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:

  1. Roku 2 XS main unit
  2. Setup guide
  3. Composite cable
  4. 7.5W AC Adapter
  5. 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:

  1. Debug Info on screen (Bitrate override) : Home 5x, Rew 3x, FF 2x
  2. Channel Version Info: Home 3x, Up 2x, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left
  3. Developer Settings Page (enable playback debugging): Home 3x, Up 2x, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right
  4. 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.

Introduction Broadcom All the Way
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  • arswihart - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    You need to know about the MyMedia local streaming channel, which lets you watch your videos on any Roku device by installing the channel and running a small server program on your home computer. Quality is excellent, as expected, you can get the highest quality the Roku is capable of and speed will be better than anything because it's on your home network, not over the internet. It also plays music and displays photos. The only significant downside for video is that you do often need to re-encode to one of the supported formats, but that's to be expected: http://forums.roku.com/viewtopic.php?t=25955 Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    The approach seems very similar to the one taken by Plex (which I already mentioned in the review). Plex seems to transcode, but MyMedia doesn't seem to (as far as I can see). Roku 2's native support is abysmal (No MPEG-2 / MPEG-4 / DivX / XVid support? Almost all SD media is in one of those codecs).

    If you have the necessity to play local media, I suggest getting a cheap Seagate media player or Patriot Box Office (often found for < $50 on the deal sites). I would never recommend transcoding and/or re-encoding of existing content.
    Reply
  • arswihart - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    Can't say I disagree, but if you have a Roku and you want to use it for local media, it is probably the best available solution, and it works great if you have your videos in the right format. You can automate the pre-transcoding by setting up Handbrake to convert every video file that shows up in a designated folder:
    http://forums.roku.com/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=36...
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    The specifics in that thread are for the previous generation Roku. Current generation doesn't support MKVs yet. But, yes, definitely a helpful link for users of the previous generation Rokus. Reply
  • AmdInside - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    I've owned the Roku2 and returned it simply because the OS is slow, especially if you try to launch a Netflix 1080p video. I really wanted to like it and sell my ATV2 but alas, this product while offering more features, just isn't as well polished as the ATV2. Reply
  • RamarC - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    I know a roku or dedicated streamer will be better overall, but is a good bluray with dlna a good alternative for most folks? Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    My belief is that any single device solution will always end up with a bad user experience in one department or the other. Good Blu-ray with DLNA will have bad experience with respect to local media playback. (Rudimentary DLNA profile support would imply that a majority of the user's media is rendered unsupported). Reply
  • Aditya369 - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    Considering both of them are available at similar price, How does it compare with revue. Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    Revue doesn't have the special gaming remote or 1080p/DD+5.1 Netflix , but it has a host of other features.. In the end, it is going to be horses for courses.. The device I would recommend depends on the end user's usage scenario. If 1080p/DD+5.1 Netflix and casual gaming are not in your radar (i.e, just ordinary 720p Netflix will cut it for you), there is no need go with the Roku 2. Reply
  • Aditya369 - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    Thanks for feedback. I do not have setup up for DD+5.1. Will it possible to do everything on revue browser (like on laptop). Can it will play all the video content on internet. Reply

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