The Roku 1 is a compact, nicely designed media streamer. It may not have some of the bells and whistles that its bigger siblings, the Roku 2 and 3, have but what it does it does well. The main features it does have are those that count the most; 1000+ channels, built in wireless, and 1080p video playback. It has a HDMI line out for HDTV's and RCA component line out for standard TV's, making it compatible with virtually any TV. The Roku 1 comes with a newly designed remote that features 4 channel shortcut buttons. At $60, the Roku 1 is very affordably priced.
COMPARISON OF FEATURES BETWEEN THE ROKU LT, 1, 2, 3:
Roku LT - 1000+ channels, built-in wireless, channel shortcut buttons on remote, 720p video
Roku 1 - Same as LT but adds 1080p video
Roku 2 - Same as 1 but adds dual-band wireless and remote with headphone jack
Roku 3 - Same as 2 but doesn't have channel shortcut buttons on remote and adds motion control remote for games, 5x faster processor, and USB hook up
ROKU 1: I own or have owned the Roku LT and Roku 3 along with the Roku 1. I like the Roku 1 the best. It features 1000+ channels, built in wireless, and 1080p video playback. The remote with the Roku 1 is updated from previous Roku remotes. The Roku 1 remote adds 4 channel shortcut buttons toward the bottom that provide instant access to M-Go, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and Vudu. Normally if you want to switch to a different channel you have to hit the home button, go to "My Channels", and then select a new channel. This is a nice update that saves time and steps if you regularly watch one of those channels.
ROKU 2: Looking at the Roku 2, the dual-band wireless is important if your Roku will be far away from your wireless router. My Roku 1 is a few feet away so it isn't an important feature. My LT is now about 35 feet away. I haven't had any connection issues at that distance but 1080p will be more demanding than the LT's 720p video. The remote with headphone jack on the Roku 2 is a great feature to avoid disturbing your partner or roommate if watching programming on the Roku late at night. It does the job but I found the sound quality to be mediocre, most likely as a result of the very cheap earbud headphones included.
ROKU 3: The Roku 3 also has dual-band wireless and a remote with headphone jack. It however doesn't have channel shortcut buttons on the remote like the 1 & 2. Instead the remote adds motion control for games. The remote basically works the same as a Wii remote although not quite as fluid. The Roku 3 has been a very well reviewed product but with mine the remote would occasionally lose sync. Of the complaints about the Roku 3, it is one of the more common ones. The Roku 3 has a 5x faster processor. Using the Roku 3, than the LT, and now the 1, I wouldn't have known the Roku 3 has a 5x faster processor. Surfing through the menus on the LT and 1 is fluid and I didn't notice any significant lag time in loading videos compared to the 3. Finally, the Roku 3 allows you connect an external drive to it. To me this was the biggest selling point for the Roku 3 when I purchased it. However, the interface when connecting an external drive to the Roku 3 is horrid; it is a very common complaint.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT ROKU: The Roku 1 will fit most people's needs. If your Roku is going to be far away from the wireless router or if you will be watching programs late at night and don't want to disturb anyone than the Roku 2 is your best option. To me the only reason to step up to the Roku 3 would be to play games with the motion control remote.
If your looking to purchase your first Roku rest assured that set-up is easy. Simply plug the Roku 1 into your HDTV or receiver via a HDMI cable. A HDMI cable isn't provided so if you don't have an extra one you will need to purchase one. Then you connect the power cord to the Roku. There is a set-up menu that walks you through the process which pretty much consists of connecting the Roku to your wireless network. The final step is linking your Roku 1 to your Roku account on a computer. If you don't already have one, you will need to create an account online and provide a credit card number like you do with an iTunes account. Like an iTunes account the credit card information is provided for any channel purchases that may be made in the future. It is possible to bypass adding a credit card to your Roku account by calling customer service. If calling customer service they can activate your account without a credit card.
Roku's channel selection is unmatched. You can select your favorite channels of the 1000+ available to show up on the Roku 1's "My Channels" screen either through your account on a computer, directly through the Roku 1, or with the Roku phone app. To be honest many of the channels are what I'd consider "community access" programming. A fair amount of what's left over are subscription or paid channels, like Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Blockbuster On Demand, or channels which require a TV cable subscription like Fox Now and HBO Go. Be aware that many channel apps are free to download but require payment to view anything. I consider those to be paid channels even if the app is free.
There is a large enough selection of channels to start with that anyone will find some freebie gems in the 1000+ channels available. For me it's PBS, PBS Kids, Smithsonian, and NASA. While some of the main channels that people seem to watch on the Roku, like Hulu Plus and Netflix, are standard on many devices, one of big reasons I looked at the Roku initially was to unify my channel/app programming onto one device. I had to turn the blu-ray player on to watch Amazon Instant Video, my WD TV Live on for Hulu, and my computer on for PBS or MLB. Now with the Roku I just use one device to watch all those and more plus I can use my iPhone as a remote control via Roku's app.
Roku's new media streaming player, Roku 1, has the right combo of features with 1000+ channels, built in wireless, 1080p video playback, a HDMI and RCA component line out, and channel shortcut buttons on the remote. Plus, it is at an great price. At $60, it would be hard not to get your money's worth out of it.