How To: Roku use with old analog TVs
Want to stream internet programming but a new TV isnít in the budget? Even if you only have coaxial connections on your TV, all is not lost. The oldest TV Iíve ever hooked a Roku to was from the early 1980ís.
If you have an old VCR or someone is giving one away, several models work as RF modulators to connect Rokus to older TVs with coaxial input only. So far though itís been hit or miss for me ĖPanasonic, Toshiba and JVC Ė yes; Emerson and a second Toshiba Ė no. It might not be a great idea to run out and spend money on a thrift store VCR (like I did) in hopes of getting one that works. The other downside is they take up a lot of space.
There are much smaller options in a variety of price ranges. Iíve tried a few. A name brand RF modulator from Radio Shack worked intermittently, with much static, until a lightning strike to the house took it out. Interestingly, the N1000 was hit in the same strike but it just shot blue sparks and rebooted - it still works just fine. This generic silver one I picked up at a discount store barely worked at all. The power adapter wouldnít stay in and I clearly got what I paid for Ė a cheap piece of junk.
Rarely do I make official recommendations for hardware but in this case, I found something inexpensive, easy to use and with a 3 out of 3 success rate so far. This compact RF modulator is one of my new favorites.
I picked up a couple of these a few months ago, one for my roommate to connect her Roku2 XS Angry Birds Edition to a monster of an ancient CRT TV with a single coaxial input. The other went to friend who needed to hook her Roku1 XD/s to whatever old TV she could get for free on Craigslist.
They work great! I just picked up a third one to connect my old Roku N1000 to a little CRT TV I got at Goodwill for $10. It arrived today and setup was under 2 minutes, including crawling under the furniture to plug everything in. Then it was just a matter of waking up the Roku, turning on the TV and choosing a channel to watch. It's important to note that the RF modulator doesn't come with a coaxial cable or composite cables - you will need to provide your own. If you haven't got any, monoprice usually has a good selection for reasonable prices. But your Roku should have come with a composite cable of some sort.
I paid around $8 for each of mine but Iíve seen the price as high as about $12. Even the high end RF modulators are a lot less expensive than a new TV. Of course if you want a new TV with HDMI inputs, by all means, go ahead and buy one!