Saturday, April 30, 2016

Full of surprise, perhaps?

The other day, I was visiting family and a cousin asked my opinion about the new Roku 4. This is a man who, in all intents and purposes, is an Apple Fanboy. He likes his iStuff, and he is proud of it. He also is proud of the fact he does stringent research on everything he is interested in, before he purchases it. Therefore, when he starts asking about streaming devices other than the Apple TV, you know something has peaked his curiosity.

I was asked if I have done anymore research on any of the Roku devices or other streaming media. More specifically, have I looked into the Roku 4, and what do I think of it? I told him the honest truth - since I am still working out the fun stuff with my 3, I haven't looked in to upgrading. I'm not the kind of person that feels compelled to buy the newest model every 6 months when it comes out. He said that he was seriously looking in to it, because he wants an upgrade to his smart TV, but also doesn't want to wait too long for any new Apple TV sets to come out. He is really thinking about the Roku 4, but the reviews are turning him off of it.

What's wrong with the reviews?

The main (and seemingly only) gripe with the new device, is plain and simple: because it is running on a quad core processor (much like the updated stick), it now has a fan built in (not like the stick or previous versions. This is a first). Due to not having a power on/off button, Roku devices stay powered on 24/7, unless you unplug it from the wall outlet (all the devices have this issue). Therefore, the fan is constantly running and as I type this entry, I read a review saying "it sounds like a vacuum" or "I didn't know I bought a diesel". Other users have stated "the obvious" as well - the fan kills any type of enjoyment of the service at hand. People are having to turn their sound up, literally to 11, to be able to hear conversations in what they are watching. In these cases, I reckon that if you're alone and streaming something, the headphones-in-the-remote feature is a definite nice feature.

Outside of that, one of the cool new things is the "find my remote" button. Should you lose the remote in the house (psst... it's under the couch cushions with your pocket full of change), there's a button on top of the box that you press and it sends a signal to the remote and you can hear it. Almost like the "Find My iphone" app for the iPhones, this can do something good. Also good? "Supported Resolution" is "Up to 4K Ultra HD", for those who are currently getting on the 4K TV bandwagon.

I guess there's nothing more for me to comment on, as it's all a rehash of what I've currently read and what my cousin has said. I've got no other research to comment on, but I can say that my current gripe about the 3 would be this: signing in to the apps once a month is a little bit of a pain. I know you're scratching your head so let me explain.

About once a month, I'll get a "user not authorized" or some similar message on my screen. This means I've got to sign out of the app I want to use (on the Roku), and re-sign in (thus logging on to my computer to enter the activation code the app is giving me), and once I log in with my correct email, the screen changes and I can watch whatever show I was looking for.

Still sound confusing? It's as if the activation code the app gives out, is only good for one month at a time, and 29 or so days past that first activation, the code expires and I've got to re-activate the app. It's been on all of the ones I've frequently been using (NatGeo, Showtime, HBO, A&E, etc). The code doesn't hate, but I grumble a little bit, especially when I've just shut down my laptop for the night (and my laptop takes a good 3 minutes to fully load once powered on).

I guess that's about it for today, so I'll check in again at some point in the near future.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

New (streaming) stick on the block

Just the other day, "news" broke that Roku has decided to manufacture and sell their new updated streaming stick, where you can (still) use the Roku remote with the HDMI plug in (stick). The price will be set at $49.99 and it's dropping on April 20th. However, it can be pre ordered. There is just a slightly renovated difference in this version.

What's so new an ingenious? Nothing that's out of the ordinary in ways that it's a mic drop, but the basic premise is in the fact that it borrows the private listening theory from the remote (the use of headphones) but will offer that same service on smart devices when the app is in use. Plus, the stick will be using some sort of similar quad core processor as the big boys do.

Wait, what? Essentially, it took an easy way out based off the recent 3 and 4 devices, and made it more economically friendly to those who don't want that major update but rely on a smartphone or tablet. It also helps for those who like to keep allegiance to certain brands. One (wo)man's Nike collection is another person's Adidas. I'm just basing all of this the promotional email Roku sent me earlier in the week. Since I own a Roku 3 (and continue to have it registered), I get all the fun subscription emails from the service every couple weeks.

The remote still talks to the stick, but if you're using your smart device as the remote, there's a way to use the headphone jack for private listening, when you need to have quiet time with a big screen television and the children sleep.

I've yet to buy into the whole upgrade system, as the media player I have, is still new. What do they say - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? I'm just getting around to watching things on a "full time" basis with the player; why pay the $129.99 for the 4, when I don't have the necessary equipment anyway? According to the site, the Roku 4 Streaming Media Player seems to have a couple major differences to the 3. One being the fact it's touting an "advanced processing for smooth streaming at higher resolutions, plus unique new features like a lost remote finder". The other is the wham, bam, thank you m'am "visual rush of true 4K Ultra HD streaming. Roku 4 can support amazing detail, realistic color, and smooth motion delivered by the next generation of streaming technology when used with compatible 4K Ultra HD TVs".

I don't have a 4K TV yet; I'm perfectly happy with my hand me down Vizio flat screen. If I had to complain about that, my only gripe is the back of the TV gets a little warm when you have it on for more than an hour. After 2 hours, the room could start getting warm. It's not over heating and causing a fire or smoke, but the tubing (is that such a thing in these screens now?) just becomes warm with use. Like when you buy a nice dress shirt, the sleeves will ride up with wear.

As I was poking around Amazon, I did find something of interest, in reference to the dongle (stick) versions of the streaming devices. It is from a brand called Exinoz, and it's called Gold-Plated HDMI Adapter. According to the product summary, it is a "90 degree hdmi adapter [...] that avoids bending hdmi cables and removes the strain on HDMI ports to increase the lifespan of your expensive devices and your hdmi cable". It has a 79% five star rating, and over all, Amazon clients rate it as a 4.2 out of 5 stars. This would have been handy for me, when I was first buying the adapters and cables to be able to hook up my electronics via the HDMI connection.

However, the one smart purchase I made with regards to the Roku: The Monoprice Commercial 6ft 28AWG High Speed HDMI Cable With Ethernet w/ Ferrite Cores (I bought the tiny 1.5ft red cable). I had been getting a flickering and a hiss among other issues when I first used my player. I couldn't understand why, as both the device and HDMI cables were new. I tried 3 different cables before I researched it, stumbling on the Roku forum. I found out that it's a common occurrence with these players - that if you use "normal" HDMI cables, there's a high probability that you are going to get some sort of interference. Doesn't matter if it comes in the form of flickering, noise, or any other random issue, the device is seeing the electronic noise from everything going on in the room. It's so common, that other devices (such as Apple TV) have the same problem. I know a few people who are Apple fan children, so I asked them, and they all said they noticed that - occasionally there'd be weird static happening on the screen. When I asked them about their connection, they said they had a normal HDMI cable. I had bought the Monoprice connector at this point, and told them that they should find a way to get one as well; it's worth the investment, especially since one of the people will be updating their device when the next generation goes out to the public.

All in all, I still think the Roku is a hell of a lot better than the Chromecast. I still haven't had experience with Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, but based on the two common devices I've tried, I think I'm sticking with Roku.


See also:

Streaming stick pages via Amazon