March 31, 2011, 8:03 AM — I've been shirking my Roku-fanboy duties this week, so let's get caught up with news about my favorite streaming media player.
Earlier this week Roku announced an update to their Crackle channel. The channel now offers free (ad-supported) full-length feature films and TV shows. Crackle says they're adding about 20 new films every month.
Now, to be fair these aren't new movies we're talking about, but if you've got a hankering to re-watch Ghostbusters, Crackle & Roku can scratch that itch for you at no cost. Over on the TV side they have Patrick Warburton in The Tick. 'Nuff said.
And to be even more fair, Crackle is also streaming all its content on the Sony Playstation 3, and soon on Sony Blu-ray players and Bravia TVs (Crackle is owned by Sony).
The other big news out of Roku is that they're moving into retail under their own name. Earlier this year Netgear was distributing a branded version of the Roku, but it seemed like a half-hearted attempt on the part of Netgear. I never saw one in stores and there was very little effort spent on marketing (at least in my part of the world).
Starting this week you can walk into a Best Buy and check out a Roku-branded Roku XD. That's the mid-tier model, $79.99. It does 1080P but it doesn't have the Dual-band WiFi, USB port or the component and optical outputs of the $99.99 XD|S. Assuming you have a modern TV/home theater with HDMI inputs you're probably going to be fine with the XD. If you do want the XD|S you'll have to find a Fry's or a BJ's. If you don't want to shop at Best Buy, Radio Shack (excuse me, "The Shack") and Fry's also carry the XD.
I've already admitted to being a Roku fanboy so any claim to objectivity is already shot, but if you're looking into getting a streaming media player it's worth your time to look into a Roku, particularly now that you can walk into a retail store (where you can easily return it if it doesn't meet your expectations) and pick one up.