Roku 2 debuts; it's now a game machine as well as a media streamer

Yesterday Roku announced a new line of media streamers called, appropriately enough, the Roku 2. The older models have apparently been retired. If you want one you'd better get to a retail outlet before they're sold out.

[Also see: Space Station Internet too slow for gaming and Nathan Fillion to gamers: You can beat 'swamp ass']

The new models are smaller, more energy efficient, have new features and cost the same as the old models. Once again we have 3 tiers:

  • $60 gets you the Roku 2 HD. This is the base model and outputs 720P. It's Wifi only - no ethernet jack.
  • $80 gets you the Roku 2 XD. This model bumps you up to 1080P output but is otherwise the same as the HD
  • $100 gets you the top of the line Roku 2 XS. You get the 1080P output of the XD, plus ethernet and USB ports and the new Enhanced Remote that will allow you to play games on the Roku

In its first step towards turning the Roku 2 into both a media streamer and a casual gaming device, the XS comes with Angry Birds pre-installed. (Is anyone else sick of seeing Angry Birds turn up everywhere?) The Enhanced Remote, which will soon be available separately for $30 and will work with any of the Roku 2 models, works as a motion controller for gaming. In a blog post CEO Anthony Wood said:

Between now and Christmas you’ll see the games selection on Roku grow dramatically. My goal is to grow Roku into a major low cost family oriented gaming platform, with games in the $5 range rather than $30 range. Just like Netflix is shaking up the video world, and Pandora is shaking up radio, Angry Birds and their friends are shaking up the gaming establishment. We’re trying to help as best we can.

Setting aside the gaming stuff, why would you upgrade? The main reason is probably for some Netflix enhancements. The new models offer 1080P streaming and sub-titles (where supported on Netflix). As far as I'm aware, only the Sony PS3 is currently offering these Netflix features, but I'm sure someone will correct me if I have that wrong. The Roku 2 is even smaller than the old system at only 3.3 x 3.3 x .9 inches. Now the bad news. The Roku 2 has left some connectivity options in the past. Optical audio, for instance, is gone, as are component video ports (the newly retired models supported component via an adapter cable; earlier models had component ports on-board). You've got the choice of composite video and analog audio via a mini-jack, or HDMI for digital audio and HD output. I've been a Roku user for a long time now, and although my Version 1.0 Roku player still works like a champ, the new models were too much for me to resist; I've already ordered a Roku 2 XS. I'll be doing a hands-on post after it arrives. (Here at the Technofile we pay our own way rather than report on freebies...mostly because no one offers us freebies!)

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