Hands On With Roku’s New HD-XR Internet Video Player

By  |  Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 5:30 am


Roku’s little video player is one of my favorite ways to get movies and TV shows off the Internet and onto a TV: It’s cheap, inconspicuous, and ridiculously easy to set up and use. And the content providers–Netflix, Amazon, and Major League Baseball–make for a nice lineup of entertainment.

Today, Roku is announcing that its lineup of players is expanding from one box to three. Don’t get too excited–the boxes all look the same, have the same remote, and are more similar than different in terms of features. But the new top of the Roku line is the Roku HD-XR, a $129.99 version with 802.11n Wi-Fi  for better performance and range (the previous model maxed out at 802.11g). The HD-XR also has a USB port for unspecified future use.

Roku lent me an HD-XR box to try. Here at Technologizer World Headquarters, it did indeed deliver better wireless video than the original Roku–as long as nothing else terribly heavy-duty was going on over my broadband connection, I was able to stream high-def video wirelessly and reliably. That’s an improvement on the first box, which works reasonably well but hiccups occasionally even when streaming standard definition programming.

The new Roku did, however, get bogged down when it had to compete for network bandwidth–such as when I watched YouTube on my laptop, or copied files from one machine to another. If you’re able to use the player’s Ethernet port rather than depend on wireless, it’s still the best option. (I sometimes use powerline networking for this purpose.)

The existing Roku player is sticking around, under the new name of the Roku HD; it’s still $99.99. The company’s also releasing a stripped-down model called the Roku SD–it only has composite output and therefore can’t do high definition at all. It’s $79.99, but I’d spring for the HD model (or the HD-XR one) unless you’re absolutely positive you’ll never own an HDTV. (And if you are, I’m surprised you’re reading this.)

Roku tells me that it’ll have news soon about additional channels of content that it’ll offer to folks who own its boxes; if it’s good stuff, it could be at least as exciting as today’s hardware developments. And my colleague and fellow Roku fan Dave Zatz’s list of five ideas to improve the company’s players remains unfulfilled. Here’s hoping that Roku implements at least some of Dave’s proposals…




3 Comments For This Post

  1. Martin Brandt Says:

    I use powerline networking to connect my Roku box to the router, and it works GREAT! I wasn’t having luck with a wireless connection, and so I decided to try out some HomePlug AV powerline adapters. (This version of the HomePlug standard has higher speeds for streaming video.) Now, I don’t have any of the glitches that I got with wireless. There are lots of HomePlug AV adapters out there. The ones I’m using are from a company called Plaster Networks.

  2. janette au Says:

    the roku sucks como reducir el colesterol

  3. Tim Turner Says:

    Thats great i can stream game of thrones on my hdtv now.

10 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. First Look: Roku Adds a Channel Store | Technologizer Says:

    […] Roku executives told me that they expect a lot more channels to come online quickly, although for now they’ll all be approved by Roku (and there’s stuff the company won’t approve on grounds of taste). The initial lineup of channels is certainly enough to whet my appetite for what’s to come; in particular, the addition of Pandora instantly broadens the Roku box’s appeal. (The channel store will be available on all three Roku variants: the $129.99 Roku HD-XR (with Wireless-N connectivity), the $99,99 Roku HD, and the $79.99 Roku SD. […]

  2. The First Flip That Isn’t a Camcorder | Technologizer Says:

    […] I’d also love to think that we’ll see features similar to the FlipShare’s capabilities show up on boxes that some of us already have attached to our TVs, such as TiVos and Rokus. […]

  3. Okay, Is Now the Time to Dump Cable TV? Says:

    […] I cut the cable and give up TiVo, what should I replace them with? I’m still not sure. I like Roku. I own an Apple TV that I don’t use much but would probably enjoy if I made an effort to […]

  4. TiVo Series 5: What Should Be Says:

    […] ahead of the curve by introducing an Internet-only TiVo–one that competes with devices like Roku and the Boxee Box, but with the familiar TiVo interface and […]

  5. Roku Launches New Netflix, More Says:

    […] TV over the past week, one question has come up repeatedly: What does this mean for Roku? The inexpensive little box is currently one of the simplest, most effective ways to get Internet video onto an HDTV, and […]

  6. In (Reluctant) Defense of Cable TV Says:

    […] I haven’t done it. In our household, we’re heavy watchers of Netflix on Demand via a Roku box. We also watch Hulu and occasionally partake of movies and TV on iTunes and Amazon on Demand. But […]

  7. Roku’s Preemptive Price Cuts Says:

    […] Roku boxes were already pleasing products at good prices; now they’re an even better deal. Would buy one? Well, I did get one last month, as a […]

  8. Ten Random Questions About Apple’s Music Event Says:

    […] the new Apple TV, though-at best, it looks like a nice rival to the very similar device known as Roku. (Google TV, which is designed to play all the video on the Web, looks more inventive.) Still, with […]

  9. Ten Random Questions About Apple’s Music Event « gamestopmafia.com Says:

    […] the new Apple TV, though-at best, it looks like a nice rival to the very similar device known as Roku. (Google TV, which is designed to play all the video on the Web, looks more inventive.) Still, with […]

  10. Google TV vs. Apple TV: It May be War, But They’re Nothing Alike Says:

    […] be a breakthrough. In terms of both broad concept and specific features, it’s very similar to Roku’s already-available, already-pleasing player. Apple’s challenge is to do what Roku has done even better, and to make it far more broadly […]