Despite all the streaming video options available, cord cutters – those opting out of the cable/satellite TV juggernaut – face a fairly significant obstacle: Watching TV is still much easier via cable or satellite than using set-top boxes that emulate that experience.
In competition with Apple TV and Google TV, Roku has the advantage of experience. The company produced its first video streamer in 2008. While that debut model existed primarily to stream Netflix, today's Roku 3 can do much more. Roku offers more than 750 channels of video, music, and games to fill your entertainment void – way more than Apple or Google.
One of the Roku 3's greatest achievements is speed. Thanks to its fast processor, channels launch quickly. Its improved WiFi reception means streams start playing within seconds. It's so fast, it's almost like you're watching cable (a compliment in this context). No other video streamer feels this quick.
The Roku 3's other advance is its remote. Remotes rarely deserve mention in a positive light, but this model features two innovations: First, it uses WiFi instead of infrared to communicate with the unit. This means you don't have to point the remote in the direction of the device – and the signal isn't blocked by odd angles or furniture. It really improves responsiveness.
Second, the remote includes a headphone jack. Plug in headphones and the remote uses the WiFi signal to stream the audio to you – perfect for late-night viewing. The volume control can be finicky – too slow to turn down, too fast to turn up – but the convenience makes it worthwhile.
If you're in the market for a video streamer, this is the one to buy. [$100; roku.com]