My research led me to Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, several media players that did not have traditional apps by only playing from an external drive, and the Roku 3.
My PS3 was not the "slim" version and weighed in at a hefty 12 pounds. Quite heavy and took quite a bit of shelf space. The new Roku 3 is tiny in comparison weighing just 5 ounces and measuring 3.5 inches square by 1 inch tall. The remote is simplified with just a few buttons and Bluetooth connectivity, which was important to me as I have used RF remotes that needed to be directly in front of the tv/console, lined up perfectly to work correctly.
Interestingly, the remote also has a headphone jack, volume control, and wifi connectivity, allowing the user to plug headphones into the remote and roam about freely listening to Pandora or Spotify without being tethered to the box or TV. The remote also has motion sensitivity and functions as a game controller; very cool for a product that now costs less than $85.
I plugged in the small box via HDMI cable to my television in the living room and was greeted with a Roku animation of the company name. It quickly went to the home screen and asked me to input a code to register the device. I did this online with a computer since I was not connected to my homes wireless connection yet. After registering the device I went to the network settings and connected to my WiFi network quickly and easily. Signal strength and connectivity were strong even through several walls about 40 feet away. The Roku 3 also has an Ethernet port for a wired connection, but WiFi is working well so I hid the console, tucked under a shelf invisible to visitors. The HDMI connection on the Roku 3 will output 720p and 1080p via the HDMI connection.
Browsing the home screen showed a nice blend of included channels that could be moved around, deleted, and additional content/channels added quickly and easily. Testing a few channels like Netflix and Amazon Prime went flawlessly streaming in HD over the wireless network without incident. I tested Pandora, the YouTube channel and several other channels such as PBS and CNN. CNN streams their International channel for free without subscription through the Roku 3. I was also able to view the Bloomberg financial network live stream, and a few other live channels as well such as Fox News, although it was audio only. Impressive nonetheless for a tiny box that did not require any signups or subscription fees.
After searching, testing, and playing with the new device I could not be happier with the purchase. Replacing my aging PS3 at a fraction of the cost and size was well worth the small investment.
One of the channels I have added and use regularly was the PLEX media server. Plex gives me the ability to organize all of my content via their web app. It scanned the directories I pointed to and automatically downloaded metadata such as year, ratings, length, actors, etc, even the movie posters and artwork. All done quickly and automatically in about 60 seconds. My next post will take you through Plex and all it has to offer. For now I am enjoying the new Roku 3 and definitely recommend the product for anyone looking to slim down their media center and bring all content under one umbrella.