The Tech-pert: $50 Roku LT is This Year’s Hot Holiday Gadget Gift
I’m calling it. The hot holiday gift item for 2011 is the Roku LT, a media-streaming box priced at just $49.99 shipped. (For now it’s available only from Amazon and Roku, but other stores will start carrying it soon.) If you’re at all familiar with the Roku line, you know that the entry-level Roku 2 HD has been selling for $59.99 for the past several months. So aside from the $10 price cut, what’s the big deal about the LT?
Well, that’s kind of the big deal right there. This is the first Roku box priced under $50. A mere ten bucks may not seem like much, but $49.99 is one of those magic price points that turns browsers into impulse-buyers. Admit it: you’re thinking about ordering one right now.
What’s more, the LT offers all the same great media-streaming goodness as the higher-priced models, but in a cute little purple box. What kind of media? Let’s start with the heavyweights: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora, and, most recently, HBO Go.
This last is an awesome addition for HBO subscribers, as it lets you stream pretty much everything in the HBO library–movies, past and present TV series, etc.–on demand. All from a $50 box. Just make sure your cable provider supports HBO Go via Roku. About eight do right now, but mine, Comcast, doesn’t (grumble, grumble).
Like other Roku boxes, this one also streams tons of niche content: Internet radio, tech shows, sports channels, and so on.
And don’t tell friends who bought one of the higher-end models, but the LT has a better remote. The button layout is much more logical, and the matte finish wards off fingerprints.
So, what is the LT missing? Three hardware features I consider extraneous for most users: Bluetooth, an Ethernet port, and a microSD memory-card slot. And, hey, if you really want Bluetooth and the card slot, you can get them in the Roku 2 HD for 10 bucks more.
The only truly important thing you don’t get is an HDMI cable, which you’ll want if you’re connecting your Roku to an HDTV. (It can connect via included composite-video cables, but you won’t get HD.) Here’s a great, borderline-unbeatable deal on one: a 6-foot HDMI cable for $3.59 shipped.
I own one of the older Roku models, and it’s one of my favorite gadgets. It’s great for streaming movies, TV shows, and the like to TVs and projectors, without the need for another cable box or Internet-connected Blu-ray player. Plus, it supports all the major services, unlike the $99 Apple TV.
Indeed, for half the price of the Apple TV, the Roku LT delivers a whole lot more. Like I said, killer gift item for this holiday season.
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.