[wpramazon asin=”B005CLPP84″] Related
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.
UPDATE: I added a star because this unit has proven itself much more stable than it was at launch, due to frequent software updates. Also, the machine now has the HBO Go app, which allows you to stream from HBO on demand from a huge catalog of movies and TV shows.
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 and sports channels such as NBA and MLB (subscription required for this 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. AirPlay (stream to the box from your iOS device) is supported and 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. AppleTV requires an HDTV to work and displays up to 720p resolutions.
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, and bunch of streaming news and movie services. The Wii-like game remote comes with Angry Birds and more 2D casual games are promised. 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.
As you can see, these two machines are similar, but not the same. I 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.
Was this review helpful to you?
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…
I’ve been using Roku 2 XS for a few days now and I must say I like the device, but there are quite a few hiccups. So first the good stuff.
* The Box is tiny and the setup is a breeze. I was up and streaming in under 5 mins.
* Netflix, Huluplus, Amazon and Pandora worked fine
* Streaming in 1080p worked fine without buffering (I use Xfinity) and the quality is superb
* The Ethernet option (available only in XS) is very helpful and the Quality of streaming is far better than wireless
and the not so good stuff:
* The Box does not have adequate memory and needs an external micro-SD card for more capacity
* The device re-booted a few times for me when switching between channels. I was initially very upset with this as the reboot process takes about 3-4 mins. I called support and they asked me to uninstall Angry Birds as it takes up huge amount of space. Did that and then on no re-boots. This sucks as Roku 2 advertises Angry Birds big time and the remote is designed for that, but the device is not capable without additional memory
* It is non-sense that I buy the high end XS version for Ethernet and HD support and I still have to buy HDMI cable and Ethernet cable separately!
* I mainly bought Roku for streaming International Channels and to my horror I found that most of the channels do not work in Roku 2!! Apparently Roku 2’s video format is different to that of Roku 1. Roku support says that the Channel provider needs to fix it and the Channel provider’s support say that Roku needs to fix it!!! So why advertise them and make me sign up for them then??
* Finally, many channels have sub-channels within them. Switching from One channel is only possible through menus and there are no short-cuts. It takes up to 5 to 6 button press to switch Channels and it obviously sucks.
If Roku is serious of competing with Apple TV and Content is the differentiator, then Roku needs to pay more attention to the content and ensure it works and make the user experience better.
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
Register | Lost your password?
Sign In | Lost your password?
Username or E-mail
Sign In | Register