit more rounded than the earlier Roku 2 models. The remote is the usual candy bar, but this model uses IR signal transmission rather than the WiFi and Bluetooth of predecessors. This may be of interest if your Roku normally lives round the back of the TV as you’ll need to bring it into view.

Roku 2 Front

Looking round the 2, there’s the trademark fabric tab on one side, with a USB port on the other. At the back you’ll find HDMI, network and DC power sockets, along with a microSD card slot. In addition to the Ethernet, the Roku 2 has dual band wireless.

Getting started is straightforward. Plug everything into the Roku 2, put the batteries in the remote and sit back on the sofa with the remote. The Roku 2 steps through the setup in a straightforward fashion, though putting in long passwords or WiFi keys can be a bit laborious. Regardless, you can be up and running within minutes.

Roku offers over 1,500 streaming entertainment channels which are great for followers of niche programming, whether travel, sport, kids, health & fitness or faith/religion. However, the vast majority of UK buyers will be interested in the offerings from the main terrestrial broadcasters plus the well known video-on-demand services. Naturally, Roku has them all. BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Sky Now, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play Movies and YouTube. For audio fans, there’s Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, TuneIn and Vevo. Newshounds will like the BBC News and Sky News channels. I could keep going but in summary there’s lots there and no-one will ever be able to say, “There’s nothing on the TV”.

Roku 2 RearOn the other hand if you have your own media, the Roku Media Player will play from USB storage and DLNA servers, and a Plex client can be installed too. I streamed ripped movies from a Buffalo Linkstation and while picture quality can be subject to network speeds, I had no problems at all and enjoyed HD footage without glitches from all the services that offered HD streaming. The Roku 2 has a HD optimised processor and I think it shows. The microSD slot can’t be used for media storage but can be used to boost the internal memory of the Roku 2 for extra channels.

If you’re a real film buff, you’ll be interested in Roku Search and Roku Feed. The former searches through top channels by title, actor or director to find your favourite programming and the Roku Feed automatically updates you when new films become available for streaming (or if the price changes).

The Roku 2’s main user interface is a simple menu driven affair and it’s not nearly as sophisticated as Amazon’s Fire, which combines media from multiple sources. Part of this is because the Roku doesn’t have the integrated cloud-based ecosystem behind it in the style of Amazon or Google, but part is to keep things straightforward and easy to use, much like an ordinary TV. The channels such as Netflix then have their own interface. Frankly, I prefer the channel approach as you know what you are getting, e.g. BBC programming, Netflix’s catalogue, YouTube video. Channel or app sophistication varies hugely. Most are good, especially from the big names like BBC or Netflix, though Spotify’s channel is a bit disappointing.

Roku RemoteThe remote is easy to use with a directional pad falling easily under the thumb. Other buttons function as home, back and menu controls. There are four shortcut buttons for Netflix, YouTube, Rdio and Google Movies, which is great if you use those services, but a waste of space if you don’t. It’s a pity they aren’t more generically labelled, e.g. Films, Music, News, Sport, with a configuration option for each button. Even better would be to print and label your own buttons!

To play media from smartphones and tablets, Roku offers a complementary app (Android, iOS and Windows) which can be used to not only manage and control the Roku 2, but also cast media from the mobile device to the screen. It’s great to show the photos you’ve just taken on the TV.

There’s no doubt there’s strong competition out there for the spot below your TV but the Roku 2 performed well and without issue. Pricewise, the Roku 2 has an RRP of £69.99 but can be found on-line for £10 less which is good value especially at the lower price. Of course, if you don’t need to play from local storage, consider the Roku Streaming Stick which is £20 cheaper (RRP £49.99). Overall, I think the Roku is a good choice if your intention is to “watch TV” without being distracted by unnecessary features. Go on, get one for Christmas.

Thanks to Roku for providing the Roku 2 for review.


RCA Model LED32A32A30RQ TV



RCA TV
I recently picked up the 32 inch RCA model LED32A30RQ TV. It has a resolution of 1366x 768 and a 16:9 aspect ratio. It has the following connections:

  • 1 RCA component video input
  • L/R Audio input for component
  • 1 RCA composite video input
  • 1 L/R Audio input for composite
  • VGA input
  • Audio input for VGA
  • 4 HDMI connections
  • 1 Digital audio output
  • 1 Analog output
  • 1 earphone jack

The fourth HDMI connection was a pleasant surprise because the description says only 3 HDMI connections, although the specifications say four HDMI inputs (it is a little confusing). The HDMI connections and the analog audio output are on the side panel. On the bottom panel are the rest of the connections. The HDMI connections are a little cramped and because the panel is dark it is hard to get things connected, unless you have good lighting. The other big complaint I have is with the sound coming directly from the TV it is really tinny. However, connected to a receiver or sound system it sounds great. I think the picture is fine, however I haven’t been able to do a full calibration yet. When you switch from output to another there is a bit of delay, but it is not too bad. The hardest part of the setup was trying to figure out how to connect to the stand, the directions weren’t very clear.

After having it for a couple of weeks, my husband and I are both really happy with this TV it is perfect for a small room. At $264.00 including taxes the price couldn’t be beat, it was originally almost $400.00. I ordered it right on time, because by the time it arrived 3 days later it was sold out and is now no longer available through Wal-Mart. In fact I can’t find it for sale on any site. If you do find it for sale and have a small room, I recommend you pick it up.


Mark Cuban. MLB Savior?



Mark Cuban is among many who are bidding to buy the Chicago Cubs. Whether you like this guy or not it would be fantastic for Major League Baseball, not to mention the Cubs. MLB has had all kinds of troubles over the past decade or so from steroids to player strikes to an incompetent commissioner in Bud Selig. While these things have hurt “America’s Pastime”, it is the refusal to do new things & let the status quo go unchecked that bothers me most. Mark Cuban is one of the brightest people on the planet so I’d be more apt to make him commissioner than just an owner of a single team. As owner of the Cubs he could affect change by changing how his team does things so others will follow suit. I think Mark would have better ideas than turning a blind eye to steroid use just to get attendance numbers back up. He might actually institute some new technology and ideas.

The first thing he could do is make baseball players more accessible to fans. Nascar blew up because the average fan could talk to the drivers and team members in the pit area. His personal blog often covers his NBA team so instantly the average fan will get thoughts on their favorite team from the top guy. The next thing he would do would likely get the Cubs on HDNET as well as their local WGN channel. That would expand the viewership which is already huge for the Cubs. Another improvement he could make is push for better technology for the strike zone which is subjective to which human umpire is on the job. Also he could try to improve the game by speeding it up with a pitch clock that keeps the action going instead of wasting time between pitches. No one has time for four hour baseball games anymore. The biggest thing Cuban could do for baseball is just be different than all the ancient owners that are currently there. These guys likely don’t care about high def, the internet, and have never heard of a blog. Even if you disagree with Cuban’s position on online videos and other issues relating to the web, at least he understands what is going on. He is not stuck in the 80’s or 90’s. As an owner he would have a voice in overall baseball policies. When Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks that team was a joke but he turned them into a perpetual winner with great attendance. Think about what he could do with a team that already has a great fan base.

Likely the powers that be in Major League Baseball won’t allow Cuban to get into their elitist club because they like things the way they are currently. People don’t like change especially when it threatens their powerful positions. It is similar to how old media is holding on for dear life resisting change that is already here. The current leaders in baseball would rather keep things “the way we have always done it” than make a change for the better.