Since we’ve owned it for a few weeks now, I figured it was time to do a Roku 2 review, to let fellow inquiring frugal minds know whether the Roku is a good option for those living cable-free.
I’ll direct you to the Roku 2 page if you want tech specs, since I’m not much of a techie myself. But, I will say that it comes with everything you need aside from a TV and a Wi-Fi password to get set up – including headphones! The remote comes with a headphone jack that allows you to plug in headphones in order to watch TV quietly.
- No monthly fees. The only expense you’ll incur by owning a Roku is purchasing the Roku itself (we paid $70 for our Roku 2). There are premium apps/channels that you can choose to subscribe to at an additional cost.
- Headphones. The Roku 2 has a headphone jack for quiet listening. This is great for watching TV when your spouse is sleeping or working without disturbing them.
- Apps galore. There are many apps available in the Roku. Some well known, some more niche in nature. Some are free, while others require a paid subscription. With that said, some apps seem to be popular Youtube channels, which we were surprised to see.
- Easy to use. Roku has an intuitive design that makes it easy to navigate, search and use apps.
Yes, sports deserves its own section! One of the most difficult parts of being cable-free has been missing out on sports (at least for my husband). Roku offers quite a few sports channels. Some are free, but the free ones tend to be light on content (i.e. highlights only). But if you’re currently without any way of watching sports, highlights can be a welcomed addition! These are a few Roku sports channels that we’ve found:
- Watch ESPN (highlights only)
- NFL Now (highlights only)
- NHL Game Center
- UFC TV
- NBA Game Time
- WWE Network
- It’s slow. There’s a noticeable lag with each push of a button. In itself, it isn’t a big deal. But if you’re doing something that requires more than a couple of clicks (say, scrolling through Hulu or Netflix) it can be frustrating. This is particularly noticeable in the YouTube app, which requires lots of scrolling and clicking in order to access different areas of the navigation menu.
- Unreliable headphones. Unfortunately, the headphone jack only works about 70% of the time. I’ve tried different headphones and even went as far as exchanging the Roku, assuming the faulty headphone jack was a defect. But our second unit has the same issue. I haven’t found a fix to this, but I have noticed that using rechargeable batteries seems to aggravate the problem.
Of course, if you’re getting rid of cable completely in favor of the Roku, you’ll see the most savings. But since we’ve been cable-free for a while now, here’s how the savings break down for our household.
Because we paid $70 for the Roku 2, it will have paid for itself in just seven months and save us an additional $50 in the first year simply due to canceling the $10/month Xbox Live subscription that we previously used to access apps like Hulu Plus and Netflix. Going forward, it will save us $120 per year due to the cancellation of our previous subscription.
The Roku search feature offers money-saving potential. When searching a movie, it searches across all apps in order to help you find the best deal. This helps you save money by being able to instantly see the best price, and whether there’s an app that offers your movie for free. I really appreciate this feature since we’ve paid for movies that were offered for free on a different app more than once without realizing it with our previous set up.
Should you Buy a Roku?
It really depends on what you’re currently using and what you’re after.
If you currently have a free way to access apps on your television, you probably don’t need a Roku. If you pay a monthly subscription in order to access these apps (like Xbox Live), the Roku is a better option since it saves you the monthly fee. Or, if you have no way of accessing apps on your television, Roku is a great inexpensive solution.
With that said, the Roku 2 isn’t the cheapest option. Within its own line of products, Roku offers two less expensive options at the $50 price point: Roku 1, which works with older TVs, and Streaming Stick. We chose a Roku 2 because it offered headphone capabilities.
Outside of the line of Roku products, there are other interesting options to be explored. I’m very interested in Chromecast since it’s only $35 and offers access to many apps, including the more popular ones like Netflix. I may pick one up just for the sake of doing a review, so let me know if that’s something you’re interested in seeing.
Overall, I do like our Roku. Though speed, and reliability in the headphones (which is what sold us on this model) are lacking, I still think it’s a robust, affordable, streaming device. Despite its flaws, it’s certainly an upgrade from our previous set up.