In his Cool Tools email newsletter, Kevin Kelly reviewed the Roku box from Netflix, a little $100 internet-connected box that lets you watch movies and TV series from Netflix's large "Watch Instantly" library on your TV set. I bought one based on his review and am already in love with it.
The Roku box from Netflix allows you to watch movies on your TV whenever you want to, for no extra charge, in DVD quality. It is a tiny thing that sets up in a few minutes. If you have wi-fi in your household it will link up to that so you can put the box near your TV. For achieving such a complex task it has a remarkably simple interface and no-fuss approach, very similar to an iPod. We were watching a movie within ten minutes of opening the shipping box.Subscribe to Cool Tools
You use a small clicker to control your Netflix queue on your TV. Movies are streamed (no waiting beyond a few seconds at the start) in unexpected big-screen TV quality. I don't know how they do it. It is miles better than the streaming on those little YouTube boxes. There is no noticeable stutter, blobs, lags, or hiccups. But it ain't hi-def, either.
The service is a joy to use. You manage your queue -- adding and re-ording flicks -- on your computer, and the Roku box automatically syncs up. Back at the TV you click through the instant choices, pick one, and in a few seconds the movie starts. You can pause, change movies, and resume the first where you left off.
UPDATE: Joel Johnson reviewed the Roku on BB Gadgets.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects