Roku introduced their next generation media server dubbed the Roku 2 on July 20, 2011. The first thing I noticed how small or tiny even the new Roku player is. It’s new look includes sleeker rounded edges, more apple TV like. It’s smaller overall but slightly taller than an Apple TV device.
The new Roku comes in 3 different model numbers: the base mode HD with 720p resolution, the XD with 1080p resolution, and XS which adds a Bluetooth motion sensing remote, Ethernet, and a USB port.
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New with the Roku 2: Hardware upgrades for all models include a faster GPU, and 802.11n wifi. Roku has upgraded and added to their close to 300 channels or “Apps” as Roku calls them. The Netflix App has added subtitles, 1080p support, and 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus audio. At the time of this article the only other media server that has same support for Netflix is the PS3. Newly added Apps include Facebook, EPIX, Major League Soccer, AOL HD, and FOXNews.com.
The interface has not changed significantly; it is still simple and easy to use. I’ve read reviews that say it is simply boring, but it works fine for me.
Is the extra cost of an XS worth it?
Besides adding Ethernet and USB ports the XS also adds gaming. It comes with Roxio’s popular Angry Birds game out of the box. Unfortunately there are currently no other games available for the Roku 2 XS. Plans for future games include Pacman, Galaga, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio. Keep in mind that without adding a SD card the XS only has space for four games in total. It won’t be replacing anybody’s Xbox or PS3 anytime soon or ever.
The XS remote has directional buttons and A/B buttons to support game playing. The remote also integrates motion sensing technology like a Nintendo Wiimote that is only used for game play. The enhanced remote comes with the XS but is available separately for $29 retail.
With XS’s USB port you can plug in a flash drive or hard drive and play your own files. Official support includes H.264 MP4, AAC, MP3, JPG, and PNG.
Where the Roku 2 falls short:
- No App for YouTube.
- No real improvements to the somewhat boring interface.
- Required initial setup takes 10 to 20 minutes.
- Limited playback options compared to Boxee or WDTV Live Plus. This includes a small range of supported file types and no support for network play back of those files.
- Loss of component cable support, Ethernet (except the XS), and dual band wireless
- The 4th generation of Roku player has grown a great deal since the first Roku “Netflix player”.
- Good low cost , simple, mainstream user device.
- Added gaming a minor feature.
Other products from Roku: Roku 2 XD Streaming Player 1080p