The Roku 2 box is very clear on what it supports:

  • H.264 (MP4, MOV and MKV containers)
  • WMV9 (ASF, WMV)
  • MP3
  • AAC
  • AC3 (MP4, MKV, MOV passthrough)
  • DTS (MKV passthrough)
  • JPG
  • PNG

Given the above list, I loaded up our latest test suite on an NTFS formatted USB3 SSD, expecting to spend some time evaluating the local media playback capabilities. The Roku USB Media Player channel was installed and the USB drive was promptly recognized. Out of curiousity, I went to the Help section. As of firmware version 4.1 build 1275, the supported file types dialog box only listed the following:

  • MP4 (H.264)
  • AAC, MP3
  • PNG, JPG
  • AC3 passthrough in MP4s

Out of our 57 test streams, only 3 streams were recognized. The first one was an MP4 file with H.264 video and AAC audio. Selecting the video resulted in a blank screen. The SoC just couldn't support the 9 reference frame L 5.0 H.264 clip. Kudos to Roku for not crashing the box. The second one was actually a 240p M4V extension file, and it played back without any issues. The third file to be recognized was a 1080p60 MP4 file from a Sanyo camcorder. The clip played back without any artifacting, but it seemed to drop every alternate frame, and the panning appeared very staggered. I believe that the SoC supports only upto 1080p30 video, and Roku must be appreciated for trying to decode the video at that frame rate.

Considering the above test results, I can only say that the Roku 2 XS is almost useless for local media playback. I have seen people solve these type of media compatibility issues in two ways. The first one is to try to re-encode the content to fit in with the players' restrictions. Unfortunately, my opinion is that it is often better in terms of time and money to just invest in a different player that doesn't force you to re-encode your existing content.

Many devices with restrictive file format / codec compatibility make up for their shortcomings by advertising DLNA certifications. Roku 2, unfortunately, is not DLNA certified also. (The fact that DLNA is cause for many a consumer's disappointment is a story for another day.) However, for users running the Plex Media Server on their PCs, a private channel (Plex) can be used to play back the media. Roku 2 seems to require a specific fix in the server program. I didn't have much luck with this app with respect to the few random MKVs and AVIs that I tried, but users seem to be reporting a little bit of success in the above linked thread. That said, the media server needs to transcode to H.264 for the Roku 2 to understand the stream.

Personally, I think it is best if all media files reside on a low power NAS / file server. Transcoding is an overhead that is best avoided. There are a number of cheap local media streamers that get the job done better than the Roku 2 when it comes to playback without transcoding.

Users on AVSForum have also complained about wrong color levels being output (0 - 255 instead of 16 - 235). Roku has acknowledged this issue and promised a fix in the next firmware release.

Miscellaneous Channels Final Words
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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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