Thanks to the FCC leaks, we all knew Roku 2 is coming, but we weren’t sure about its capabilities. Today, Roku made Roku 2 official and here are the details: There are still three models similar with the previous product line called Roku 2 HD for $59 that still keeps the same 720p HD limit (it is 2011, Roku, why to you have to artificially add this limit?), Roku 2 XD selling for $79 that upgrades the resolution to the max 1080p and ultimately, Roku 2 XS selling at $99 price point and adds Ethernet and USB ports.
Beside streaming media, Roku figured out the consumer also want some gaming capabilities ($5 range), so they included a 3D capable GPU that should enable some decent gaming, including Angry Birds available at launch (free if you buy Roku 2 XS). There is also a new Bluetooth remote - Wii style announced that should enable users to interact in a modern way with their new toy. It does come with a hand wrist strap so you won’t put your TV in danger.
While all the models have Bluetooth capability, only the most expensive Roku 2 XS will include the remote in the box, for the other models it is an expensive $29 add on. The message is clear – if you want some games, get the Roku 2 XS and don’t even bother to look at the other models.
With the last comment, we do have a question though: Why the heck did Roku include Ethernet connectivity only for its most expensive model? It used to be the other way around…Unless, of course is a market ploy by the company to entice you to buy the most expensive model, the only one that really worth the money in my opinion. The other models are unnecessarily crippled.
Gaming aside, Roku 2 is first and foremost a streaming box. There are new available channels including Fox news and AOL HD as well as Facebook support – photos, videos, comments and at some point, the long awaited YouTube channel will also make it officially to their box (Hint, you can get it as a private channel). Netflix subtitles support will also arrive.
Our take: Roku 2 sounds like a solid product, but get the XS model for reasonable functionality. Also, their gaming intentions could be in serious jeopardy if when Google TV 2 comes around and if Apple TV gets apps. We also hoped to hear something about better local media support or DLNA compatibility, but Roku was quiet on both fronts. We’ll get a box to review, but our advice: wait a few months to see what the competition is cooking.
Our wishes: Fix that darn slow Hulu Plus app for existing models / ensure it works properly in the new ones. Add the additional channels to the current line, don’t limit them artificially. We get you don’t want to play 1080p MKVs, but at least give us DLNA so we transcode them as we see fit.