The Neflix Player by Roku was one of first devices available to allow Netflix users to watch streaming video from Netflix's growing library of TV and movie titles available via Netflix's Watch Instantly feature. But while other devices have since also recently gained this capability, such as the XBox 360, TiVo HD DVR
, and Samsung BD-P2500/BD-P2550 players--including supporting the few HD titles that Netflix currently streams--the Roku device has only supported SD titles until now. Roku has just announced that with a firmware update that is available starting today, however, that the Neflix Player by Roku can now stream HD titles.
The Netflix Player by Roku is a $99 video player that connects to your TV and to a wired broadband Internet connection. The only service fee you pay is the one you are already presumably paying to Netflix for your monthly subscriptions. As long as you subscribe to one of Netflix's "Unlimited" plans (which start at $8.99 for one disc-at-a-time), you also have unlimited access to the Netflix Watch Instantly feature. The Roku box includes HDMI, Component Video, S-Video, and Composite video outputs, as well as stereo audio and optical 5.1-channel audio outputs.
Netflix currently offers over 12,000 TV and movie titles as part of its Watch Instantly streaming feature--however, as of now, only 300 of these titles are streaming in HD resolutions; Netflix states
that "the HD library will grow gradually over time
The Netflix Watch Instantly feature initially started as streaming service to Windows PCs only in early 2007 with a limited number of hours per month that members could stream and access to a very limited content selection to choose from. Since then, many additional titles have been added as a result of a number of key content partnerships
Netflix has made, devices other than PCs now support the service, and even Macs
can now access the Watch Instantly feature since Netflix switched over to Microsoft's Silverlight technology.
Adding HD capabilities to the Neflix Player by Roku is certainly good news for those who already own one. However, because of the dearth of current HD streaming titles, it is doubtful that this will be an additional enticement to get more people to purchase one. That said, this is a significant step towards expanding the capabilities of the Roku box beyond that of just streaming Netflix content. While the Roku box presently only streams content from Netflix, Tim Twerdahl, Vice President of Consumer Products for Roku, told us back in May
that Roku has been courting "all big web video providers
." If and when Roku adds additional content providers other than Netflix, the device will be ready to stream HD content.