Archives For Roku

Roku 2 XS Review

Dave Zatz —  July 23, 2011


The original Roku media streamer launched back in the spring of 2008 as the “Netflix Player,” piping online video to the television. In fact, the product was spun off from Netflix itself when Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood returned homewith his Netflix project team and funding in tow. Since then, Netflix streaming has landed on dozens of connected devices, while Roku, Inc abandoned all prior product lines to bet the farm on the economically priced Roku Streaming Player. Now decked out with tons of video and audio “channels,” Roku’s fourth rev – the Roku 2 Streaming Player – has launched.



Roku 2 hardware is by far the most elegant they’ve ever produced… and how far its appearance has evolved from off-the-shelf components and generic look seen in the first generation Roku Netflix Player. The Roku 2 is quite compact and, in fact, will fit in the palm your hand. It doesn’t feel quite as solid as Apple TV, but it features a smaller footprint, more rounded corners, and clocks in slightly taller. But, at the end of the day, while Roku’s outward appearance may help move units in Best Buy, it’s the technological capabilities that folks should be interested in. And the Roku 2 line comes in three flavorsContinue Reading…


Along with the introduction of the new Roku 2 digital media streamers ($60 – $100) comes an updated Netflix app. While we knew 1080p video and subtitles (pics below) were onboard, I can now also confirm the presence of Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 pass-through audio. Of course, these richer AV capabilities are dependent on items within the Netflix catalog – and it’s safe to assume a good deal of content variability. However, the adaptive bitrate encoded feed that Roku has implemented will allow Netflix video to “adjust constantly to the speed of your Internet connection.” Meaning, no more stopping and restarting of movies or shows in hopes of landing a higher resolution feed when network congestion lets up.

Sadly, the enhanced Netflix app won’t be making its way to earlier Roku hardware. From Roku’s Director of Product Management:

Unfortunately, these new encodings will not be supported on previous generation Roku players. We try to ensure that new features in a channel are supported on all previous generations of players. However, this is not always possible.

Whether or not this is a technical limitation versus a business decision is anyone’s guess. Although the new Roku 2 hardware clearly seems more capable. Other than the small matter of that unresolved storage/memory shortcoming

The Roku 2 Gaming Gotcha

Dave Zatz —  July 20, 2011

Now that the Roku 2 is official, additional product details are trickling out. And while this Roku line initially launched as a digital media streamer (with just Netflix), and they’re approaching nearly 300 channels, the company intends to expand their appeal (and revenue) by embracing casual gaming. At just $100 for the Roku 2 XS and Bluetooth gaming wand/remote, they may indeed find an audience… if this Angry Birds enthusiasm is any indication (and legit). Presumably the updated platform includes an expanded SDK/API and a relaxation of channel sizes. Yet, it’s not enough to have a good idea and I question Roku’s execution…

Love playing games? This tiny MicroSD card expands the built-in storage capacity of your new Roku from 4 games to 60!

Seriously, the Roku2 XS can only contain 4 games out of the box? Or maybe it’s only three if the pre-loaded Angry Birds counts against the quota. Now Roku has always had a bit of a memory problem, as anyone who’s tried to add a couple dozen “channels” will tell you. But knowing what they had in the pipeline, the company should have integrated something a bit more substantial than 256MB. Folks intending to acquire via may be sufficiently informed of the situation, and pick up the optional microSD card or pass on a purchase, but those who acquire a unit at Best Buy may be shocked (after the fact) by this klugey solution to a memory shortcoming. Geeks like us will have no conceptual or technical issues, but I’m not sure this is the sort of elegant solution that the mass market requires.

Thanks to a few inadvertent leaks (here and here) on Roku’s part, nearly all remaining questions have been answered. And the Roku 2 will be announced Wednesday.

As we previously surmised, the redesigned Roku 2 digital media streamer will be offered in three variations: The 720p HD ($59), the 1080p XD ($79), and the 1080p XS ($99). The top end model comes bundled with a new Bluetooth motion (!) remote to support Roku’s casual gaming initiative… and Angry Birds will be made available for free at launch. Folks who pick up the HD and XD model can later upgrade to the gaming remote, as it’ll (eventually) be offered as a $29 accessory. Although, at that point, you’ll wish you had bought the XS given the pricing and Roku’s commitment to gaming:

Angry Birds is just the beginning. We are spending a lot of time with the major casual game publishers.  Between now and Christmas you’ll see the games selection on Roku grow dramatically. My goal is to grow Roku into a major low cost family oriented gaming platform. And they’ll be in the $5 range rather than $30 range.

As something more than a casual gamer, Peggle doesn’t interest me the way Roku’s updated Netflix app might… bringing 1080p, subtitles, and perhaps 5.1 audio. Also joining the Roku 2 launch are new premium content partners that include live FOXNews, for those so inclined, and Major League Soccer.

Of course I intend to get my hands on some product in the very near future and will report my findings. Which will hopefully include expanded USB codec/file support.

(Thanks, Matt!)

Roku 2 – Nearly Upon Us?

Dave Zatz —  July 17, 2011


Since the Roku 2 passed through the FCC approval process a few weeks ago, we’ve learned a bit more thanks to leaks from a pair of beta testers and some industry info that recently came my way. As with Roku’s current lineup, the refreshed AppleTV-esque hardware will be available in three models:

  • Roku 2 HD (3000X)
  • Roku 2 XD (3050X)
  • Roku 2 XS (3100X)

However, in reviewing the details with a source, the XD and XS may also go by the 3050R and 3100R respectively – which probably isn’t so interesting and merely differentiates online merchandise sold direct, versus hardware packaged for brick and mortar partners. But what is interesting is the pricing info that came along with those model numbers… The XD is pinned at $80 while the XS clocks in at $100, matching existing price points.

In terms of hardware, a major change from the prior generation product is the inclusion of Bluetooth. So I went back through the FCC database looking for Roku’s new RF remote. Score! Unfortunately, only two small photos were made public and aren’t clear enough to determine what sorts of buttons the upgraded remote provides beyond the standard, but redesigned, IR remote shown above. However, we do know the new remote is partially intended to support causal gaming, starting with Angry Birds, and comes bundled with the Roku 2 XS. Whether or not owners of Bluetooth-equipped HD and XD units can pick up and utilize this remote after the fact remains to be seen.


As far as timing goes, several factors suggest an imminent launch: What looks to be final or nearly final Roku 2 packaging and hardware from the beta testers, is out of existing HD inventory, prior corporate mentions of a “summer” launch, and a source who seemed to think devices could have actually hit store shelves as early as 7/12. So it won’t be long now. But will these new units arrive with a modernized UI? Sadly, one beta tester tells Engadget it ain’t gonna happen.

Update: I’m told Best Buy will begin taking online orders 7/21 but any in-store inventory is supposed to be held back until 7/24.


Why thank you, FCC. Once again our government regulatory agency has kindly spilled the beans on an upcoming gadget. Meet the Roku 2. Granted, we already knew Roku had new hardware in the pipeline… given recent allusions in support of their upcoming casual gaming app initiative (starting with Angry Birds).

Having owned the original Roku media streamer, and iterations from two successive generations, I’m not quite certain how they came up with Roku “2” — perhaps it’s that new gaming angle. And perhaps these new models will also be mated with a refreshed interface. Regardless, as with the prior two pre-holiday revs, Roku intends to offer a three box lineup (HD, XD, XS). Which is probably one too many. But, marketing aside, the spec sheet included with the filing (below) offers up some interesting details. Whereas wireless network connectivity was a differentiator amongst previous Roku models, all members of the new line feature the same chip. However, the two lower-end models do away with Ethernet. Not a problem for me, as I only attempt Ethernet when I’m on the road.

More interesting is the inclusion of Bluetooth within all three boxes. Continue Reading…

Without any fanfare, Roku landed on Walmart’s virtual shelves last month. Specifically the Roku XD ($78) and Roku XDS ($98) models. Given the forum chatter, associated retail brick & mortar placement appears imminent. And, speaking of that forum, I share the same suspicious as TheEndless… that Netgear-branded Roku devices, and their associated retail exposure, are no more. If one were to generalize demographics, Walmart seems like it could be an attractive outlet to reach the Cord Cutters.