We have reached the business end of the review. The previous sections presented the various aspects of the Roku 2 XS. For power consumption measurements, we connected the Roku 2 XS to a WattsUp Pro power meter. Netflix streaming consumed 2.4W on an average. At idle, the unit consumed 2W of power. At no point in time did we observe the unit getting unduly hot. In fact, after an hour or so of Netflix playback, the maximum chassis temperature we recorded was only 45C (ambient at 25C).

Roku has tried to ape the Apple TV 2 with its industrial design and power consumption profile. Although the ATV2's many restrictions might work for Apple users in their walled garden, does it work for Roku here? In many reviews, we have noted that there are no bad products, only bad prices. As long as the prospective customer understands what he is getting (a very good VoD player for subscription services with Angry Birds on the TV, and the promise of more paid games to come), and is comfortable with the price he is paying for it, there should be no issues. Roku stands alone as the only low power media streamer with both 1080p and DD+ 5.1 capabilities in the Netflix app. Until other streamers get this capability, Roku 2 XS will remain a unique and recommendable product (again, I stress, if the differentiating factors are things that the end user cares about). Angry Birds is also a welcome app for which the Roku 2 probably has the best non-touchscreen experience one can get.

We have covered the positives in the above two paragraphs. Unfortunately, everything else about the product is disappointing. Roku did away with the 5GHz wireless support, and 2.4GHz is a crowded spectrum for a large number of users. Wired networking is supported only in the Roku 2 XS (the highest end model). Some of the popular streaming services like Vudu and YouTube aren't officially available yet on the Roku 2.

One gets the feeling from looking at the platform that Roku fell prey to Broadcom's bundling tactics and ended up with a sub-par core SoC in the 2835. That SoC might be suitable for the charitable low cost devices that RaspberryPi is aiming for, but it is hardly what consumers expect in their media streamer. The fact that a Roku LT model has turned up at the FCC and is expected to cost less than the Roku 2 HD speaks volumes of the low cost of the core SoC. With low cost comes the lack of features, and what we end up with is a media streamer that works well only within limited parameters. Take it out of the comfort zone (like, say, venture into local media playback as specified on the box, or even look up one of your favorite channels that used to play well in the previous generation Roku), and you are bound to be disappointed.

While the Apple TV 2's form factor and power profile can be justified by it being part of a wider ecosystem, there is absolutely no need for Roku to have adopted that strategy in their streamer. We definitely would not have minded if Roku had built upon the specifications of their previous generation product instead of starting afresh. Unfortunately, the SoC capabilities are a step back from the original, making this less a story of progress and more a story of change.

Local Streaming
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  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 01, 2011 - link

    No, not really.. there are lots of limitations wrt the browser in the Revue and it is not a very great experience. I would suggest just using a laptop for your purpose (maybe a old one repurposed as HTPC, or just build a HTPC -- it is very easy to get satisfied wrt online media with HTPCs.. It is codec configuration which is the most difficult part of the HTPC experience) Reply
  • danjw - Friday, September 30, 2011 - link

    I know the last generation of Roku worked with Amazon Prime, does this one? I have been using my current Roku for that. Reply
  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 01, 2011 - link

    Yes, it has Amazon VoD... Reply
  • blahsaysblah - Saturday, October 01, 2011 - link

    You're all missing the biggest downside of Roku. You should read the EULA. The fine print says they collect and use your viewing habits. They see everything you watch in Netflix,...

    I got the Roku XD when it first came out. Then some random article pointed that out... Threw it in the trash after i verified it myself.

    Thats why its so cheap. They make money off selling your viewing habits. Good thing the new version enforces linking a credit card to the box.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 01, 2011 - link

    :) I saw that myself in the Wireshark traces (they even reach out to their servers when you start playing Angry Birds).. Then, I realized there are no popular online streamers which don't do that.. Boxee Box does something similar too.. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    if SoC's cost so little ($25) why do smartphones still cost $400? all they add is a screen, single-cell battery and some NAND. Reply
  • Cali3350 - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    Well, the Screen, battery and NAND (and much more ram) easily cost into the hundreds. Add the Radio, camera et all and you add up. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    This SoC was probably built for the sub-$100 'smartphones' for the developing markets (it has only ARM11 as the main processor, while the $400 smartphones probably have Cortex-A8 or Cortex-A9s). Since Mediatek and other Taiwanese companies have the sub-$100 smartphone market covered, Broadcom probably had to shop this SoC around for other applications like the Roku 2.. Broadcom PR wasn't very forthcoming with info about this SoC.. Reply
  • Bownce - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    How's it compare to "WD TV Live +"? i've concluded that WD doesn't put enough advertising dollars into the review stream since it seems to be ignored in spite of supporting so many different file formats for local/LAN streaming. No on-line gaming, but the media formats it supports without transcoding still seems to dwarf other options. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, October 03, 2011 - link

    WDTV Live + is very good, except for some minor issues with DTS-HD audio streams (no bitstreaming) and some splitter bugs. We covered it in these review pieces:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3830/wd-tv-live-plus...

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3990/western-digital...
    Reply

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