Netflix are pretty much synonymous with mail-delivery films in the US, and the company is now trying to do the same for internet-streamed media. The Netflix Player by Roku is the first piece of hardware promising to bring download movies to your TV, and going by the launch-day reviews it sounds like they’ve got a winner on their hands. $99.99 gets you a compact set-top box that, when linked to your online Netflix account, lets you play from the company’s 10,000 strong catalogue of titles, automatically selecting the highest resolution your broadband can support.
The Player itself has HDMI, component and composite connections, together with stereo audio, optical and ethernet ports. Pairing with your existing Netflix account is straightforward and you can use either a hard-wired or wireless network hookup. There’s no high-definition yet (though it’s supported once the streams are there), and you can’t browse or select titles on the Player itself – you have to pick them via your online account before they show up on the box – but playback quality is good despite it only buffering chapter images and around four minutes of footage.
Netflix are charging $8.95/mo for unlimited access to movies, which happily undercuts both Amazon Unboxed and Apple TV if you’re a keen viewer. The key issue every review flags up is the absence of new releases available for streaming; that, hopefully, will change as the service picks up momentum and the studios see it as A Good Thing. Best of all, there’s talk of it being integrated into new TVs, which means one less (bland) box in your living room. More details here.