Roku Updates Amazon Instant Video Channel

December 21, 2011

Today, Roku announced a new version of its Amazon Instant Video Player. The update overhauls the Amazon channel’s user interface (UI). Up to this point, the only advantage other Amazon Instant Video players from LG, Sony and Panasonic had was in the UI department. When I previously did a comparison of Amazon Instant Video Players, the Roku was my favorite because of its responsive interface, intuitive in-show controls, easy to use remote as well as its ability to play Dolby Digital surround sound. This update takes away the one advantage the other players had.

When you start the player, it displays an impressive splash screen with a side bar feature. It’s a welcome departure from the old tile interface and breaks with the standard Roku look. Our sources have told us a number of UI enhancements have been in the works for the Roku and this appears to be one of the fruits of those labors. Choosing one of the categories, now gives you a browsable grid very similar to the Netflix channel. This makes it much easier to browse and find titles.
New Amazon Instant Video Player on Roku
The new Amazon Instant Channel on the Roku
The old Amazon Instant Channel on the Roku
Roku’s Amazon player has always been top notch in the audio and video department offering both HD (720P) and Dolby Digital surround sound. (the Sony SMP-N200 is the only other Amazon Player I’ve seen with surround sound and it’s passed as decoded 5.1 LPCM). However, for Amazon Prime titles, the UI no longer indicates if a title is in surround sound (it’s not an issue with the pay-per-view or purchased titles). Titles like Lost and Amadeus still play in Dolby Digital so the functionality hasn’t been lost. Hopefully, this will be fixed in the near future.
Amazon Instant Video Roku Browsing
Browsing Amazon Prime Content in a grid
The “Your Video Library” section has also been updated. TV Shows and movies are now combined into one grid screen. Much better!
Amazon Instant Video Library
The revamped “Your Video Library”
The only other drawback to the new UI is the performance. The old UI was bare-bones but fast. The new UI does take longer to load. While they’ve introduced a cool spinning film wheel to indicate it’s loading, I still don’t like waiting. In addition, it would be nice to see the “Customers Who Bought this item also Bought” feature from the LG players (shown on a title’s detail screen).

To close up, it’s big step forward for the Amazon Instant Video player on the Roku. While there are a couple of areas that could be improved, this update reinforces the Roku’s position as the best Amazon Instant Video Player out there.

Tags: Amazon, Roku

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