Gadget Spot: Roku
As you await the start of another adrenaline-laced day for Jack Bauer (the eighth season of 24, this time with Bauer fighting terrorists in New York City, starts Jan. 17), do you get the feeling there's little else you really want to watch on TV?
If winter's prime-time fare seems thin, it's probably time to buy a Roku (roku.com). This first-rate gadget is a digital video player that receives instant programming from the internet. It comes in three models - Roku SD ($80) delivers standard-definition video, Roku HD ($100) is capable of displaying HDTV programs, and Roku HDXR ($130) has advanced wireless reception to gather up standard-definition and high-definition programming.
With a few clicks of its nine-button remote, Roku streams any of more than 50,000 instant viewing choices. This set-top box is the first receiver to provide unlimited access to Netflix's streaming library of movies (new and classic) and TV shows (some of the most watchable series of the last five decades).
Roku can also deliver programming from Amazon Video On Demand, MLB.TV, blip.tv (home to the program "Old Jews Telling Jokes") and Revision3 Internet TV, to name a few of the most popular channels. The box also connects your TV to the Pandora internet radio service and content from the Flickr photo website.
Frankly, Revision3 fills the majority of my Roku-viewing time. Their collection of 19 shows is right up my alley - AppJudgment reviews mobile phone apps (my choice for Gadget of the Year) for iPhones, jailbroken iPhones and Android phones; Bytejacker reviews video games; Diggnation reports on top stories from digg.com; and Scam School uncovers the secrets behind "scams" that are sure to confound your buddies and quite possibly make you the life of the party.
Roku is stupidly simple to set up (it'll take 10 minutes at most) - you just plug it into your wall and TV and connect to the internet through a wired or wireless broadband connection.
All that's left is choosing the channels you want to subscribe to (some are free and some paid - $9 a month for Netflix gets you unlimited access to 12,000 streaming content choices), and you can instantly play, pause, fast-forward and rewind your way through more TV content than anyone could ever possibly watch.
With Roku attached to your TV, this winter's TV viewing will be more of a feast than a famine.
Got a gadget question or a high-tech toy to recommend? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org