Roku: meh.

I spent some time playing around with a new Roku 3 over the past week or two.  From a hardware standpoint, it’s a pretty cool little box.  Wifi, HDMI, remote with accelerometers, all kinds of coolness.  Unfortunately, its use as a streaming media player is limited at best, at least for what I wanted.

If all you need is a player for Netflix/Hulu Plus/Amazon and similar paid services, it’s fine.  If you’re the type who loves video game blogs, old movies no one has ever heard of and similar stuff, I guess it would be grand. In general, though, the free content that’s available is worth exactly what it costs (if you don’t count the cost of the Roku), and I’m not looking for more places to send money every month.

My intent was to use it to play movies, recorded TV and live TV streamed from a MythTV backend.  The success rate ranged from great to zero, depending on what I was trying to do.  The Roku would have me transcoding every single video recording I have (no thanks, really).  The Plex and MythTV frontends I found were pretty buggy.  The “Brightscript” language used to build content channels is not something trivial to pick up, and I’m really not looking for a second career as a programmer.  I finally decided that if I do build a whole-house TV/movie/music/DVR system, I’ll probably have to use little dedicated boxes running either XBMC or Mythtv, and talking to a dedicated MythTV backend.

Fortunately, Roku has a pretty good return policy.  This one’s going back.  It doesn’t seem to be a bad little box for what it does, it just doesn’t do what I need.