My entrance in to streaming video and Internet content with set top boxes is really an experience that I would classify as ‘testing the waters’. I’ve been looking hard at the options with Internet TV boxes and set top boxes to stream all kinds of Internet content directly to my living room TV… I finally decided to purchase the Roku 2 XS.
There were other options, but I believe Roku has pushed itself right in to the publics eye more than others… but that’s my opinion. Thanks to my website [LEHSYS] I’m able to afford to get products and test them out from time to time and this was one I thought I was a ‘must do’… The Roku I got was only $99; you can look up the website for the specifications.
In another post, I talked about cutting the cable for ‘cable’, but I also wanted something to work with my electronic entertainment; such as my movie ISO’s and my MP3 collection. Right out of the box, Roku doesn’t do this, but the beauty to Roku is the channels/applications that you can add to it.
My movie collection is largely ISO’s; I hadn’t wanted to convert these to make them work with any particular streaming box, like Roku, and I was very happy when I could make my Roku stream my ISO’s directly to my TV without any conversion.
My experience with Roku is that it does have lots of Internet streaming options; some aren’t as organized as others, but it does work. The Internet interface works for me and if you have used Netflix, you won’t have any issues with adapting to it.
Having never seen the Roku, I was very surprised at the size of the unit when I first opened it; it’s very small. It was roughly the size of my palm and only about as think as a [US] quarter, with just a power cable and a remote to keep it company. It’s a very simplistic packaging. I was left very curious with the contents of the box, I was searching for instructions on streaming, what formats were supported, how to get media from your local network and other obvious questions; nothing was there… but the Internet is always on— so I went digging.
With Roku, you add channels [not applications] to the device. In my case, I chose to install a channel called PLEX. Plex is a channel on Roku that allows the Roku to connect to a resource on your network that’ll function as a media server, pushing the content to the Roku. This whole process is really not overly documented in the Roku, so the setup takes a little reading.
But to simplify the process, on the Roku, load the PLEX channel. Now go to your local server/PC, browse the web for Plex [http://www.plexapp.com/getplex/]. There’s two parts to PLEX the server and the Media Center… technically, all you need is the ‘server’ portion.
The installation of PLEX server only takes a few minutes to complete, top to bottom. The interface to PLEX is a browser page, so you can access the server with any device with a browser and connection to your network.
You have to tell the PLEX server where your media files are… You can name the sections, add the media folders you want; it’s fairly straight forward.
Your movie collection is read, tagged and organized by PLEX; the GUI is very well planned. The server will take some time in digging through your collections, don’t be upset when the system seems unresponsive or kind of slow; it’s working the in the background.
Back over on the Roku, running PLEX for the first time, it’ll search out your PLEX media server. If you can’t find it auto magically, you can add it manually with just entering the IP of the PLEX server.
Now using the PLEX channel, you can now start running through the music and movies collection you’ve just setup.
Now earlier, I was discussing playing my movie collection [just the feature movie ISO's] directly to the Roku; well that’s what PLEX does, it’s reading the ISO’s and converting that on-the-fly to be displayed on my TV. I may have missed the announcement, but I couldn’t find where PLEX supported ISO playback, but it was doing it; and doing it quite well.
If it doesn’t do it natively, it could be because I have a codec [K-lite] pack loaded on my PLEX server PC [maybe]. All I can say for sure, it that it’s working. I’m able to enjoy my entire ISO collection without having to convert a single file or waste anymore hard drive space.
My focus was on the ISO’s, but Roku supports many other formats as well, and I have not had any issues with those. The music and photo browsing isn’t as good as I’d like, but that’s okay— it does work.
But what this means to me is that I can Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, HuluPlus, Pandora AND watch my own content using Roku. At this point, this leaves me paying for TV service at a premium… My son is hooked on cartoons and I have to keep cable for just the kids shows; everything else I can get via Roku and streaming services. At $99 it’s a good option.
Now, not only can you stream your media to your Roku/TV with PLEX, PLEX is a media server, so you can stream this same content to your other devices like Windows, Android and iOS. Making a fee small changes to your local firewall, you could stream this content anywhere.
So, yes; Roku with PLEX, playing all my ISO movies, MP3′s and browsing my home movies and pictures on my living room TV, very cool.
Larry Henry Jr.
…via Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11