Until 2010, Roku was well served by NXP's lineup of IPTV STB chips. What prompted the move to Broadcom for the 2011 lineup? As evident from the end product, it is clear that Roku wanted an SoC capable of the following:

  1. Compliant H.264 decoder (Multi-format would be a plus)
  2. Ethernet / USB / SDIO support
  3. GPU for satisfactory casual gaming (such as Angry Birds)
  4. Low power consumption (to enable small form factor and cheap thermal solution)
  5. Low cost (to hit price points between $60 and $100 in retail)

Even before the Roku 2 units reached the public, FCC filings revealed that the Broadcom 2835 SoC was the app processor inside the streamer. Mike at MyCableAlternatives has an excellent teardown and description here. In the same article, there is also an educated guess about the specifications of the BCM 2835:

  1. 700 MHz ARM11
  2. OpenGL ES 2.0 compliant GPU
  3. 1080p30 H.264 High Profile Decode

The fact that the Ethernet and USB ports are both enabled by the SMSC LAN9152 (USB/Ethernet to USB bridge chip) indicate that the BCM 2835 doesn't have an Ethernet port. Unfortunately, not much else is known about the BCM 2835 because it is going to remain an unannounced part. Folks interested in keeping track of information about the BCM 2835 would do well to follow the Raspberry Pi project based on the same SoC. All in all, the main SoC is no great shakes, but it looks to be good enough for the Roku 2's limited media streaming requirements.

Like most big silicon companies, Broadcom makes their offerings attractive to companies by providing a package deal for the miscellaneous components in the final product. Let us take a look at the other components which Broadcom managed to snag in the Roku 2 XS:

  1. BCM 59002 Power Management IC
  2. BCM 20702 Bluetooth Receiver in the main unit
  3. BCM 20730 Bluetooth Transmitter in the gestural remote control
  4. BCM 4336 802.11n single chip solution

How good is the Broadcom solution? Does it get the job done effectively? We will cover these aspects in the rest of the review.

Unboxing and Setup Impressions Netflix Streaming


View All Comments

  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 1, 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 1, 2011 - link

    Yes, it has Amazon VoD... Reply
  • blahsaysblah - Saturday, October 1, 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.
  • ganeshts - Saturday, October 1, 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 3, 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 3, 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 3, 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 3, 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 3, 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:



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