Sunday, January 3, 2010

Roku HD-XR Player
Price: $129.99 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping. Details
By Andrea L. Polk (Southern Oregon) - See all my reviews
First let me say I own a Roku and LOVE it! NetFlix and Roku are a marriage made in heaven as far as I'm concerned, and they are saving me tons of money and treks to the video store. The picture, ease of use, wireless capabilities, quality of video content... everything is great!

But as a consumer it's important to understand the differences between the 3 Roku offerings so you can make an informed decision on your purchase. It does seem odd that Roku has simply not put out one device at one price for everyone with all the bells and whistles, but for now, you have to choose one... based upon your needs and budget.

Roku HD Player is capable of wired or wireless hook-up, but not at the fastest speed available from a 'N' wireless network. HD content streams to this device flawlessly (if the content is available and your home network is sending a proper signal), despite not being 'N' network ready.

That being said, Roku came out with Roku HD-XR Player which WILL stream the fastest 'N' network standard, provided the rest of your home network is also working with the same standard. That being said, this device is not at all necessary if you don't have all the devices on your home network using the 'N' standard, because the speed will only go as fast as the device with the slowest connection which is probably the 'B or G' standard.

The third device is available on Roku's website. Roku SD, which streams in standard definition, will not stream HD content, isn't capable of surround sound audio like the other two and does not have a HDMI connection. It only supports the red/yellow/white (composite video and audio) connections, but it will connect wirelessly or can be hardwired to the internet, working on a 'B or G' network. The Roku SD is about twenty bucks less than the Roku HD and , so again, consider your needs before buying. **Anyone with a standard def TV and who doesn't plan to upgrade to an HDTV with HDMI ports any time soon, would probably want this version.

The Roku HD-XR Player is a jump up from the HD model in wireless capabilities. All the Roku offerings will give you years of enjoyment by boosting your NetFlix subscription, streaming Amazon On Demand media and boosting your viewing library. What the HD-XR has that the others don't: 'N' network capabilities and 1 USB port for firmware upgrades and possibly, other media hook-ups via USB, but at this time Roku doesn't even bring up the USB on their website so I tend to wonder about this being a selling point. Is it worth the extra cost? Only you know the answer to that question.

The quality of the streaming video on my 'G' network is perfect; standard and HD content, via my Roku HD, but since I don't have a 'N' network, nor do I expect I will in the near future, I saved myself a bit of money and didn't buy this one.

The only reason I give this product 4 versus 5 stars is because of the price bump for the ability to use an 'N' wireless network when frankly I believe it should be considered a standard feature, not an extra. The USB port, whatever it's used for, should also be standard on all models. Again, it would be wonderful to have one Roku with all the potential connections and wireless ability, and perhaps in the future there will be, but for now you need to consider these three: Roku SD, Roku HD and Roku HD-XR.

To may your own informed choice, evaluate your needs and buy accordingly. While the Roku products are not media storage devices or DVR's, they can give you a tremendous boost in your enjoyment of NetFlix and expand your viewing library.

*Note the USB port isn't even listed as a feature.

Wi-Fi (802.11N/B/G "dual-band") with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 support
10/100 Ethernet (RJ-45)
Video Outputs
Composite video (480i)
S-Video (480i)
Component video (Y/Pb/Pr - 720p/480p)
HDMI (720p/480p)
Video Modes
16:9 High Definition (HD)
16:9 anamorphic
4:3 standard
Audio Output
Stereo (L/R RCA)
Digital Optical (Toslink - Stereo/Surround)
Digital over HDMI (Stereo/Surround)
Remote Control
NEC protocol, supported by various universal remotes
Power Input
5V, 2.5A provided by included AC adapter
Power Consumption
6 watts peak, 4 watts in standby
5 x 5 x 1.75 inches (130 x 130 x 41 mm)
11 oz (300 grams)
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88 of 91 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll have to read this to believe it, December 3, 2009
By R. L. Hodges (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Roku HD-XR is fantastic. Even if you only have Wirless-G, what you see on screen still looks like a million bucks, and is truly HD, even if you have na HD TV or not. It's only actually 720P, and not 1080p, but unless you're using a large TV over 32", you'd never even notice anyway. Regardless, it still looks fantastic.

Before I gush over the features, however, I MUST tell you about the experience I had with getting it connected:

First, it took less than 5 minutes to pull it out of the box to watching movies on NetFlix. It's astonishingly no-brainer, and I'm dead serious when I say that. If you also have an internet-connected wireless laptop sitting in your lap during setup, drop the out-of-the-box-to-watching-movies time to 3 minutes.

Now this is where this little device knocked my socks off: I'm a computer network engineer, and I do not have a simple wireless internet setup in my house. I have a very complex enterprise network set up, consisting of servers and workstations, cabled and wireless, and connecting wirelessly to my network insfrastructure is required to make use of my internet proxy server. This is just like the same setup you find in corporate offices.

So to make a long story short, I was worried that the Roku would not be able to make use of my complex internet proxy server for internet access and that I'd have to return it. I thought the box would be to "dumb", or would not have the required configuration menus to make use of such complex networking architecture. If you know what internet proxy servers are, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Imagine my surprise when I entered my network wireless security information (so it could connect to SOMETHING at least), when it also automatically found my proxy server and AUTOMATICALLY CONFIGURED ITSELF to make use of it. All 3 of the Roku's on-screen indicators all lit up green and BAM! - I was punching right into our NetFlix queue, our queued movies already waiting to be watched. WOW! And I mean WOW!!! This little gizmo has the ability to hunt down proxy servers on local area networks and make use of them AUTOMATICALLY without further configuration! Did I say WOW!!!!???

Oh, and by the way: My wireless network is pumped through a Wireless-G LinkSys Access Point (WAP), which is what the Roku is talking to for connection t my network. And it works GREAT. So for the reviewer who said that it won't talk through LinkSys hardware - sorry, not true.

VERY happy with this device. Embarrassingly close to euphoric, in fact, simply because of it's configuration and connectivity capabilities alone! The fact that it connected so quickly and so incredibly on my network is reason enough for me to own this thing. Let alone how cool it is to actually use, watch and enjoy, the very reason you get one in the first place!

However, I simply must also add these additional review details:

The box itself is very small, the size of a small jewelry box, and blended right in with my home theater system. It's even pleasing to the eye to some degree, not the typical mess of cables you'd expect. It takes up virtually no shelf space and only has two cables connected to it if you're using wireless and HDMI: the HDMI cable itself and the power cord. That's it. The remote control itself is VERY small, be careful, it will slip down between couch cusions VERY easily. But it's very nice looking and very stupid-simple to operate, having only a few buttons for menu and playback control. The simplicity of the thing is so beautiful compared to the typical "slap a million buttons on it for cool factor" we're inundated with these days that I'm darned close to taking the thing out to dinner and a movie.

The device is extremely simple to use, no tech savvy-ness required. You will absolutely LOVE the simplicity of it. It is so amazingly simple that I'm going to risk sounding like an idiot by calling it an engineering masterpiece. And trust me when I say that I know technology. As much as I like to go full-blown geek on most things, this device is so refreshingly simple that I'm surprised at such a device can be so simple. I'm also surprised at myself for being so thrilled with it.

The included directions that come with it are incredibly simple. However, the device is so simple to hook up and use, I'd offer that the included quick-start instructions aren't even necessary.

My Roku is hooked up to a 52" Samsung HDTV at 1080p. The picture quality of the streamed content over the Roku is very impressive for a 720P device streaming compressed internet media content. Please understand that compression is required for internet streaming, and that you will notice some fuzz in the picture, especially if you have a big HDTV. That's the nature of internt streaming, and is not because of any shortcoming of the Roku product itself.

Even though the Roku has true HD mode, do not expect crystal clear "HD" content - remember, this device hooks up to ANY TV, not just HD. Imagine slightly better quality regualr TV on a giant screen. That's how it is watching a Roku on an HDTV, especially a big one, even with the Roku's HD display feature enabled. The menus are crystal clear in HD - the actual streaming media content you'll be watching will not be, it's like watching slightly enhanced regualr TV, at least on large TVs. On smaller TVs, 32" and smaller, it will look fantastic.

And the question many of you are wodnering: What if you will be using the Roku simultaneously with other computes or devices in your home on the same internet conenction? Simple: use common sense. You'll have no problems if all you're doing is email and web browsing while watching thigns on the Roku box. Online gaming and downloading giant files, however, might cause the Roku to kick picture quality down or pause for buffering or even stop it dead in its tracks altogether. I have had no problems whatsoever so far, but I make sure to keep computer use to "light duty" while watching content over the Roku. Use a little common sense and you'll have no problems. Surprisingly, it does a lot better than I thought it would.

Critical: for wireless use, the Roku needs to be at Wireless-G or higher. If you have a PDA or older laptop that only does Wireless-A or B, and your internet router is in mixed mode (allows A, B, G and N), most wireless routers/access points will kick down in speed to match the slowest device talking to it. This will basically stop the Roku dead in its tracks by pretty much dropping it's access to the itnernet down to virtually nothing. Don't use old slow wireless-A/B products if you're using your Roku wirelessly.

The most economical entertainment under the sun: NetFlix is only $10 a month, but you must understand that the Roku will only play the movies that NetFlix has made available in their "watch now" category, and that category really isn't all that impressive. Most NetFlix titles are still DVD-by-mail-only, so their entire catolog is not available to the Roku player. However, Amazon's On-Demand service, though it is pay-per-view and much more expensive at 1-3$ per movie viewing, has over 45,000 titles you can watch immediately on the Roku. Either way you go, this is an incredible entertainment system. As for me personally, we're subscribed to NetFlix and watch the occasional Amazon On-Demand title when a new release comes out we want to see. All total, we're probably spending no more than $20 a month to watch what we want to watch and when we want to watch it. This is at about 25-30% of a normal cable bill, and all while providing convenience, content and flexibility that cable or satellite can't even (currently) dream of. You just can't beat it.

This is how all cable and satellite service content will eventually be delivered. Until then, you get it all right now with the Roku.

And if you don't have Wireless-N in your home yet, and you're thinking about saving $10 and getting the lesser model, just get this one - you're going to soon have Wireless-N in your home anyway, so get it right the first time. Otherwise you'll just end up buying this model later anyway.

Also, this Roku box, when first plugged in, will download an update and then reboot itself. Afterwards, you will see the main menu for the first time and be pleasantly surprised to find that not only are NetFlix and Amazon On-Demand available to the Roku, but also several other music and video streaming services, such as Pandora, a NBL (baseball) streaming service, and several other trial services.

All "surprises" with this box were pleasant, no bad experiences, failures or complaints whatsoever.

I want to finish this review with the following statement: This by far - dead serious - the best $130 I have ever spent in my life. Bang for buck, I have never seen anything provide such incredible high-quality entertainment in such a well-engineered way in such an attractive, small, easy-to-use package. If you ever wanted to see magic in a little box, thsi is the product. Not often you get to see cool things like this come along, but here's a real winner of an example.

"Roku" is misnamed. It should be "Kudos".
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A great new toy, November 19, 2009
By AK (Kentucky) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I am really enjoying my new Roku XR. The setup was extremely easy and intuitive. I am running the ROKU XR wirelessly off of an N-Router (Trendnet 633) located on the other side of the house. I am getting "4 dots and HD" (best quality) with no interuptions in play.

My only complaint is that I have to go to Netflix and enter movies I want to watch on the Netflix Instant Queue before the Roku XR will play the movie. So basically, I have to go to my computer, find my TV shows or movies, enter them into the Instant Queue on the computer then goto the ROKU and my selections will be available to watch. I really wish I could scan for movies and shows thru the ROKU.

Other than that, the setup and playback quality is excellent using HDMI. Recommended :)

1 comment:

austin said...

The Roku HD XR Player looks like a tiny black box.Network facility and USB features of these set box is fantastic.This is informative information.