Roku 2 XS review

8 Mar 2012

A mixed bag of a product that works well in some ways, poorly in others and is just a little too expensive

Price when reviewed: 
100(£100 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
3

Media streamers are ten a penny these days, so it was nice to see something a little different turn up in the PC Pro offices. That little something is the Roku 2 XS, and, next to the dinky Apple TV, it ranks as one of the most appealing device of its type on the market.

Fitting in the palm of one hand, the Roku measures a mere 84 x 23 x 84mm (WDH) and yet still manages to cram a host of connections around its edges. On the rear is an HDMI output, which supports 720p, 1080p, and SD resolution output.

Roku 2 XS

There’s an AV out socket that pipes out a composite signal and stereo audio to older TVs, an Ethernet socket for network connection to go with the wireless adapter inside, plus a microSD slot for game and extra channel storage, plus a USB socket for local file streaming from NTFS, FAT32 and HFS+ formatted devices.

Roku 2 XS - rear

It looks well equipped, but the Roku is not a streamer in the traditional sense. It can’t be used for playing files from NAS devices or your media library on a laptop or PC. Instead, it’s mainly intended for streaming TV shows and films from a variety of internet services.

The most notable of these are Netflix, TuneIn Radio and the BBC iPlayer service, the former and latter of which include HD programming. There’s also support for a selection of social network sites, such as Facebook and Flickr for photo and video streaming. And, once you’ve signed up with Roku for an account, you can pop off to the store and download a selection of other channels.

Roku 2 XS

There’s even a choice of games, with Rovio’s ubiquitous Angry Birds bundled with the device; the XS also comes with an IR/RF, motion-sensing Wii-style remote to control affairs. The games themselves – priced generally below £3 – are more smartphone than console classic, though.

There are some caveats. When we tested there was no YouTube, 4OD, ITV player nor DemandFive. Performance was mixed. The front-end and most of the streaming services worked perfectly and both HD and SD video streams across all services was glitch free.

But the BBC iPlayer front-end was sluggish to load and use, and crashed the first few times we tried to watch programs. Although the stability issue seemed to go away during testing, the sluggishness persisted. Angry Birds, meanwhile, was perfectly playable but not 100% smooth.

Roku 2 XS

Finally, playback from local media isn’t wide-ranging in terms of file format support. It’ll play MP4 and MKV H.264 files, AAC and MP3 audio and will display JPG and PNG photo files, but that’s your lot.

It’ll pass multichannel audio through the HDMI output to an external receiver, but it won’t downmix it to stereo. And browsing USB drives stuffed with content is a pain as the box scans for items every time the USB menu is opened.

All-in-all, we’re a little disappointed with the Roku 2 XS. It promises much, but fails deliver in too many areas, not least in terms of UK content. You can’t use it to play over the network, the local playback capability feels token, and £100 is a tad too pricey. If the concept does appeal, however, the Roku 2 LT (with no gaming remote and a maximum resolution of 720p) would seem a more reasonable purchase.

Details

Price ex VAT £83
Price inc VAT £100
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 2

Display

Resolution 1920 x 1080

Physical

Dimensions width 84
Dimensions depth 84
Dimensions height 23
Dimensions 84 x 84 x 23mm (WDH)

Audio format support

MP3 support yes
WMA support no
AAC support yes
OGG support no
FLAC support no
ATRAC support no
WAV support no
ASF support no
AIFF support no

Video format support

DivX support no
XviD support no
H.264 support yes
WMV-HD support no
WMV support no
AVI support no
MP4 support yes

Ports and communications

Remote control? yes
UPnP media server? no
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Ethernet interface yes
Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
RCA (phono) outputs 1
3.5mm audio jacks 1
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0

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