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Three Tips for New Roku-Box Owners

If you find a Roku box under the tree or menorah this year, these tips will help you make the most of it.

Roku boxes are hot, hot, hot this year, especially that sexy new $49 Roku LT. So don't be surprised to find one under the menorah tomorrow night or under the tree Saturday morning.

If you do, I've got three tips that'll help you make the most of it.

1. Buy the cheapest HDMI cable you can find. You'll need one to connect the Roku to your HDTV, but it's a mistake to pay $20-50 at your local home-theater or electronics store. It's been proven time and again that dirt-cheap no-brand HDMI cables work just as well as expensive, over-packaged ones. Indeed, I use nothing but cheapies in my house, and I've had nothing but good results.

You can routinely find great deals on Amazon. For example, at this writing, a third-party company has a six-foot HDMI cable for $2.96 shipped. And the user reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

2. Control it with your iPhone. Roku's new iOS app lets you control your box via your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Why would you want to? For starters, there's an onscreen keyboard, which makes typing out search words way easier than with the Roku's remote-controlled keyboard.

Furthermore, the app affords one-tap access to your favorite channels, which is a lot faster than hunting for them in that scrolling channel menu. Best of all, the Roku app is free.

3. Use a wired connection. Even if you've got a strong signal between your Roku box and your Wi-Fi router, the reality is that you'll get better video and faster performance from a wired connection.

That may mean running some Ethernet cable between rooms and even floors, but if you prize a sharp picture and stable connection, it's worth drilling a few holes. Alternately, consider a powerline Ethernet kit, which affords the same benefits without the hassles.

Okay, those are my Roku tips. Now let's hear yours!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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