Review: Roku firmware 1.5

By now most people have upgraded to the 1.5 firmware on their Roku box.  If you still don’t have the update just check for updates 3 times and it should give it to you.

This update is the start of additional services that Roku will be offering.  Everyone is familiar with the Netflix streaming.  It was the default service that the Roku box went to when you turn it on.  Now when the unit boots up it gives you a choice to go to Netflix, Settings, and has a section for what’s new.  Roku has mentioned in the past that it wants to offer additional services and the what’s now says more is to come in 2009.  The GUI is now layed out to handle additional services when Roku feels like giving them to us.

It’s not all about the future products in 1.5 firmware.  The Netflix section got some updates too.  The biggest update being HD streaming.  I have watched a few HD shows on the box already and it is good, but not great.  I wouldn’t classify the HD picture to be 720p but it is a lot better than what was offered before in SD.  During slower scenes the image would match up with a 720p image from DirecTV.  It’s when there is lots of motion or fight scenes that you can see the image get a little pixelated and blurring around the edges.  Netflix is fairly new to streaming and the HD offerings were just released so Ithey will continue to get better with picture quality over time.  As a free service to my Netflix subscription I can’t really complain.

One other thing that has improved is the streaming.  I’m not sure what technically aspects changed in version 1.5 but I can say that the connection speed is better.  I don’t have a issue at my house, I always got full quality.  It’s at my girlfriends parents where I noticed the difference.  They live in the middle of the country and their internet speed is 768kbs over wireless.  Before they upgraded to 1.5 they were getting quality of 1 and it would constantly rebuffer during TV shows.  After the upgrade they are getting quality of 3 and it won’t rebuffer at all.  That’s a huge improvement over the last firmware.

Overall I really like where the Roku box is headed.  If you have a Netflix account the $99 Roku box is a must have.

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