"This Best Selling Roku 2 XS 1080p Streaming Player Tends to SELL OUT VERY FAST! If this is a MUST HAVE product, be sure to Order Now to avoid disappointment!"
Hands-down the best experience in 1080p HD streaming to your TV-plus motion-based gaming for an extra dose of great entertainment. Enjoy 300+ channels featuring the best movies, TV shows, live sports, music, games, and more, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video. Angry Birds included FREE.It supports closed captioning for Netflix,USB port (supported formats include: MP4 (H.264) video / AAC & MP3 audio / JPEG & PNG image),Power Input 5.2 V / 1.0 A Power Adapter,Video Outputs: 1080p (over HDMI), 720p (over HDMI), 480p (over HDMI), 480i (over composite video).Audio Outputs Digital: Over HDMI (5.1 channel surround sound pass-through and stereo), Analog: Stereo (mini-jack to L/R audio and composite video RCA).USB Media Formats: Video: MP4 (H.264), Audio: AAC, MP3, Image: JPG, PNG.Power Input 5.2 V / 1.0 A Power Adapter.
UPDATED Nov 28, 2012 to reflect software changes to both Roku 2 and AppleTV.
This little player, about the size of a hockey puck, is exactly what I was looking for. It’s cheap, easy, and fun. I got it to play Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Vimeo, and everything else it does is a pleasant add-on, especially motion-controlled Angry Birds. If you’re in the market for a Roku 2, I think you might as well get this high-end model (there are stripped-down versions for less money) since it has a few more capabilities, including a game controller, an ethernet jack, and a USB port for playing external files. The software interface is not slick but everything fast and responsive. I added a star because this unit has proven itself much more stable than it was at launch, due to frequent software updates. The HBO Go app is particularly useful, which allows you to stream from HBO on demand from a huge catalog of movies and TV shows if you have a cable subscription with HBO included.
How is the Roku 2 different from the Apple TV (which it resembles, and I also considered)? It’s physically similar and has some overlapping features, but here are the main differences as I see them:
BOTH have Netflix Streaming, Hulu+, Vimeo, and sports channels such as NBA and MLB (subscription required for the sports stuff). Both have wired and wireless network capabilities. Both are tiny, power-sipping, unobtrusive little devices that could probably be embedded in TV hardware.
AppleTV (not the Roku 2!) has tight iTunes integration, including iTunes movie rentals, streaming from a local PC/Mac with iTunes installed, and YouTube. Nearly all Apple iTunes video content can be streamed via Apple’s iCloud if you don’t want to use a local computer as a media source. If you subscribe to iTunes Match, you can stream your music in this way as well. Apple’s proprietary AirPlay feature allows you to stream audio or mirror audio and video to the box from your iOS device. It works well and adds to the usability of this device if you have an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. At this time, you can only use the “apps” that are included with the box. The AppleTV remote is made of attractive aluminum but relies on line-of-sight infrared signals. You can use an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch as a remote as well. AppleTV requires an HDTV to work and displays up to 1080p resolutions. AppleTV has a YouTube app. It also has Netflix and Hulu+ apps on par with Roku’s.
Roku 2 (the product being reviewed! not AppleTV!) has a “channel” installer which you can easily manage via a web app on your computer. This system is a bit less polished, but a lot more open than the AppleTV system. Roku Channel choices include Amazon Prime videos, Amazon rentals, Vimeo, Hulu Plus, Pandora Radio, Plex Media Center, and bunch of streaming news and movie services. The Wii-like game remote comes with Angry Birds and several 2D casual games are available in their Channel Store. Development of new channels seems to have slowed down lately, but there are some fun options here. There’s a MicroSD card slot on the top end model for storing more channels, as well as a USB slot for playing your own media. The game controller has built-in accelerometers and game-friendly buttons, and it works well for this game. This layout would be ideal for Super Nintendo style games, too. I like how it doesn’t require an IR receiver like the Wii remote does. The tiny Roku 2 box has an IR receiver so you can use a universal remote with it, but the included remote uses RF signals and doesn’t need line-of-sight to the box. Roku 2 XS can run on pretty much any TV (it includes composite cables) and can display up to 1080p resolutions. There’s also an iOS app if you want to use a mobile device as a remote.
As you can see, these two machines are similar, but not the same. I originally chose this machine because it worked with an old SDTV, could play Amazon Prime videos (lots of kids programming on there, thanks Amazon), and offers a nice, standalone alternative to the Apple ecosystem. Since that purchase, I’ve added an AppleTV for the iOS-specific features, including AirPlay, iTunes Match, and YouTube.
First I have to say the negative reviews are puzzling to me, because I dont think those buyers understand what they are buying.
As you know there is 3 versions, I absolutely recommend you spend the money on the XS (99.95) model, the main reason is because it’s the only model with a USB port. Which in short term will allow you connect USB HD and play any movies you may of ripped from your DVD’s. I have a 4TB array connected with most of my DVD collection, which is close to 1000 movies.
Roku has three type of channels:
The public channels are the once visible in what is called “Channel Store”. Currently there about 300, but channels are added weekly. Looking at fan blogs, there has yet to be a weeks in about 4 months, that at least several channels weren’t added.
Now channels can fall into three categories, Pay, Free, and Subscription.
Pay means you pay onetime fee and you get access to the channel, subscriptions are channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc… if you already have those subscriptions, you just add them at no additional cost. If you are an amazon prime customer then you will get access to amazon prime streaming collection, about 9000 movies and shows. You can also rent movies from .99 cents to 3.99. Or you can digitally buy movies, which will then be permanently accessible to you through any device that supports the Amazon channel.
I will admit that half the pay channels are bad, so do your homework before laying out money for any channel that requires either a onetime fee or subscription. You have to understand the Roku is a streaming device, they are not a content provider, so they don’t have anything to do with setting prices. That said there are 100′s of free channels, especially if you are fan of Video Podcasts from companies live Revision 3 or TWiT. They are all there in HD, and free.
I imagine as time goes on more pay services will become available as well as free once. To give this device a bad rating because you have to pay for some channels, is just typical spoiled attitude. Remember folks who provide these channels have to pay for servers that store the content, bandwidth that delivers the content, and sometimes licensing of the content.
Roku 2 operates on a modified Linux OS. This gives this device a lot of flexibility. Roku has also given out an API so others are writing applications for the device. There are already some games available, again some free, some pay. If you buy the XS model you get a motion controller, similar to the WII one. It’s obviously that it’s very early in the devices API development. Even though Roku 1 has been around for years, the API flexibility really didn’t open up until Roku 2. There is also SD slot so you can upgrade internal memory so you can store games and apps, which you will likely have use for in the coming months, as more apps come out. For example there is one very useful app for Netflix users, called Instant Watcher, it’s a onetime fee of $2.99, and give you a lot more flexibility and power to browse the Netflix Streaming Library, you link you Netflix account through this application, and then it allows you to do everything from managing your queue to browse various lists. I discovered a few movies and shows, I would of probably never found on my own.
Second category is Application, which also includes games. That’s where the motion controller that comes with the XS model comes in. XS comes with a full version of angry birds, which actually looks and plays quite well. I don’t see using Roku to replace my PS3, PC, or WII as gaming platform. But I can see a few possibilities like network wide scrabble; poker, etc… type games and tournaments. There also application, some free some are pay. For example if you got the XS model you have a USB channel, to enable its use for a HD connection you have download a free application. But there is also a pay application, which will allow you to stream audio and video from your server or PC’s in the house. There are few other apps, but nothing of any real value at this time. Since the API relatively new, I would expect we will see a lot more apps coming in the next few months.
The last type of channel and probably one most people will not know unless they are told or stumble on it on the forums are “Private Channels”. These channels are not advertised or visible through any Roku channel. There are dozen plus sites that track them. Simply google Roku private channels and you will see quite a few. Again some are free, some require a subscription. Channels range from Adult content to one person operations. Some are quite unique like a live stream of ABC in Australia. Like Public channels, private channels go up all the time, and because many of them are one person operation they also go down just as quick sometimes. Adding private channels is quite easy you login to your Roku web account, and there is an option to add a private channel, you enter a code that each private channel provides, and it will then show up on your roku. It says it may take up to 24 hours for a private channel to show up, but most show up within seconds or minutes.
Negatives: You have to buy your HDMI cable, it does come with analog cables, you have to provide your own USB cable. Adding many channels is a major pain, Many times you will get a screen with a code that requires you to go to the channels web site, register, and then enter the code. This isn’t Roku’s fault, because the channel provider configures how they will allow you to add the channel, and of course many of them want your email so they can market to you. This is especially a pain, if you don’t have access to internet while you are in front of your roku, I do, but still this is a major pain. Roku should require providers make channel addition seamless. There is no reason why you cant allow them to pull the info they need for registration from your Roku account if you give permission. I bet in fact its already in the API. There are a lot of garbage channels, and some pay channels are not worth the money. So DO YOUR homework before you spend your money. Roku has a great forum community and you will get straight answers most of the time.
My final recommendation is that this is the best streaming device on the market today, better then Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, and any other. It simple to use, has amazing amount of variety, and the future for this device is very bright. Streaming is the future of media, but you can get a good taste of it now with this device. I do recommend you buy the XS model, if fort no other reason, the USB port, will eventually act as DVR, there is already buzz that apps are being written to be able to record streaming shows to a HD for later viewing.
The Roku 2 is really amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to cut their huge cable bill. It was easy to set up and everyone in the family is still happy. Yes, even without Comcast cable, we’re still happy.
To put this review in context, my wife and I both work and we have two children (3 years old and newborn). The 3 year old likes to watch cartoons/movies on the weekends. We had Comcast Cable with DVR and all of those channels. Most evenings, after the kids were asleep (8:30), we rarely found ourselves watching cable and when we did, we couldn’t find anything on the channels to watch anyway. Quite often, my wife would order ONDemand movies from Comcast for $4-5. Our cable bill with those movies was about $90-100/month. We subscribe to Netflix streaming only, Amazon Prime and recently Hulu Plus after liking the one month trial. We’re not huge TV watchers but like to watch a movie every now and then. Our goal was to stop paying so much for cable when we don’t have time to watch much TV anyway.
Setup – It was easy and it’ll take about 10-15 minutes. It’s best to have an iPad or laptop nearby that is online. I connected the Roku 2 to my router via ethernet cable so I cannot speak to a wireless setup. Once connected, the Roku box walked me through the setup. It updated the software and then I began adding channels. I added Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to start. You are prompted to either login using your username and password or you are given a code to enter in online. It’s really easy and haven’t had any issues since the setup.
Content – With these three channels (Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus) we have more content than we could ever need. For my 3 year old there are so many cartoons to choose from and all the episodes – Caillou; Backyardigans; Word World; Sid the Science Kid; Dragon Tails; Madeline. We haven’t even scratched the surface on kids cartoons. There are kids movies that we found on the three channels – Tangled; Toy Story 3; Curious George; Ponyo. That’s more than enough TV for weekends. As far as TV for us, Hulu Plus has tons of good TV to watch and with Plus you get full seasons worth. With Netflix, we get full seasons of other TV shows and decent movies – although I will say, Netflix needs more titles. The Amazon Prime account gets us even more free streaming content that I’ve yet to really explore. It looks only ok but the great thing about the Amazon Channel is that you can rent newer releases for $3-4.
Picture Quality – My TV is only 720p but the picture-quality is really good for those programs in HD. Overall, the amount of programming in HD is not as high as Comcast but I’m ok with that. The quality is still really good. The other day I went on to Vimeo Channel (like YouTube) and found some cycling videos and I was amazed at how clear the footage was using Roku. It was HD quality. Also, I’ve yet to have any problems with skipping or delays (again I’m hooked up with an Ethernet cable).
UI – The user interface is easy. Roku could make it more slick but why? It just works.
COST SAVINGS!! – We were paying $7.99 for Netflix and just added $7.99/month for Hulu Plus. We were setup on Amazon Prime already. So, the total bill per month went from $90-100 to $8. I’m sure we will rent new releases from the Amazon store but we were doing that with ONDemand anyway. Plus, Amazon movie rentals look to be cheaper per movie anyway.
If you are in a similar situation as my family, I think the Roku 2 is the way to go. Saving $80-90 a month worth it and Roku may get even better with more content. For $99, it’s worth trying it out.
With an upgraded processor and design, it carries most of the same features as the original player in a smaller size; the main changes is the Wii like remote and Angry Birds being included along with a small selection of games that you can purchase from their games store.
My main peeve is the same as the first player; the device never powers off. This messes with my auto switcher and I have to unplug the Roku when I’m not using it and want to watch something else or play games. Roku’s whole goal with this is so that the unit will always be able to receive updates. Even with them saying that it consumes little power while idle, I would rather have the option to power off. I know I could get a better switching system that would correct this, but I don’t feel like spending the money on that part of the system at this time.
I’ve heard several complaints of no Optical connections, which depending on your setup can be a big hindrance, for me this isn’t a big issue as I don’t use optical. All else fails, you can always get a HDMI to Optical converter box. This may be a big reason that a lot of customers stay with the original Roku or go for another system all together.
The Roku 2 no longer supports dual band Wireless N, it only works in the 2.4 Ghz range.
The XS model is the only one that comes with an Ethernet port, so if you have poor or no wireless you’ll need to get this version to be able to connect. For the extra $30 dollars this player costs you, it includes the spiffy remote, Free Game, Ethernet port and USB option. So if you have any hesitation, opt for the XS.
They’ve moved the USB connection to the side of the device, but you’ll have to wait till September for the full USB functional to be released in a new firmware update. Until then you’ll have limited compatibility and functionality.
They’ve opted for a Micro SD card to increase device memory when you need more space for games or more channels. I know it’s smaller in size, but I would have liked to see a Standard SD card slot so I don’t have to buy special memory for this specific device. Just personal preference and doesn’t hinder the usability.
I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future their next system was an all out gaming console. With the new focus on games, it just opens up the possibility.
Overall, I’m a casual TV watcher, I might watch an hour a day or less and it fits my needs. if you don’t care about the games and a little bit of added performance your original Roku will work just fine for you. Otherwise, if you care about size, new technology, and the option for basic games. It’s worth the upgrade.
First some info about my setup, as I think this is important when reviewing a streaming player:
*Roku XD connected via ethernet and HDMI cables to my HDTV.
*Roku 2 XS connected via ethernet and HDMI cables to my daughter’s HDTV.
*High-Speed Internet connection via Comcast’s Xfinity Blast! service. My speeds are: 30mbps download and 5mbps upload.
*Modem: Motorola SURFboard eXtreme DOCSIS 3.0 Modem, model SB6120. (Comcast compatible. I own my modem, so I don’t pay Comcast rental fees anymore!)
*Router: NetGear N600 Wireless Dual Band 802.11n Gigabit Router, model WNDR3700.
*Ethernet cables: Cat6a throughout (best for carrying broadband video). Cat5 or Cat5e is what most customers have, and do not need to be replaced unless one wants the very best video performance an ethernet cable can provide.
*HDMI cables: Bought the cheapest ones available; they either work or they don’t, as the signal is all digital.
Because of the type of Internet service one uses, along with the equipment they use to access the Internet (modem & router), there may be a wide range of personal experiences that have little or nothing to do with the Roku player itself. The only issue I’ve read so far that makes some sense, excepting the occasional report of a bad Roku unit, is that the Roku 2 XS has a problem with it’s storage capacity when the game Angry Birds is played. Many have reported this problem and one of the fixes is to uninstall the Angry Birds game. Another possible fix is to simply purchase a microSD card when buying a Roku 2; Roku sells a 2GB card for $5. That is exactly what I did when I ordered the Roku 2 XS from their site, and neither I nor my daughter have had any problems whatsoever with the game or the Roku player trying to reboot/recycle.
Both the older Roku XD and the new Roku 2 XS work extremely well for what they were designed to do – stream video. I’ve had both units connected wirelessly and via ethernet cable. Both units were a little slower with a wireless connection when compared to being hard wired. Too, a wireless connection was much more likely to downgrade the video quality from 4 dots to 3 or 2 when in Netflix in order to play a video. (Netflix uses 4 dots followed by HD, if the video can play in HD, when it is loading a video. This looks a bit like this: **** HD). Downgrading video quality does not happen very often when using an ethernet cable. However, I was surprised the Roku 2 XS responded faster wirelessly and didn’t downgrade the video quality as often as my older Roku XD. This could be a difference in the hardware itself, or it might be that my Roku XD’s extra distance of about 10 feet from my router caused the slower performance.
Advice to prospective customers wanting to buy a Roku streaming player:
I would recommend the Roku 2 XS over the other Roku 2 models simply because it comes with an ethernet port for a wired connection. For some customers this could make a big difference when a wireless connection is difficult to achieve or slow at best.
Too, those planning on wireless, and want the best, most reliable performance, use an 802.11n router. However, if one only has an 802.11g router, a Roku player might work just fine; try it before you buy the faster 802.11n router.
Finally, one should have a fast Internet connection. DSL speed may offer erratic streaming at best. Even basic Internet service via cable may not offer the consistency of streaming that high-speed Internet service does in some areas for some folks. Most cable companies offer varying speeds – I pay $10 extra a month for Comcast’s Xfinity Blast! high-speed Internet service, for example. New Roku users should try the service they have first and then upgrade, if necessary.
When one has good equipment and a (consistent) high-speed Internet connection, these Roku players perform extremely well. I’m very pleased with both units we have working off the same Internet connection.
Oh, one last thought: I like the Roku 2 XS remote much more than the one that came with the Roku XD. The buttons all set up higher, making them much easier to use, and because of it’s use of Bluetooth wireless to control the Roku 2 XS, one need not point the remote directly at the Roku, which I do have to do with my remote for the Roku XD.
I got this product last week and I have been using it everyday. It is connected to my wireless network, router on 1st floor and Roku on second across the house. I read many reviews on this product and want to address those who complain about buffering on a wireless connection. I want to let people know that this is being used wirelessly. Wireless connections are not as reliable as wired installations. I am a network engineer with years of experience in wired/wireless installations. You will not get dependable connections via wireless due to so many variables. If you want near perfect connections all the time, break open your walls and run some cat 5. I knew it would have some issues sometimes and that DOES NOT bother me.
Now onto the wireless review. I had it connected to my network in about 5 minutes. After connecting to my network – it updated and that was it, I had internet TV going. We use it mainly for Netflix and to start using our Amazon Prime streaming service. Sure we have had buffering, but not a lot and not during a show/movie, just at the beginning of the stream. May be once it happened within the first 5 minutes of streaming. I am using 802.11g, not 802.11n. I really do advise of getting an additional micro SD card for additional memory. I chatted with Roku and was told it will support up to 16GB. I had a 8GB laying around so I am using it. If I did not have it I would have bought a 16GB. For now the 8GB is enough.
The Roku does have some nice features like the game remote. I went with the XS because of future game releases. When something is new, you have to wait for things to be developed for it. Companies don’t want to develop unless there is a market for it, look at the iPhone and all the apps NOW. Not many apps in the beginning. I cannot wait for it to become the next best thing. Apple TV was not a consideration as it does not permit Amazon Prime Streaming.
I gave it four stars for content, there should be more free content. But remember, Roku is not a content provider – they just deliver it. I am sure quality/content will get better with time as more people start to use this little gem.
I do recommend this device and it does have the ability to become something bigger than it is. If you want the Roku (and buy it), definitely get additional memory. *8GB is good for me know. I wish there was a way to see how much is used/unused (so I will wait to see if I need to get larger). Use what you might have laying around otherwise go with what you can afford (larger the better I say). Also, I wish the Roku had a longer power cord as my TV is mounted on the wall and the outlet is below the TV so I have to figure a good way to hide it with a cable chase. Maybe Roku would get smart and sell a longer power cord for those who have older houses and do not have a power outlet installed behind the TV.
Also get the Roku Universal Mounting kit, it hides the Roku behind the TV (note that the XS has a Bluetooth remote and it does not need a direct line of sight to work). My TV is mounted on the wall, so hiding devices makes the installation look cleaner. The mounting kit only hangs on the vents on the back of my Samsung TV. Looking at the TV, you do not see the Roku and the remote works great.
Hope this review helps. Just remember that if you want to use a wireless connection, the connection won’t be as reliable as a wired installation. This goes for all the internet TV devices, Apple TV, Boxee, Roku, WD TV etc… If you can go wired great, if not remember my review.
I will update later in time if I remember.
——————-Update Aug 2012——————–
As of Aug 2012, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video are now available on the Apple TV. I would now choose the Apple TV over the Roku, because it has all the capability of the Roku, and even some things that the Roku can’t do, like Airplay. I can play something on my iPad, iMac, or iPhone, and have it show up on my TV. This is a very handy capability. And the Apple TV remote is MUCH better than the crap remote of the Roku.
As a previous owner of the first Roku, I was very excited to give their new model a spin. Here are my thoughts.
1. The size of the box is now quite nice and small, making it very easy to put nearly anywhere near the TV. It’s about the same size as the Apple TV.
2. The inclusion on an ethernet port is a WONDERFUL addition! I find that I get a better picture if I use ethernet, but because of the location of my TV, I need to do the wireless, but the picture still looks GREAT on my 47″ HD Sony, so don’t let that deter you.
3. Roku is, just as before, extremely SIMPLE to use. You’ll be up and running in no time.
4. As a hard-core mac/apple user, I REALLY wanted to get an Apple TV, but it just doesn’t make any sense for my use. The Roku, although not nearly as “sexy” with it’s menus or remote, is far more usable and I’m not tied to having to use the iTunes store. Are there times when I’d like to stream something from iTunes on my computer to the TV through an Apple TV? Yeah, there are, but I’ll make the sacrifice to be able to have Hulu and all the other free channels. If you didn’t know, Hulu is only available on the Roku.
5. The “enhanced remote” is terrible in my opinion, just terrible. Overall, the remote is VERY slippery in the hand because it’s small and rounded rather than boxy. Boxy isn’t sexy, but a boxy design makes it easy to handle. It’s easy to navigate left and right through the menus, but when you want to select something, you have to move your thumb off of the big arrow button and click the button underneath them. Yeah, this sounds picky, but the previous remote let you just push the middle of the big arrow button to select items. This small change in the remote makes going through things like Netflix menus, more cumbersome, and it’s also easier to hit a button other than the one you want. The change is a result of the ability to play games. That new selection button is one of the main buttons for gaming and non-gaming. The old remote, although not as fancy and more simplistic, was more user friendly, and boxy too. The remote for the Roku XD is actually better because it has the OK button in the middle of the arrow buttons; this is because it doesn’t do games, so you’d be giving that up… not a loss in my opinion. You also lose the ability to do ethernet if you get the XD model. This could very well be a problem for some.
6. When I first booted up the Roku, it processed a pretty big update. It seems as though they worked out the bugs for Angry Birds because I didn’t have any problems at all and have not experienced intermittent resets as some users have reported. Angry Birds is fun and if you haven’t played, it can be addicting. Now, with that said, Angry Birds will probably be the only game I play on it. I’d rather Roku focus on making a great TV product and not get into the gaming area, that’s what my xBox 360 is for, and they’re worlds apart.
7. No problems with the 1080 option. Everything looks great.
8. If you go online and search for Roku channels, you’ll get codes that you can put into your box to get the channels to populate in your menu. There are many out there, too many to list here, and there’s no real master list, so you just kind of have to search for stuff. For example, there is a Food Network channel, but it’s not THE Food Network channel you’d find on regular cable. However, for a foodie like me, I watch it from time-to-time.
9. There is an app that will let you use your iPhone as a Roku remote, and it works very well (FYI, both the Roku and iPhone need to be on the same network). The nice thing about the iPhone remote is that you can see all the channels on the iPhone display and can just choose the channel you want, rather than having to scroll through the menu on the Roku to get to the one you want. You can move channels on the Roku, but you still run into the problem of having so many that you’ll have to scroll through them to get to the one you eventually want if you haven’t moved it to the front.
Summary: There are no changes as far as how the Roku performs; it still works great. The ethernet port is a great addition, but I could care less for the enhance remote and the gaming options; that part is more novelty than anything else. If you want a great product to enhance your TV viewing, the Roku is a great option, and at the price points they’re selling them at, they’re quite affordable, even if you end up hating it (unlikely in my opinion). And if you don’t want to be tied to the iTunes Store, and you want Hulu, then the Roku is your only choice. If you have a lot of movies in iTunes and you want to stream them to your TV, then you’d probably be happier with an Apple TV, which is a GREAT product as well! It really depends on how you intend to use the device as far as which one you should choose. For those reviewers that say Roku sucks and Apple TV is awesome and vice versa, pay no attention to that BS. They both work great, they just have different options that will appeal to different folks. Best of luck.
Ever since Amazon first gave its Prime members the added bonus of movies and television shows that can be streamed for free to supported devices, I have been searching for a device that I can use for Amazon Prime Instant Videos. My fervent hope was that they would soon be supported on my TiVo Premiere DVRs. They already support downloading Amazon video rentals and purchases and they support Netflix streaming so it shouldn’t be technically difficult to implement streaming for Amazon Prime Instant Videos on TiVo too, right?
Cut to August of 2011, and TiVo still doesn’t support Amazon Prime Streaming. I finally decided to buy a new device that would. I had narrowed it down to either the Roku or a Blu-Ray player that supported this. One of the limitations I have is that I am still on a standard definition television (gasp!) and whatever device I bought needed to support both SD and HD for when I finally upgrade my televisions. I just wasn’t sure how a Blu-ray would play on SD but I was hesitant to add yet another device to the entertainment center and a Blu-ray player could replace my DVD player instead of adding yet another connection to the setup.
Then Roku 2 came out. And it was TINY. Like, so small that it barely takes up any space in the entertainment center at all. Not only that, but while I’ve been watching Roku for the last year, they seem to really have their finger on the pulse of what is wanted and needed in a digital media device. It also didn’t hurt that the price on the most expensive model was significantly lower than any of the Wi-Fi enabled Blu-ray players I had looked at. That was it – my choice was made.
Set up was easy – sort of. Roku has done a great job of designing a very simple setup wizard and also provides excellent documentation on how to connect and configure the box. Where I had some trouble during setup was with the wireless network card in the unit. It doesn’t always work, making the setup process more difficult than it should be.
Adding applications to the device is also pretty easy. Most, including Amazon, provide a registration code on the Roku screen that prompts you to go to a special webpage for that app and allows you to connect your account for that company to your Roku account. This ensures that only authorized users are able to use it. It also prevents you from having to enter a lengthy email and password for that service (like your Amazon login and password) using Roku’s onscreen keyboard, which would be tedious.
The onscreen keyboard is nice enough, but after using TiVo’s slide remote for the last year, I’ve grown very accustomed to not having to navigate back and forth across an on-screen keyboard to search for movie titles, etc. While the Roku 2 remote works well enough, it would be greatly improved with the addition of a remote that has a keyboard on the remote that a user can employ faster than the tedious, old-fashioned on-screen keyboard.
I chose the XS edition of the Roku 2 because it made sense to maximize the features in the box given the nominal price difference. With all of the different editions, you get these features: 300+ channels, free movie service from Crackle, works with virtually any TV, built in Wi-Fi b/g/n, and HD in 720p. With the XS edition I bought, you also get these features: HD in 1080p, enhanced remote with motion control for games, free full edition of Angry Birds game, Ethernet port for wired internet connection, and a USB port to be used for music, videos and photos. The Roku website has a great comparison chart to show you the features differences for all models.
I’ve played the Angry Birds game a few times and it is neat, but I honestly prefer it on my Android smartphone. It feels a little awkward playing it on the Roku when you are used to the Android version. I haven’t found any other Roku games that really interest me yet. I can say that the Angry Birds game responded well with the motion remote.
My primary reason for buying the Roku 2 XS is for watching Amazon Prime Instant videos, and it has worked very well for me so far in that regard. While I have had continued wireless disconnects with the Roku in some areas, it has not yet affected streaming Amazon Prime videos to the Roku 2 XS.
I was also very interested in being able to use services such as Crackle on the Roku 2. After discovering Android apps for Crackle, TV.com, HBOgo and more, I was very hopeful there would more of this kind of app available for Roku. I knew that HBOgo wasn’t yet available for Roku 2, but hoped that TV.com would be. I was disappointed there. Still, I was happy to see Crackle is available. Unfortunately, when I’ve tried to watch shows on the Crackle app for Roku 2, it has been a dismal failure. Crackle inserts commercial breaks that take you out of the show – no problem, I understand they need to make money somehow, so this is OK with me. What wasn’t OK was that I haven’t been able to get the shows to resume playing after that first commercial break. It has been so painful using the Crackle app that I am no longer interested in trying at all. It is extremely disappointing to start watching a show only to find you can’t continue just as you get interested in it.
I have mentioned the wireless disconnects a couple of times already, but I’ll bring it up again. This problem has surfaced mostly when trying to load apps, configure the wireless connection, etc. None of the other wireless devices in my network have any issue, just the Roku 2.
All in all, I’m glad I bought the Roku 2, even if it isn’t perfect. It is serving my main need very well (Amazon Prime videos) and should earn its keep after watching a dozen or so shows there. Although disappointed in the limited number of apps available for TV and movies, I am hopeful that we’ll see more as Roku gains even more steam in this arena. Sure, they have loads of apps for shows now but the majority are paid apps for old movies in the public domain. Those can be fun, but aren’t really worth buying the device. I would also love to see an improved remote in the future that has a full keyboard on it similar to TiVo’s slide remote.
Do I recommend the Roku 2 XS? My answer is a yes, with provisions. You really need to do your homework before buying a Roku or a similar device to make sure that it will meet with the expectations you have for such a device.