motion-based wireless Bluetooth remote control.
While some other streaming media companies—yes, you Netflix—have recently made changes that have raised prices for many consumers, Roku just revamped its entire three-model settop box lineup without upping the cost of the devices.
The new streaming players, which wear the Roku 2 banner, also get some new games, including support for the popular—and addictive—Angry Birds, plus access to Facebook and movies from Epix HD, as well as some Netflix enhancements. The new streaming-media boxes—which look a lot like the Apple TV players—are smaller and sleeker than previous-generation models, a design the company claims is more energy efficient.
Three models will be offered in a good-better-best configuration, and all include built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (for use with a game remote), HDMI and composite video outputs, and a MicroSD slot that lets you beef up storage for games. They also include enhancements to Netflix, including support for subtitles, Dolby Digital Plus sound, and on two models, 1080p video.
In its press release, the company says all three Roku boxes can tap into about 300 "channels," including movies and TV shows from Amazon Instant Video, Epix, Hulu Plus, Netflix and Crackle, and music from Pandora, MOG, and Rdio Internet radio. (See: Our guide to online streaming services.
Angry Birds is the only game currently available for the players, but the company says that adding more games is a priority going forward.
High-def video support is what separate the entry-level Roku 2 HD player ($60), which is limited to 720p video, from its slightly uptown sister, the $80 Roku 2 XD player, which can handle 1080p video.
The top-tier Roku 2 XS player, priced at $100, adds a Wii-styled motion-based Bluetooth remote control, a free, ready-to-roll full version of Angry Birds already downloaded on the player, plus a USB port for playing music, photos and videos stored on a flash drive and an Ethernet jack for wired network connections.
The Bluetooth motion controller, bundled with a 2GB microSD card, can be purchased as a $30 option for any of the updated players.
Roku says the new players will be available later this month, either directly from the company's website or through retailers including Amazon.com, Best Buy, Fry's Electronics and RadioShack.
—James K. Willcox