Streaming Amazon Video on Demand to Roku

Last month, Roku and Amazon banded together to offer Amazon Video on Demand streaming on the Roku digital video player (aka, the Roku box). This past weekend I finally got around to checking out the integration and thought I'd report my findings.

Assuming your Roku is already rocking Netflix content, adding Amazon is quick and easy. First you have to couple your Roku box with your Amazon.com account. From the Roku home screen, choose Amazon Video on Demand, then "Your Video Library". On the next screen you'll get a five character code. Enter that at http://www.amazon.com/roku, accept the terms and assuming there's already a payment option on file with Amazon, you're done. You might want to set a PIN number, too. This step took less than a minute.

Once this is done, you can get comfortable on the couch and browse and purchase content to your heart's desire. If you set up a PIN, you'll need to enter that for each purchase (probably a good idea, just to keep from any accidental/mischievous purchases) but otherwise it's a one click process. In my case, I've been watching single episodes of recent television series that I'd missed. It took no more than thirty seconds for an episode to start playing. The picture has varied between very good (a slight bit of banding in color gradients that I probably would not have noticed had I not been looking for flaws; the other person in the room never noticed) and excellent. The content isn't HD, but at its best was a high quality SD, if that makes any sense. It was as clean and clear as a widescreen SD image is going to get (better, I'd say, than what I get over SD cable). No glitching, pauses or other intrusions to remind you that your content was streaming. (I should note that my Roku is connected via ethernet rather than a wireless connection.)

The only drawback is the 'browsing' step, because the interface for finding a show isn't great. I had to scroll through seemingly endless shows to find what I was looking for and the order of the shows seemed random. It certainly wasn't alphabetical, nor chronological. If there was a pattern, I was unable to detect it. There are broad categories (comedy, popular, reality, etc) but there's no search and no straight alphabetical listing.

Of course, you could buy content at your computer, using Amazon's search to quickly find what you want to watch. Then back on couch, navigate to the "Your Video Library" section of Amazon on Demand to play it back. The browsing issue isn't the end of the world, but offering search from the Roku interface would be a nice addition.

Overall, I am once again very pleased by the performance of the $99.99 Roku box. The hardware is small, unobtrusive and totally silent. I was happy with it when it only played Netflix "Watch Now" streams, and the addition of Amazon On Demand only increases the value.

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