From its humble beginnings as the Netflix box to its current status as one of the pre-eminent media streamers, Roku has come a long way in just two years. And while the new Roku 2 XS doesn’t really move things forward much, it does just enough to retain that title.
If you’re keeping track, the XS usurps the XDS as the new king of the new series, with the XD and HD following in its path. I’ll just go ahead and say it at the outset: Ff you already own a previous gen, 1080p-capable Roku, this is probably not the box for you. Like the XDS, you get ethernet support and a USB port. The UI also remains relatively unchanged, with the standard horizontal scrolling “channels.”
In fact, the only differences I could find was the addition of Bluetooth support, an SD card slot, and — wait for it — a shiny little Wii-like motion controller that doubles as your system remote. Yes, it appears Roku wants to join the casual games party. And its first gift to customers is something everyone’s already sick of: Angry Birds. For free! The company promises to have more games — including Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons (sigh) — soon, which presumably explains the SD-card slot. Still, none of this is enough to justify dropping another 100 bones.
The other obvious difference here is the look of these new boxes. This XS, along with the rest of the series, has been sufficiently shrink-rayed so it now beats even the Apple TV in terms of footprint. The tiny box virtually disappears when you place it next to your TV, which was great considering all the other multicolored junk I have attached to mine.
Roku has always done a fine job of offering a satisfying mix of big-name streaming options like Rdio, Pandora, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus, with more esoteric choices like, say, Crunchyroll. That trend continues here.
What hasn’t happened is any attempt to make the box useful to media hoarders with separate video libraries. Once again, the XS’s limited media file support casts a great big ol’ bummer cloud over what is otherwise a solid device.
Officially, the XS only supports MP4 (H.264), AAC, MP3, JPG and PNG, which, for me, meant more than half of the videos and music sitting on my external drive were useless — unless I wanted to do some converting, which I didn’t.
It’s a strange deficiency, considering the Roku’s main strength is the hefty helping of internet video it serves up to its customers. Offering a USB port and then throttling what it can play just seems, well, dumb. Still, this isn’t anything new to previous Roku owners. And the fact remains there just aren’t many media streamers out there that can offer all the things the XS does at this price.
Photo courtesy Roku
- Review: Roku Netflix Set Top Box Is Just Shy of Totally Amazing
- Roku’s New Set-Top Box Now Available With Angry Birds
- Roku Launches $60 HD Streaming Media Player
- More TV Coming to TiVo and Roku This Fall with Hulu Plus
- Data Caps Claim a Victim: Netflix Cuts Streaming Video Quality
- Netflix Officially A Streaming Video Company With DVDs On the Side
- Google’s Nerds Bring Angry Birds — and More — to Google+
- Patent Firm Targets Lawsuit at Angry Birds
- Is the Launch Speed in Angry Birds Constant?