Roku is one of the pioneers in the media streamer market. Right from their founding in 2002, they have concentrated upon network streaming with only rudimentary local media support. While companies like Syabas were perfecting local media playback, Roku was furthering their network streaming ecosystem. The extensive SDK and support from Roku for channel creation has endeared them to users and content delivery guys alike. It might not be far off the mark to note that Roku has a cult-like following.

As Netflix streaming took off in a big way, Roku was there at the forefront to ride the wave. The 2008 Roku DVP was the first Netflix streamer, and Roku has been dutifully introducing new models every year since then. Till 2010, all the Roku models were based on an NXP chipset. Roku 2, introduced in 2011, completely revamped the platform. The rise of connected TVs and the Smart TV push from Intel forced Roku to rethink the strategy for their products. From being a plain network media streamer, it transformed into a palm sized casual gaming machine also.

Roku 2 Model Lineup at Launch
  A/V Options Max. Resolution Networking USB Support Remote Technology
Roku 2 HD Composite / HDMI 720p 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz) No IR (Bluetooth compatible)
Roku 2 XD Composite / HDMI 1080p 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz) No IR (Bluetooth compatible)
Roku 2 XS Composite / HDMI 1080p Fast Ethernet + 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz) Yes Bluetooth (IR compatible)

We tested out the top end unit in the lineup. The Roku 2 XS comes with the Bluetooth based gestural remote control and also comes with the Angry Birds game for free.

It is the only unit in the lineup to have support for wired Ethernet as well as a USB port for local media playback. This has given us a chance to evaluate all that Roku has to offer with the Roku 2 lineup.

Unboxing and Setup Impressions
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  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 1, 2011 - link

    No, not really.. there are lots of limitations wrt the browser in the Revue and it is not a very great experience. I would suggest just using a laptop for your purpose (maybe a old one repurposed as HTPC, or just build a HTPC -- it is very easy to get satisfied wrt online media with HTPCs.. It is codec configuration which is the most difficult part of the HTPC experience)
  • danjw - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    I know the last generation of Roku worked with Amazon Prime, does this one? I have been using my current Roku for that.
  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 1, 2011 - link

    Yes, it has Amazon VoD...
  • blahsaysblah - Saturday, October 1, 2011 - link

    You're all missing the biggest downside of Roku. You should read the EULA. The fine print says they collect and use your viewing habits. They see everything you watch in Netflix,...

    I got the Roku XD when it first came out. Then some random article pointed that out... Threw it in the trash after i verified it myself.

    Thats why its so cheap. They make money off selling your viewing habits. Good thing the new version enforces linking a credit card to the box.
  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 1, 2011 - link

    :) I saw that myself in the Wireshark traces (they even reach out to their servers when you start playing Angry Birds).. Then, I realized there are no popular online streamers which don't do that.. Boxee Box does something similar too..
  • Samus - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    if SoC's cost so little ($25) why do smartphones still cost $400? all they add is a screen, single-cell battery and some NAND.
  • Cali3350 - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    Well, the Screen, battery and NAND (and much more ram) easily cost into the hundreds. Add the Radio, camera et all and you add up.
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    This SoC was probably built for the sub-$100 'smartphones' for the developing markets (it has only ARM11 as the main processor, while the $400 smartphones probably have Cortex-A8 or Cortex-A9s). Since Mediatek and other Taiwanese companies have the sub-$100 smartphone market covered, Broadcom probably had to shop this SoC around for other applications like the Roku 2.. Broadcom PR wasn't very forthcoming with info about this SoC..
  • Bownce - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    How's it compare to "WD TV Live +"? i've concluded that WD doesn't put enough advertising dollars into the review stream since it seems to be ignored in spite of supporting so many different file formats for local/LAN streaming. No on-line gaming, but the media formats it supports without transcoding still seems to dwarf other options.
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 3, 2011 - link

    WDTV Live + is very good, except for some minor issues with DTS-HD audio streams (no bitstreaming) and some splitter bugs. We covered it in these review pieces:

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