By: Gigaom
December 26, 2011 at 03:01 AM EST
Getting the most out of your gift: Roku edition
Got a Roku media streamer as a gift this holiday season? Then check out this guide for some essential tips on how to set it up, what content to watch, how to get additional channels not listed in the Roku store, and what accessories to buy.

The best thing about the holidays is playing with your new gadgets – and the worst thing is struggling with your new gadgets. But fear no more: We have compiled a few key tips for new owners of the Roku media player to improve their set-up and get the most out of the device. Did you for example know that you can use your Roku as a DVR, and that there are hundreds of channels you won’t find in the channel store? Check out more essential tips below:

Setting up your Roku

One of the biggest issues that people run into with streaming media devices is a slow or inconsistent Wifi connection. Big, solid walls, microwave ovens or cordless phones can ruin your Netflix fun, especially when you are watching in HD. If you have a Roku 2 XS, I’d strongly recommend that you hard-wire the device with an Ethernet cable. And if you don’t want to string a long cord through your living room, adding a HomePlug AV device to the mix might do the trick. Check the end of this article for more details on this kind of accessory.

Unfortunately, the Roku 2 LT, HD and XD devices don’t have an Ethernet port, so you’ll have to make do with Wifi. Try to move the router closer to your TV and avoid unnecessary obstacles if you run into issues, or upgrade to a 802.11n router if nothing else helps. Also, check out the video embedded below for more advice on how to improve your Netflix streaming:


Watch this video for free on GigaOM

Watching great content on the Roku

Roku’s media streamers offer access to a few hundred content channels, and hundreds more are available with a little bit of tinkering. Make sure to check out the following choices:

  • Netflix is a no-brainer: The video subscription service now offers access to more than 57,000 movies and TV show episodes for as little as $8 per month. Check out our Netflix tipps and tricks to get the most out of your Netflix subscrtiption.
  • Hulu Plus is a great choice to catch up on currently running TV shows.
  • Amazon now offers free access to thousands of TV shows and movies, including Showtime shows like The Tudors and Fox classics like Arrested Development, to subscribers of its Amazon Prime shipping service.
  • Roku also offers lots of live sports, religious services, video podcasts and other specialized content through its channel store. Most of these channels are free, but some come with subscription fees. But wait, there’s more: A few hundred additional private channels, including adult content and foreign TV networks, can be accessed through special access codes. Check out this post to learn how you add private channels, and then browse Roku-Channels.com to find all those private channels.
  • Roku is optimized for online content, but you can also use the device to play your locally-stored photos, music files and home videos. Only the Roku 2 XS comes with a USB port to play content from a thumb drive or hard disk, but you can play videos stored on any PC or Mac in your home network with any Roku model. Check out the video below to learn how:


Watch this video for free on GigaOM

Note: The YouTube channel shown in this video is unfortunately not available anymore.

Buying accessories

Funny how good gifts make you want to buy more stuff, isn’t it? The Roku is no exception, and there are a few things worth considering:

  • As mentioned above, nothing beats a hard-wired connection to stream HD content. HomePlug AV devices like the WD Livewire simply use your home’s electric circuitry to stream video from your router to your Roku, which makes them a great choice for any user of the Roku 2 XS. Check out our detailed review here.
  • Roku’s media players aren’t just good for streaming, you can also use them to play games like Angry Birds on the big screen TV. The Roku 2 XS already comes with a motion-aware remote control, but new owners of the Roku 2 XD or HD don’t need to miss out either: Roku sells its motion remote online, albeit for a somewhat steep price of $30. So if you really want to play games on your Roku, but you don’t have the option to return the one you got as a gift and exchange it for a Roku 2 XS, this could be one way to go.
  • The last suggestion may be a little more for tinkerers than your average Roku user, but owners of an EyeTV tuner can turn their Roku into a DVR that works in concert with a Mac in your home network. Check out the video below to learn how:


Watch this video for free on GigaOM

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