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August 31, 2018

The Roku Media Caster

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

I cut the cable almost three years ago in 2015. I don’t regret it, but the cut required that I rely upon streaming devices and screencasters to sate my visual entertainment desires. Key among these devices was my Nexus Player. Just last month, it died.

The Nexus Player was my gold standard for casting devices. Being an Android gizmo, it worked well with all my mobile devices. Plus, it also offered all my Google subscriptions in one handy place. The abbreviated remote was perfect, though its capability to hear my voice was just awful.

Starting last month, the player had connection issues. It said my WiFi was down, which it wasn’t. The problem got worse. I reset the device. No help. Eventually, and with much sorrow, I unplugged it.

Filling the gap for the Nexus Player was my Amazon Fire Stick. I needed this casting gizmo because the Nexus Player (as far as I know) didn’t have an app to access Amazon Prime. (Conversely, the First Stick doesn’t have a Google Play Movies app.) So I added all my apps — HBO, Hulu, Netflix, and so on — to the Fire Stick.

Again, I had issues with connectivity. The buffering on the HBO NOW app was particularly horrid. HULU was okay. Netflix had to be reinstalled a few times to get it to work and even then it had trouble finding its own servers.

To deal with the frustration, I added another Chromecast dongle to the HDTV. This dongle allowed me to cast from my phone or tablet to the TV, which worked well, but I still wasn’t happy with it.

Eventually, I settled on getting a Roku Express, controller show in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Roku controller, with its annoying “tag” tongue thing.

When Google stopped making the Nexus Player, the streaming device recommended by most Android fanatics was the Roku. They make an array of players, including some top-end 4K players. I don’t have a 4K TV, so I got the Roku Express.

I’m not disappointed.

After setup and configuration, I found that all my apps played well. The HBO NOW app had zero buffering issues. Hulu, which originally had buffering issues on the Fire Stick but lost them later, played well right out of the chute.

The only thing I wish is that the Roku offered a YouTube player. They have the subscription version of YouTube, but not a straight YouTube player. Still, I can cast from my phone or tablet to see YouTube on the HDTV, and I don’t watch that much YouTube on the big screen anyway.

Perhaps someday, Google will introduce another streaming player. Until then, the Roku suits my needs just fine.

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