Roku Adds Live TV to Set-Top Boxes
Roku 3's new remote includes a headphone jack and a motion sensor.
Roku's latest model could convince more people to "cut the cord" and opt for streaming entertainment instead of using cable or satellite TV. And a new Roku channel from Time Warner Cable aims to make those still on cable happier, too.
For customers who subscribe to Time Warner Cable and use TWC for Internet access (a common combination), the latest Roku channel brings live television in addition to the service's traditional on-demand streaming from Hulu Plus, Netflix and hundreds of other online channels. The live feed comes over the Internet, so no connection to a cable outlet is needed.
The TWC channel offers up to 300 stations, including premium choices if you subscribe to them. (Roku already offered an HBO channel.) You can only watch programs playing in real time; there's no DVR function, though TWC's iOS app offers on-demand shows. Channels are available in HD, but only on the latest generation of Roku models. [See also: First Digital Antenna with Roku Streaming Could Replace Cable]
With more than 750 channels, Roku offers far more entertainment options than rivals like Apple TV. Roku 3, the newest model, remains at or near the top in features and specs, too. The $100 unit includes a faster processor so it can better keep up with the demands of HD video. And its dual-band wireless connection can connect on two different wireless channels at once, so the box maintains a stronger link with your network.
The remote features a headphone jack to bring the sound to you, which could make it easier to listen to TV late at night or in a noisy room. It could also you keep the piece with other people in the room who don't share your addiction to "Storage Wars," "The Bachelor" or "Project Runway." The remote also includes motion detection, turning it into a Wii-like controller for games such as Angry Birds and Jeopardy.
Roku helped create the set-top box market in 2008 with its first unit. Google TV launched with a lot of buzz in 2010 but flopped, although new versions from Vizio and Sony have been better received. Rumors of a new Apple Television (not just a set-top box) have been circulating for more than a year.