Roku 2 XS: Popular Web Streamer Adds Ability to Play Games

The best recent adaptation of the accepted Roku media banderole adds Bluetooth abutment and a microSD agenda slot, acceptance you to use the Roku2 for downloadable games. Out of the box, the Roku 2 XS ($100 as of August 27, 2011) lets you comedy Rovio’s all-over Angry Birds application annihilation added than Roku’s anew enhanced, motion-sensing remote.

The $60 Roku 2 HD and the $80 Roku 2 XD address with the old-style IR remote–but you can acquirement the fresh alien (which includes a authorization for Angry Birds) after on.

Either way, Roku’s amount functionality–it streams an absorbing arrangement of Web media to your HDTV via home network’s Internet connection–remains its better affairs point. With 250-plus channels of agreeable optimized for examination on a big awning (the Roku 2 HD supports 720p displays, while the XD and XS both abutment 1080p), Roku charcoal the best hassle-free and affordable agency of bringing Internet agreeable to your high-def set.

In my tests, accepting the Roku2 XS up and active took beneath than 5 annual with the advice of the easy-to-follow printed guide. I started by abutting the atramentous hockey-puck-size device–with a adaptable processor inside, it’s the aboriginal and best power-efficient Roku to date–to my HomePlug AV powerline about-face application an ethernet cable (the XS is the alone archetypal that supports 10/100 ethernet as able-bodied as 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi; the added two abutment alone Wi-Fi). I again absorbed up the Roku to my HDTV set application an HDMI cable, and acquainted it in to an electrical outlet. Regrettably, Roku provides alone the AC adapter and a blended video cable (which produces decidedly inferior images and audio); you accept to accommodate the ethernet and HDMI cables.

There’s no on/off switch: After you’ve affiliated everything, you artlessly about-face the set on, and Roku’s acceptable awning appears and guides you through a startup routine. If you don’t already accept a Roku account, you’ll be prompted to set one up on the company’s website, bartering acclaim agenda advice so you can after install a approach with paid content. You’ll again articulation your Roku to that annual by application a typed-in code, abundant as you would actuate Netflix’s on appeal account on a TV or set-top box.

After that, you can alpha installing agreeable channels, including the accepted Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu Plus on-demand casework (these are all exceptional channels that allegation for content); Sony’s about fresh Crackle service, which delivers ad-supported movies and TV; Pandora for Internet radio; and a bulk of able sports channels. Roku additionally delivers all sorts of chargeless niche-interest content. Note, however, that while the Roku XS (and the Roku HD) can achievement video at 1080p, the absolute agreeable itself varies amid 1080p and 720p, depending on what the accurate provider supports.

One of the fresh additions actuality is the adeptness to comedy games. You install Angry Birds as a approach that downloads the software, which the Roku food in its 256MB of centralized memory; in case you eventually bankrupt the centralized storage, all three Roku units accept a microSD agenda aperture for expansion.

The fresh alien works somewhat analogously to a Nintendo Wii nunchuk controller: You action at the awning to move the cursor, and to comedy Angry Birds you beachcomber the alien to position the ballista that shoots the birds. The alien additionally has A and B buttons, apparently for amateur that Roku will action activity forward. By the anniversary season, Roku expects to action two to three dozen added amateur that booty advantage of the added remote’s motion-sensing features.

I’m not assertive that gaming abutment adds a lot to the Roku. Best association who affliction about this array of affair apparently already own a Wii (which additionally offers Netflix on demand) or added wireless-enabled bold console. That said, I did get pleasure the few annual I spent bribery with Angry Birds, admitting I acquainted a bit accountable by the belted ambit of motion: I could get the ballista to move alone so far no amount how abundant I coiled the Roku remote.

Gaming aside, the added remote’s use of Bluetooth instead of bittersweet is a notable improvement. With Bluetooth, you don’t charge to anguish about advancement band of afterimage amid the alien and the Roku, which can be ambiguous attributable to the complexities of abounding living-room setups and to the abbreviating admeasurement of the Roku itself. But on the off adventitious that you don’t affliction about line-of-sight issues and appetite to ascendancy the Roku with a accepted remote, all Roku 2 models abutment both Bluetooth and IR control.

The Roku2 XS has a USB anchorage so you can comedy DRM-free agreeable of your own that’s stored on a beam anamnesis drive, admitting this functionality won’t be enabled until Roku releases a firmware advancement due in September. (The HD and XD models don’t accept a USB anchorage at all.) File architecture abutment will be basic: MP4 video, AAC or MP3 audio, and JPG or PNG still images.

I was afraid at the abridgement of USB abutment at launch, accustomed that the previous-generation Roku had a USB anchorage beyond all three models. Roku’s antecedent accomplishing was beneath than satisfying; it charcoal to be apparent what Roku does actuality with the best recent models. Still missing from the claimed agreeable angle is the adeptness to beck agreeable stored abroad on your network–a PC adamantine drive or network-attached accumulator device. It’s difficult to appreciate why Roku has shied abroad from, say, DLNA support–although I doubtable it may be to abstain adverse absorb issues with abounding of the agreeable providers Roku works with. Additionally conspicuously MIA is YouTube support, which at one point was accessible via a clandestine approach but has back abolished completely.

Finally, I’m aghast that none of the fresh models abutment 5GHz Wi-Fi (the adaptation of 802.11n that is backward-compatible with 802.11a). In awash burghal environments such as the city SanFrancisco adjacency area I live, the 2.4GHz (802.11b/g/n) Wi-Fi spectrum is about consistently overcrowded, and media streams frequently stutter, freeze, or arrest completely. Unfortunately, the XS, XD, and HD abutment alone 2.4GHz b/g/n spectrum.

Existing Roku owners accept little acumen to advancement if they’ve been annoyed with their accepted adaptation of the product–except for the games, the fresh agreeable is accessible to all Rokus. But if you’re attractive for a way to beck Internet media to your HDTV that doesn’t crave abstruse expertise, Roku charcoal a abundant option. With this series, the Roku 2 XS is acutely above to the lower-end models, if alone for its Bluetooth alien and USB support.

I awful acclaim advantageous added for the XS and ambience up a active home arrangement (perhaps application absolute powerline or cable TV wiring) to ensure bland streaming. Consider the lower-end models alone if you’ve been blessed with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi alive in the accomplished and accept no absorption in loading your own media assimilate a USB beam drive for playback on your set.