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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  • isorashi - Tuesday, October 04, 2011 - link

    I only use it for Netflix in the bedroom, and for that it serves its purpose pretty well. I did get the XS model though, and was really disappointed that they yanked support for MKV containers. When I ordered it, I actually checked that it supported matroska, but when it arrived days later I discovered that the information I had read was out-of-date. They actually had supported formats listed in two different locations on their site, and I just happened to look at the old one. :-/

    I tend to rip dvds to a format that my ps3 supports, and the roku plays those back perfectly fine. However, I was planning on watching fan-subbed anime using the roku, but the lack of MKV support blew that plan out of the water.
    Reply
  • Aditya369 - Tuesday, October 04, 2011 - link

    Any idea, when youtube is coming back to roku2. Reply
  • richardevans - Tuesday, January 03, 2012 - link

    I have two Roku SMP's. All you have to do is scroll down the page to where it states something like skip this step and away you go. It's small (intentionally) but it is there. Or you can call customer service and they will set up an account for you without a credit card. I've never had a problem setting up my boxes and my new Roku 2 XS is my third Roku. It's a great player that in simple terms 'just works.' I tried out the new WDTV and the latest Sony just recently and they both failed that test. The WDTV had too many issues to list and the Sony wouldn't remember my network from day to day. The Roku has an open SDK so many developers are working on it. Bugs get fixed in short order nad new channels are added. Don't let the CC issue deter you from a great streaming media player. Reply

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