There is no doubt that Roku is in an interesting time — the upstart device company owns the cheap n easy Netflix streaming market since the beginning, and over time, its platform has added channels like Amazon Video on Demand, MLB.tv, UFC, and many Nevertheless, cheap and simple aren’t enough anymore, especially since the $99 Apple TV is set to launch just a few weeks from now — and Roku, which has slashed its prices across the board already, is following up with some promising updates. Roku HD offers basic 720p functionality for $59, Roku XD offers 1080p if you pay $79, and Roku XDS (our review sample) offers 1080p, USB input, optical output, and dual-band WiFi for $99 . XDS is instantly noteworthy because it offers features that Apple’s TV doesn’t. Apart from the new case, the HD and XD are extremely similar to Roku’s previous offerings, but XDS has specific features that Apple’s TV lacks. Has the newest flagship Roku got what it takes to continue to be our favorite cheap streaming device? You’ll find out in the next few paragraphs!
With the same plastic case as the previous generation, all three Roku players look and function essentially the same. The new model is much thinner than the previous ones, and extremely small in general, being less than two CD cases in height and a little narrower in width. The streaming-only HD and XD models contain HDMI and composite outputs, but the XDS is far more flexible, with HDMI, composite, component, and optical audio ports along the back, an HDMI port along the side, and a USB port on the side. and XD use the older Roku remote, while the XDS and XD sports a new clicker with instant replay and information buttons on the side. In addition to a purple cloth Roku tab on the remote, we really like the fact that it serves as both a battery door pull and a Roku remote.
As far as software is concerned, the experience is almost identical The interface is intuitive and flexible at the same time. In spite of the 1080p playback support, the menus and most of the channels are still 720p, regardless of which display preferences you set up. They only output 1080p when you play 1080p media, regardless of which display preferences you set up. Since Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand do not offer any higher-res content, they are still showing in 720p. Some channels, such as Vimeo, do offer We would be remiss if we neglected to mention that the Xbox 360 offers instant-on Zune video rentals in 1080p — Roku doesn’t have the content and its boxes are less expensive, but it’s something to consider if you’re shopping around. Here are some other things to consider Additionally, Roku owners will also have access to 99-cent TV shows from Amazon – and this will be the purchase price, not the rental price as with As proud as Roku is of its Channel Store, which includes over 75 channels from services like Facebook, Pandora, Last.fm, MLB.tv, and more, installing almost every single one of them involves signing in to the related service on your computer and linking the Roku player to it. It is inconvenient, and it gets old quickly after you have installed your fourth or fifth channel. Just typing in login information with the on-screen keyboard and remote would be much simpler than hitting the web The Roku XDS experience is the same as it has always been once you get over that initial setup hurdle. If you’ve had a Roku before, you won’t find much of a surprise here, but we did detect some lagginess compared to our Roku HD-XR while testing — but when we switched to a more conventional usage pattern, things were quite responsive.
Although we were able to get it to work regularly, there was also a lot of bugginess, glitching, and general jerkiness. still has some work to do on support of formats, since right now, only MPEG-4 videos and MP3 audio can be played, as well as images in JPG and PNG formats. On our XDS, the USB playback channel was just in private beta, so we’ll have to check back when the final version is released, but if Roku can fix the issues and improve format support, it could become an even more appealing quick ‘n’ dirty option. According to Roku, it will add support for DLNA streaming in the future. With devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Droid X, and LG Optimus Windows Phone 7 handset out or on their way to market, it may provide an Roku did not provide us with any DLNA testing because the feature is not currently available the potential is there, but it still has to be delivered.
There you have it, the Roku XDS. It is similar to the Roku Player, the Roku HD Player, and even the Roku HD-XR before it, however, it does have a smaller case and there are some additional functions. The $99 Apple TV is destined to become the next great iPhone / iPad accessory, and there’s no reason why Roku’s players can’t serve a similar function for Android and Windows Phone 7 users (and really, for all DLNA-enabled mobile devices). Obviously, we would like to see some more local playback options for that USB port and some more 1080p streaming content – since the HD only supports 1080p streaming, the XDS does not necessarily justify a 20 percent premium over the XD. There are a few things we can hope for, and we have confidence that Roku can continue to perform as it has in the past. Roku reports that its goal is to sell three of its boxes to every household, which translates to one box per TV. Despite being an ambitious goal, the company is not out of reach — especially since its latest generation of players introduces new features and lower prices that bolster the already appealing formula. The Roku XDS still needs some work and more content partnerships to be made — add Hulu support and it’s game over — but if you need an HD streamer, the Roku HD might be worth a look, too.