Review (June 2010)
By Kevin Nakano
Roku has been making media players for years and with that comes some important experience that is seen in their latest generation of media streaming products. The new Roku HD-XR (Extended Range) media player is the highest-end model of the three offered by Roku and as the name indicates is capable of streaming high definition content. All players support Netflix and Amazon VOD (Video on demand) content from a wired ethernet connection and even through WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) in the case of the HD-XR model. The Roku HD-XR Media Player is a compact design (approximately 5"W x 5"D x 2"H) and comes with a simple and easy to use interface for watching movies. The compact design of the HD-XR still provides impressive connectivity and doesn't limit features as one might expect. The unit offers virtually all standard analog video outputs formats and includes HDMI digital video for more modern displays. Stereo audio outputs are also provided along with a digital audio (toslink) connection that can provide multi-channel digital audio from certain programming.
Netflix was one of the first companies to provide a wide range of content over a broadband connection to customers. Since the first Netflix media player rolled out, Roku has released several newer models, two of which are capable of streaming HD (high definition) content. While currently limited to 720p resolution, the HD content looks great when compared to the standard definition versions. The latest Roku HD-XR model offers WiFi (802.11 n/g/b) for fully wireless streaming. Subscribers of Netflix simply get online and enter the box code displayed on the TV screen and the media player is ready to go. All of the Roku players support the simplest configurations with older analog TVs all the way up to full-blown home theater systems with digital displays or projectors.
Our Display Type was configured for a 720p display, which is the recommended setting for HDTVs. The Sound Effects level is selectable and beeps each time the button is pressed. This helps provide audible feedback to the user when control the player. The Screen Saver begins as defined by the user. The user can select Player Info, which displays the software and hardware versions, MAC address (wired and wireless), IP address, gateway, and serial number. There is also an option to upgrade the firmware once a new version is released. The firmware version that was shipped with the unit was current when we checked the server through the user interface.
Once the movie or TV episode is selected, a description of the program is displayed along with the user ratings, run time, year, MPAA rating, and genre. The user can then resume the program from a previous stopping point or play it from the beginning. There are also options to choose a different episode or remove the series completely from the queue. There is no hard drive in the Roku HD-XR Media Player, but the unit does take several seconds to load data before the video begins to stream as it queues up in the player. Keeping the unit buffered using a FIFO (First-In-First-out) memory, prevents skipping when playing a movie even with varying data bandwidth. The design works well and we never encountered any problems using our Verizon FIOS network while watching a movie or TV episode even in high definition. However, those with slower networks are likely to encounter limited resolution or intermittent playback. The unit tries to determine and arbitrate the best data mode to operate in based on the data rate detected.
The HD-XR Media Player complements what you already have and enjoy in your entertainment system. All that is needed is a TV, internet connection, and a subscription to Netflix. Additional programs can be purchased from Amazon if desired. The Roku player is solid and connects to virtually any TV thanks to the I/O rich interface on the back of the unit. The Roku HD-XR Media Player is a real winner with all the great features from the earlier model, with the additional capabilities of the new user interface. If you are not benefiting from the online streaming Netflix offers, you should definitely consider one of these Roku media players.
- Kevin Nakano
Projector: Anthem LTX-500v Full 1080p High-Definition LCoS Projector
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Warranty: 1 Year
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