Like many I grew tired of being gouged by DTV just to have Center Ice to watch NHL games so I looked around for an alternative. I hated paying for so many channels I never watched. The online hockey game feeds were a temp fix but the poor video quality on full screen and malware them sites install on your computers was NOT what I was after.
My quest for a better viewing experience led me to the Set Top Box (STB). TV has been migrating to the Interwebz for years now and STBs should help kill the sat dish and cable companies. The 4 choices of set top boxes that allow you to stream an online video signal to your TV are Roku, Apple TV, Google TV and Boxee. Roku and Boxee have the NHL Game Center Live available so that made narrowed decision. Nothing on the horizon with the other 2 offering the NHL but my guess is they will eventually offer models and cut deals to provide hockey and other sports. I went with a Roku box because I didn't have a spare computer to dedicate to the video streaming and from what I'm told streaming HD video off a computer takes a spendy one to do it.
Roku has 3 price levels of boxes available, the HD, XD and XDS. Prices start at $59 and top out at $99 for the 1080p HD capable model with the new N dual band WiFi. I went with the XDS model since it has the USB for input from my video camcorders and cameras and dual Wifi capability. Yeah, that's right, you can stream video from your Interwebs connection (wireless router in my case) to any location in your house.
With Roku you can watch movies and TV shows from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Flickr, Vimeo, Amazon VOD, listen to music on Pandora, catch the latest ballgame on MLB, share your Facebook pics and more. I've got an outside over the air antenna for my local TV channels like ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS etc.
I received the Roku box in 2 days via USPS and had the box installed in a few minutes, just a wall AC power supply to the box and an HDMI cable from the Roku box to the big screen. The Roku install menu popped up in the big screen and found my wireless router quickly and BANG!! Houston we have lift off. A quick software upgrade that took a minute and then on to activate my account by logging on to the Roku website and entering the code displayed on the big screen. You do the same to link your HuluPlus and NHL Game Center accounts. Fornication should be this easy.
I then hopped over to NHL.com and paid the $23 for my first month of Game Center Live and linked that account to my Roku box and shazam, I cued up the Blues Dallas game from Sunday night. The Roku remote gives you the standard pause, rewind, FF etc. along with a "replay last 7 seconds of video" option.
The one drawback is you need a pretty fast Interwebs connection to stream HD video to your big screen. I'm on Time Warner Roadrunner cable and getting just over 4Mb/s download speed according to SpeedTest.net. I see in the reviews on Roku that 1.5Mb/s down appears to be the make or break speed for streaming HD video on a Roku box. From what I can gather if your download speed is slower the Roku box adjusts the TV resolution to still provide a good picture.
From one night of watching the Blues on the Roku box the video is great, maybe just a little brighter than the previous DTV video or the over the air HD I watched of the Winter Classic on NBC. Polak's cursing came in crystal clear from the audio feed from the box to the 5 channel stereo system. The box itself is surprisingly small, 4"x5"x1" and will fit just about anywhere. The 12 button remote is simple and fast to figure out and use. There are plenty of output connectors on the box, HDMI, component video, optical audio, USB and Ethernet.
On a CAMSMASH scale of 1 to 5 haymakers I give my new shiny little Roku box a 4.5. I miss the Blues pre game and post game shows that I had with DTV Center Ice when they picked up the Fox Sports Midwest feeds. As we all know Game Center Live doesn't start until the puck drop and cuts off right as the game end. I'm not sure how much delay there is in a live game yet, I'll know more Thursday. From what others with GCL post on the GDTs there may be some delay since it's the same feed I'll be getting I believe.
In closing, my biggest wonder is where was this magic box when I lived in the dorm in the military? The beer money that could have been made streaming porn to 500 rooms of lonely G.I.s. GAH!!!