Archives For Roku

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.

Sometime this summer, Roku intends to refresh their digital streamer hardware lineup… while simultaneously expanding the platform to support casual gaming. And their first partner is Rovio, a heavyweight in the space and creator of the immensely popular Angry Birds franchise. From the joint press release:

Roku will offer Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio video games; launch an Angry Birds video channel featuring Angry Birds animated shorts; and sell Angry Birds merchandise-all via the Roku Channel Store. The announcement today also marks Roku’s expansion of its successful Internet TV platform to include casual games.

Roku goes on to say they’re lining up additional gaming partners. Yet I wonder if anyone cares? For adults, I see casual gaming as a possibly nice-to-have enhancement (assuming Roku releases a quality remote control)… rather than a selling point that actually moves units. For example, it’s not clear to me that TiVo or Verizon have seen much success with similar television-based casual gaming initiatives. And while I loved Peggle on my iPhone, it just didn’t translate to the big screen via my Xbox 360. Perhaps there’s a market here for the younger crowd. Unless they all have iPhone Touches or pocketable Nintendo units. Continue Reading…


The GigaOm crew attended a FiOS TV briefing… where they received a demo of Verizon’s FlexView video-on-demand service running on a Roku streamer. I can’t say I’m surprised, as Verizon made their intentions to break free of the set-top box clear back at CES. In fact, they demo-ed live television on an iPad and Samsung Blu-ray player – telling me over 3 dozen consumer electronics devices were similarly hosting FiOS TV services in their labs.

Now if you look closely at the picture that the GigaOm crew snapped, you’ll notice what appears to be a Sony PS3 on the left. Interestingly, Verizon had an unidentified gaming console locked within a cabinet in Vegas also running FiOS. Throw in news of Fox and Disney content headed to a gaming console, via a television subscription partner, and I’d say mystery solved.

What excites GigaOm is the possibility of Verizon going over the top (OTT) with a nationwide on demand service. But that’s been done. What fires us up is television as an app. A path DirecTV looks to be similarly following with their RVU trials. And it’s all sorta like AllVid. But without the FCC’s intervention.

It looks as though at least some of us are being credited by Amazon for high definition video on demand rentals or purchases that may not have actually achieved sustained HD streaming. A friend and I both received this email within in the last 24 hours:

As someone who has purchased digital movies or TV shows in high-definition (HD) from Amazon Instant Video, we wanted to provide you more information about how we deliver HD content. It is our goal to provide you an uninterrupted viewing experience without any video reloading or “buffering.” To provide you uninterrupted viewing we may lower the resolution of HD videos to standard definition during streaming playback. We do this if we detect that your Internet connection to our service may not be fast enough to support HD playback. For more information on viewing HD videos from Amazon Instant Video, please visit our Help page here:

Because you may not have been able to playback one of your rentals or purchases in HD quality, we have issued you a one-time Amazon Instant Video credit of $1 for each of the HD movies and TV episodes you have purchased from us for a total amount of $23. In order to apply the credit to your Amazon Instant Video account, please click here,

Continue Reading…