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Customer Review

2,388 of 2,456 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart little puck, as good as (but different from) Apple TV, July 29, 2011
This review is from: Roku 2 XS 1080p Streaming Player (Old Model) (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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Comments

Tracked by 16 customers

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Showing 31-40 of 117 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2012 9:27:35 AM PST
Thank you so much for responding

Posted on Feb 27, 2012 8:55:10 AM PST
J. Julian says:
The reviewer states that the Roku 2 and Apple TV have both wired and wireless capibilities. This is not correct. I have an Apple TV in addition to having the Roku 2 and the Apple TV is wireless only. One of the main reasons that I purchased the Roku 2 was the fact that it had an ethernet port built in. I wanted my Roku 2 connected via wired connection. I think the descriptive terms "less polished" are spot on regarding the Roku 2. The Roku is a great device that will not disappoint, especially for those that have never seen Apple TV.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2012 12:23:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 27, 2012 12:24:07 PM PST
Jindo Fox says:
Apple TV MC572LL/A (2010)
I'm not sure what you're looking at, but forgive me for correcting your correction.

ALL current and past versions of the Apple TV have wired ethernet ports in addition to built-in wireless networking. See http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_ipod/family/apple_tv for pictures and specs, search for "10/100BASE-T" for proof if you need it.

The lower-end Roku 2 devices (everything except the XS) are wireless only.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 28, 2012 5:21:58 AM PST
I have my Apple TV connected to the Ethernet . Works great

Posted on Mar 10, 2012 12:06:40 PM PST
Dubbie says:
I am wondering about the sound quality - does Roku 2 XS offer optical sound connections with a 5.1 or 6.1 sound capability?
Thanks for your in-depth review and interest in helping others!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012 3:10:54 PM PST
Jindo Fox says:
Analog output is simple stereo. The digital output is over HDMI, and according to the specs: Digital over HDMI (5.1 surround sound pass-through)

It sounds good enough to my ears on my simple home theater setup. Remember this is still streaming media, not Blu-Ray output.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012 3:12:15 PM PST
Jindo Fox says:
Analog output is simple stereo. The digital output is over HDMI, and according to the specs: Digital over HDMI (5.1 surround sound pass-through)

It sounds good enough to my ears on my simple home theater setup. Remember this is still streaming media, not Blu-Ray output.

Posted on Mar 26, 2012 6:21:47 AM PDT
Jon Folkers, thanks for your extensive review. I'd like to see more comparisons from you on streaming devices and services. Hey, start a blog already! We need your free help out here!

Posted on Mar 26, 2012 9:00:03 AM PDT
Would I be able to get rid of my uverse fiberoptic cable TV service and some how use my internet service with this device to watch amazon videos, netflix, hulu tv etc?? Is this all I need? Clueless in CT

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 26, 2012 9:21:59 AM PDT
Dubbie says:
Yes, please!!! A blog - about streaming devices and services. Specifically - a "How To ... " to advise people on "How to Give Up Your Expensive Cable TV and Still Be Able to Watch some HBO, NBC, and PBS Shows" -- It is a new world out there for many folks and many need your help and would value your obvious expertise!! {Thank you (also) Jon. You are very gracious and helpful!}

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