Roku 2 XS Review : Streaming Videos and Casual Gaming on the Big Screenby Ganesh T S on September 30, 2011 11:59 AM EST
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.