I know I won't be saying anything new here, but it's worth repeating:
I cannot believe how much it costs just to get a few normal channels on your TV. When we moved into our new apartment, we priced out internet packages and researched how much a cable package would be. It turned out that it would be some ridiculous amount extra (I think $40ish) just for the BASIC package. That's only like, 20 channels, and it doesn't even include HGTV or Food Network. What kinda crap is that?! (yeah, those are my favorite channels... don't judge)
Once we saw how much extra cable would cost, we searched for another option. And found Roku.
What is Roku?
Roku is a device that streams TV/movie content online. You plug the little black box into your TV, connect it to your home internet, and you can stream shows, movies, music, and games instantly to your TV.
There are a few different device options that range between $50-100. We ordered the Roku 1 which was $59.99. $60 for a device that might save us from cable for the rest of our lives? We were sold.
What can you watch?
The Roku website lists all the available Roku-approved* channels. This lineup includes channels like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, iHeartRadio, and a whole bunch of random other stuff that I guarantee you've never heard of. For example, we found a channel that consists entirely of beer brewing!
So anyway, you add whatever channels you want to your Roku and then you can click into that channel and pick what you want to watch. So it's not a "channel" in the cable sense of the word- when you tune in to that channel, it's not automatically playing a show. You have to select a show/episode you want to watch. This can be good (less mindless watching) and bad (you gotta actually make a decision about what you want to see!).
*I say "Roku-approved" because there is another subset of private channels that are created by individuals not affiliated with Roku - these channels aren't reviewed/approved by Roku. For example, YouTube doesn't have a approved channel, but someone created a private channel that supposedly you can use to access YouTube videos. I tried a few of the random private ones but none of them worked. I might have done it wrong, I dunno.
Should I get it?
Great question. I think the answer depends on your personal preferences. If you already have a Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/etc subscription, this is a good way to stream the content to your TV. If I have my facts straight, I believe with those services you have to stream to a computer or phone or invest in something like an Xbox that can play the shows for you. So a Roku might make it a bit easier for you to watch shows/movies if you don't have an Xbox.
For people like Mike and I who have none of those fancy subscriptions, you might have a hard time finding free channels to watch. We are in the process of weeding through all the channels to see which ones have anything worthwhile.
I'm pretty sure I'll bite the bullet soon and sign up for Netflix or Amazon Instant. Even with the ~$10/mo charge for one of those subscriptions, we're coming out way ahead of cable.
And I guess I kinda like the fact that we have to be more purposeful with our TV watching! It will require much more effort for me to veg out on the couch for hours on end when I have to keep choosing a new show to watch :)
Update 2/6/16: we've basically never used our Roku after writing this post. Upon further review, the free channels weren't good, and we never ended up signing up for Netflix or Amazon Prime or anything. We went back to cable because Mike wants to be able to watch sports. haha.