Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Roku steps up its game with the HD, XD and XDS

Earlier today, Roku updated its line of Internet set-top boxes with three new models: The Roku HD, XD and XDS. All three models are significantly smaller than the previous generation of Roku STBs, but the old Roku models weren't exactly huge.

The HD, priced at $59.95 (U.S.) has 720p HD with composite and HDMI video outputs and both wired Ethernet and wireless 802.11n WiFi interfaces. It uses the same remote control as previous Roku devices. The XD, priced at $79.95, has 1080p HD, but is otherwise identical to the HD. However, it comes with a new remote control with "instant replay" and "info" buttons. (More on that in a moment.)

Moving into the HD-XR's old $99.95 price slot its the XDS, which has 1080p video, composite, component and HDMI outputs, dual-band 802.11n (both 2.4 and 5 GHz) WiFi and a USB port for local playback of audio and video from a connected USB thumb or hard drive. Later this year, Roku says that it will offer a free software update for the XDS that will allow it to stream content from DLNA-compatible devices via the local network.

Like the XD, the XDS comes with the new remote control that has two additional buttons. The most important new button is "instant replay", which replays the previous 10 seconds of video every time the button is pushed, without requiring rebuffering.

Roku's new HD, at $59.95, is most comparable to the new Apple TV, which is also limited to 720p, and for most users, it's all they'll need. If you're serious about local media streaming, the XDS is the better choice than the XD. All three models are very competitive with Apple TV, and will remain so unless and until Apple adds more streaming content, and possibly apps, to Apple TV.
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