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Roku Amazon Video on Demand hands-on

Nilay Patel
03.03.09
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Roku was nice enough to upgrade our player for Amazon Video on Demand a little early, and we're basically impressed -- although we're not in love with SD video and stereo audio, it's hard to complain about a free service update. Actually, that might be the best thing about the newly-rebranded Roku Video Player: Roku's opening the platform to third-party channels, so eventually the $99 box will be able to stream from all kinds of sources. Amazon is just the first additional channel built using the new tools, and for the most part, things work just like Netflix -- the interface has been only slightly modified to enable selecting content from the box itself instead of from your online queue. We're talking really slightly: there's no search interface, so it's sort of like having lots of categorized queues. One minor complaint: the rental clock starts when you purchase content, not when you start playback, which isn't necessarily the most flexible setup, but it makes sense given the streaming-only nature of the service, we suppose. That said, purchasing is easy and fast, and we had no problems streaming in the highest-available quality on our 10Mbps cable connection -- Max Payne didn't look super-awesome in SD, but it was certainly watchable. Bottom line? It's perfect for a bedroom, but we're way more particular about the home theater -- Roku tells us the Video Player can actually do 1080i and 5.1 if the content is there, so hopefully we'll see someone leverage those capabilities and turn this thing into a $99 Apple TV / Vudu killer. Quick little demo vid after the break.

Gallery: Roku Amazon Video on Demand hands-on | 20 Photos



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