Netgear Roku XD: Streaming for the Massesby Alan Lueke on November 12, 2010 12:30 PM EST
What You Get with the Roku XD
Netgear ships the Roku XD with a small no-frills remote, composite video cables, a brief manual… and that's it. Everything you need to get the device hooked up and running to an SD TV is included. The device can connect to your network via its RJ-45 Ethernet port or via the built-in wireless b/g/n adapter. If you want HD support and multi-channel audio, you will have to bring your own HDMI cable to the party.
The design is all about function rather than form. The remote is simple and black, without so much as text to let you know what the buttons do; instead, white images on black buttons is all you get. The box itself is a mere one inch tall and five inches wide and another six inches deep to make for an extremely unobtrusive footprint. While idling, my Roku XD used 3.8W of power; that "jumped" up to the 5.9W range while streaming an HD movie over Netflix. It's not as good as some other streamers we have looked at such as the Apple TV, but since we're not looking at a battery operated device 6W is hardly worth mentioning—it will raise the yearly electric bill by perhaps $5 if run 24/7.
Looking inside, I discovered the NXP PNX8935 SoC. This chip from NXP handles the latest HD video formats including H.264 and VC1/WM9 at resolutions of up to 1080p. It seems likely that the same chip powers all three Roku offerings, while the peripheral chips attached are likely varied—i.e. the USB controller, network chip, etc. Unfortunately, without the other two models on hand, I cannot comment on the exact differences at the hardware level. The picture below shows the general layout of PNX8935 SoC based systems.
The hardware should be more than sufficient for most streaming services; however, there isn't the sort of container format support you would expected from a local media streamer such as the Patriot Box Office or the WD TV Live. The primary goal of a box like this is streaming support, and while the XD/S adds USB support for local playback, the file and container support isn't anything to write home about compared to other streaming devices focused on local media.