Very little material at this time on Netflix is broadcast at 1080p or 1080i. Internet bandwidth is going to prevent most people from ever being able to experience it.
For 720p resolution at 30 frames per second you're going to need a guaranteed 1.5-2Mbps bandwidth as a bare minimum. In comparison, 1080p HD requires for a bare minimum 6Mbps bandwidth connection. For streaming to maintain in HD it MUST NOT drop in speed and MUST MAINTAIN that rate. If you have DSL Internet, you're not getting 1080 HD and lucky to get 720p.
That being said, I'd still buy the 1080 capable player as there is 1080 material available through the Roku channels and Internet quality and speed gets better all the time in various parts of the country.
There is some PBS material available on Roku. Mostly clips. NOWHERE TV is a good private channel that carries PBS stuff. add private channel code: H9DWC. 1080P material is available on the 1080p private channel which is 1080p videos on Youtube.
when you first set up your account for the XS it gives you the option if you'd like to install your free copy of Angry Birds. It does not come pre-installed. Having it on the unit does not in any way prevent it from working. The bluetooth remote and the ethernet port, and the usb port are well worth the extra money over the XD. With the XS being on sale for $89.99, what is it, like $10 more?
All models of the Roku are identical in terms of Netflix performance - the only exception is whether they output in 720p (the LT and HD) or 1080p (the XD and XS). Roku does not have a Youtube channel - they used to, then Google made them take it down, and supposedly it is coming back soon. As far as I know there is no PBS channel on the Roku. I have never used Apple TV but based on what I've read the Roku has more functionality and Apple TV is most useful for those who like to remain in the Apple ecosystem. Angry Birds is great on the Roku and I can see "parents" enjoying it as well if that makes a difference.
XS and the other Roku 2 units have a bit of a Black level issue. The off black is in all of the video through the HDMI. Chances are your actually getting same quality (unless your internet has gotten slower or your wireless signal is poorer) It's just your seeing poor black levels. You should be able to adjust the TV Black level setting to compensate. You might try just changing the setting on the HDMI input on your TV to the "gaming" setting to see if that has any effect.
First, off thanks so much for the helpful response. It really makes holiday shopping so much nicer to have forum QA participation like this. I
Last question: is there any reason besides price to buy the XD over the XS? I saw your comment "Don't buy a Roku for gaming." and also an amazon review which someone claimed they had to uninstall Angry Birds to get the Roku XS to even work. Basically, I agree that I don't want games if they are disadvantage beyond price.
@Gearbox, I'm sorry it didn't work out for you with the new boxes, You can always stick to the previous models. I actually prefer them myself and bought another one just recently as I still prefer them to the Roku 2s. Amazon still sells them. @Jim, Yes, lockups occur occasionally and the unit needs to be power cycled. The 3.x units (previous versions) got a firmware update this month that you have to manually check for and run. Once that's done you have to go to the channel store from the Roku and exit again to update to the new versions of some of the Apps. The Amazon App has a whole new look now but works much better! I'm sure other apps were recently updated as well. Not many people are aware that your apps are updated by entering and then exiting the Channel store from the Roku. Roku does not write the apps. They are written by the respective companies: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc...
UPDATE You Can get YouTube once again with a new private channel app called "Video Buzz". To find privatee channel apps, google search "Roku Private Channel". I figure once this app becomes widespread Roku "content partners" will demand Roku block it as it did Nowhereman's origianal YouTube app and about 2 months ago, the Russian app "RateRix". Video Buzz is a vastly improved immitation of RateRix. Several PBS apps are available in NowheremanTV's free private channel app, "Nowhereman TV". The most valuable feature of Nowherman TV is inclusion of the Real BBC News, the world's finest news service. BBCA is BBC America, bought and content controlled by NPR & PBS propagandists.