2,372 of 2,440 people found the following review helpful
Smart little puck, as good as (but different from) Apple TV,
This review is from: Roku 2 XS 1080p Streaming Player (Electronics)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.
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Showing 1-10 of 117 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 9, 2011 7:30:24 AM PDT
"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. "
iTunes is overpriced. Compare prices on iTunes with Amazon. Amazon has a Roku channel for its onDemand content.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2011 10:15:26 AM PDT
A. Friesen says:
"iTunes is overpriced"
I think the point here is if you already have a media library in iTunes (that doesn't cost you anything as you already have it) AppleTV will stream it. The one weakness in the Roku to me is not being able to stream my large collection of movies and music from my media server. You are restricted to ONLY Roku's channels.
Posted on Sep 8, 2011 11:09:45 AM PDT
Alex T. Goetze says:
This review is incorrect about "component video". It will work (standard def) with the supplied composite cables, but not component.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2011 11:36:42 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2011 11:49:13 AM PDT
Regarding Roku and local media:
I have a Roku HD and a Roku XD. Both will play my ripped DVDs transcoded with RipIt (uses the Handbrake CLI I believe) when streamed from my Mac mini media server running Plex to the Roku via the Plex private channel. From what I understand, after Roku patched an HTTP live streaming bug, the Plex client should now work fine on the Roku 2 as well. As I do not own a Roku 2, my information is only second hand.
Plex makes for a more or less pleasant experience, but there are bugs to be aware of if you go this route.
On the Roku client:
1. Occasionally a video will be out of video/audio sync, but exiting the video and resuming solves the problem.
2. More troublesome, occasionally the video will jump back and forth in the timeline for the first couple minutes (whether starting from the beginning or resuming). Generally you can exit the video and resume a few times to clear the problem. Thankfully, the second problem doesn't seem to occur too often, but is extremely annoying when it does occur.
The Plex Media server (at least on OS X) also requires a little finessing:
1. After resuming from sleep, the server is unable to reestablish a connection with the client. Since I required user friendliness on the Roku front end, I need a solution that let the back end handle the technical incantations. I put together an AppleScript to quit and relaunch the Plex Media Server at wake (OS X requires a third party app to launch an AppleScript at wake, I went with the free command line daemon, SleepWatcher). End result? A little lag when someone wants to use Plex and the Mac mini has to wake from sleep (no worse than loading an internet channel). **Please note, my Mac mini can transparently wake over the LAN because it supports Bonjour Sleep Proxy (first included with Snow Leopard) and compatible Airport router (Airport Extreme in my case).**
For people who never sleep their Mac or only launch the Plex Media Server when needed or don't mind applying a technical hack like the one I alluded to, Plex works relatively well.
I switched to Plex on the Roku because of an iTunes Sharing bug that caused Front Row clients (including the first gen Apple TV) to far too regularly lose connections to the shared library. iTunes on the client was unaffected, but iTunes is hardly lean back/regular person easy to use (and unavailable on the first gen Apple TV) as a client.
Posted on Oct 13, 2011 9:32:04 PM PDT
Richard Walston says:
Why even keep your cable box with this boxes' selection? If you need a MUST have premium movie you have a Blu-Ray player. If you run out of the MLB packages,Crackle,Hulu,Netflix and of course the Awesome Amazon. If you do not have enough entertainment to keep you and the kids busy if you are a family then? How much free time do you have LOL?
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 15, 2011 1:13:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 15, 2011 1:13:58 PM PDT
Jean-charles Bouzigues says:
Jon, I am wondering if you can stream content you have on your networked oher computers like pictures and movies?
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2011 3:31:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 18, 2011 9:41:22 PM PDT
Yes. As noted, you need to add a private channel to stream local media. I use Plex to stream from my Mac to the Roku.
To clarify, there are a handful (at least) of private channels that allow local media streaming to the Roku. I happen to like Plex.
Posted on Oct 21, 2011 6:02:54 PM PDT
C. McWilliams says:
Thank you all for the information..
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2011 3:56:58 AM PDT
Follow up. In my initial post, I could only write hypothetically regarding the Roku 2, Plex private channel compatibility. Well, now I can confirm with firsthand experience. I finally got around to buying the Roku 2 XD (middle tier Roku 2, one step down from the XS). Whatever initial bugs between Plex and the Roku 2 lineup have been fixed. Pleasant experience.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2011 6:23:46 PM PDT
Jon Folkers says:
Alex is right, I confused my terms and have corrected the review accordingly. The device came with COMPOSITE cables (yellow video cable, white/red stereo audio), not component cables. Thanks for the catch.