“Hello! Let’s get started.” That’s the first thing you see when you open the Roku 2 XS’s box, and it immediately puts you at ease.
Not especially techy, perhaps, but we think it’s part and parcel of this type of product. You’re a consumer of media, after all, not a server engineer (well, you might be, but that’s not the point), and these products should reflect that.
Ease of use is key. Roku has clearly taken its style cues from the Apple boys in Cupertino – the XS is small, square and light on connections. What sets it apart from the other devices is its Nintendo Wii-style motion remote.
It’s nice to hold, and its buttons are quite well laid out. The XS also doubles-up as a gaming platform, which is where that motion remote comes in.
Angry Birds is already installed, and it works brilliantly with the controller.
Roku 2 XS
Roku 2 XS: Easy set-up
Setup is quick and painless. The device detects your display settings, makes wireless connection simple and searches for firmware updates on startup, so you’re good to go from the off.
Our only gripe here is having to enter your credit-card details at sign up.
The logic is sound – you can then be billed quickly for content you choose to buy – but it seems a little intrusive.
The interface itself is clean and easy to navigate – it’s a cross between the Wii and the Apple TV, and we like it a lot.
More after the break
Roku 2 XS
Roku 2 XS: Content
Its channel-based interface offers BBC iPlayer and Netflix streaming, but also gives access to more niche services such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and YuppTV.
The Crackle channel sits in the middle, offering everything from The Three Stooges to more current movies.
Currently there are 100 channels available – some are free and some require payment – and the company says it wants to add one a day.
Network file support is available, but somewhat limited. The free Roku USB Media Player channel needs to be installed, and then grants access to files on a drive connected to the box’s USB port.
File support is limited (MP4, MKV, MP3, AAC, JPG and PNG), but covers most common bases.
Network access comes courtesy of a variety of paid-for channels that offer things like streaming from computers, Squeezebox server capabilities and access to files stored in an MP3tunes Locker.
Roku 2 XS
Roku 2 XS: Performance
Like some similarly priced devices, the Roku’s picture is perfectly watchable – but, again, it falls down slightly in the sound-quality stakes.
We’d just like a little more pep… The XS, then, is a fun little box to have in the living room.
It doesn’t have the powerhouse media capabilities of the Boxee, or the wealth of content offered by Apple, but we think it strikes a nice balance between the two.
And, with it’s gaming capabilities as a bonus, it’s great if you have kids.