Roku 2 XS Review : Streaming Videos and Casual Gaming on the Big Screenby Ganesh T S on September 30, 2011 11:59 AM EST
Roku's products are famous for their consumer friendliness and the Roku 2 XS is no exception. The box is nicely packaged and comes with an excellent setup guide. The guide is simple enough even for a complete novice. The contents of the Roku 2 XS package are as below:
- Roku 2 XS main unit
- Setup guide
- Composite cable
- 7.5W AC Adapter
- Gestural remote control
The Roku unit is small enough to fit within one's palms. The exact dimentions are 3.3in x 3.3in x 0.9in. The unit has a slightly raised rubber base glued to the entire underside. The front of the unit has an LED that blinks during various stages of operation. The right side has the USB port while the left side is plain. On the rear side of the unit, we have the microSD slot on the left top corner and the HDMI port right below it. The composite video port is to the right and a Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) port follows it. A reset pin hole and the adapter port wrap up the rest of the rear side.
From reset (either hard or soft), the Roku 2 takes, on an average, 150 seconds to land at the home screen. I would normally complain that this is way too long for a media streamer. However, the absence of a power switch indicates that Roku doesn't expect the Roku 2 to be switched off, but rather kept in idle / sleep mode when not being used.
Once the unit was connected to the TV, I was presented with what I consider to be the first drawback of the Roku 2. It is not possible to set up the unit without creating a Roku account. This, by itself, is fine. However, the fact that a Roku account can't be set up without registering a credit card can't be excused. Roku supposedly does this to ensure that the user has a seamless experience while purchasing apps from within the Roku 2's TV interface. There is also the option to require a PIN for any such purchases. Even a company like Apple (which is considered by many to have the perfect user experience) allows for the creation of iTunes accounts without the need for a credit card. This makes it hard to justify Roku's requirement.
Once an account is linked to the Roku box, the rest of the set up process is a breeze. A number of channels can be chosen even while creating the account, and these get automatically downloaded to the Roku box after linking. The unit has a pleasing and effective 10 foot UI, and the various channels and options are presented in a coverart flow view. However, a visit to the Settings page led me to the second drawback of the unit.
Throughout our review process, the Roku 2 XS was connected via HDMI to the Onkyo TX-SR 606 and then to a Sony KDL46EX720 1080p 3D TV. Most other media streamers that I have tested were able to grab the EDID information delivered by the Onkyo AVR and set themselves up with the highest possible settings. Unfortunately, the Roku 2 doesn't seem to care about EDID (this is good in other cases, but not during the initial set up). I had to manually set the resolution to 1080p and also the sound output to 5.1 channel (it defaulted to stereo). The rest of the settings and a glimpse of the UI are available in the gallery below:
The UI is snappy enough to prove a reasonably good experience. It is advisable to have a broadband connection with decent speed, and it is preferable to have the unit connected to the router in a wired manner. No prizes for guessing that the 2.4GHz only wireless support is not the best for network streaming, particularly with sites that don't implement an adaptive bitrate and/or buffering streaming methodology.
For the discerning user who wants fine-grained control / information about the Roku 2 unit in operation, some of the interesting key-press sequences are presented below:
- Debug Info on screen (Bitrate override) : Home 5x, Rew 3x, FF 2x
- Channel Version Info: Home 3x, Up 2x, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left
- Developer Settings Page (enable playback debugging): Home 3x, Up 2x, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right
- Soft reset : Home 5x, Up, Rew 2x, FF 2x
In the next section, we will take a look at the platform on which the Roku 2 lineup is built.