Product Review (June 2010)
Roku™ - HD-XR Media Player

By Kevin Nakano

Roku HD-XR Media PlayerRoku™ 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.

Roku HD-XRNetflix 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.

The Roku™ HD-XR Media Player comes complete with wired and wireless WiFi (b/g/n) ethernet, HDMI, component, s-video and composite video outputs, along with a digital optical (toslink) output. The HDMI connection provides both audio and video to the display over a single cable giving newer displays simple connectivity. Video is limited to 480p using the HDMI and component video interface, so there is no upconverting or scaling done in the player. However, most displays have this feature built-in anyway. For those users with older conventional televisions, the media player also includes composite, s-video and component analog video outputs along with a pair of analog audio outputs.

The Roku™ HD-XR Media Player comes with a simple, yet fully functional IR remote for accessing and controlling the video content. The remote has a good feel with large buttons and operates on a pair of standard and easily replaceable "AAA" batteries. The Home button on the top of the remote takes the user to the main menu. Navigation buttons and a Select button are used to control the menu system. The bottom three buttons (play/pause, forward and backwards) control the playback of the video being watched. There are three forward speeds and three backward speeds. The left and right navigation buttons also scan forward and backwards. When scanning through movies and TV episodes, a special screen appears with segmented clips of the content being played with a time bar below it. This is similar to selecting tracks on a DVD and allows the user to see past and future scenes.

Roku HD-XR Setup ScreenSetup
The Settings Menu has several sections for configuring the unit. The sub-menus are for Network configuration (Wired or Wireless), Display type (4:3, 16:9, & 720p), Audio Mode (Stereo or 5.1), Sound Effects (Low, Medium, High, Off), Screen Saver (5 min, 10 min, 30 min, Off), Player Info, and Factory Reset. When configuring the media player for streaming content, the user can select between wired or wireless connectivity. Users can select from the Choose Wireless Network screen. All wireless networks broadcasting an SSID can be seen here with secure connections shown with a lock symbol. User can enter their WEP or WPA pass-phrase for security. Our tests were run with a wired connection to ensure consistently high bandwidth. The video quality indicator displayed on the TV screen showed that we had a high speed connection.

Roku HD-XROur 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.

Choosing Movies
Roku HD-XRSelecting Netflix movies and TV episodes to play on the Roku™ HD-XR Media Player is so much better than the previous version of the interface. No longer is the user limited by items placed in the Netflix Instant Queue. While this option still exists and offers faster access to the content, users can also search and add to the Instant Queue using the Roku interface. Many other genres are displayed on the screen including recommended titles based on previously viewed programs. Some users may find the screen too busy with movies that you may never watch. The user interface is still as easy to use as the earlier versions, but is much more powerful in the current products.

Roku HD-XR GUI DescriptionOnce 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 Roku™ HD-XR Media Player provides excellent video quality for the many HD programs offered to Netflix subscribers. The easy to use and consistant performance we experienced with this media player makes it an easy recommendation. With access to over 10,000 Netflix movies and TV episodes instantly, there is no reason not to have it in your entertainment system, especially since the feature is included in the Netflix subscription.

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

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

Review System

Projector: Anthem LTX-500v Full 1080p High-Definition LCoS Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Thermal Management: Active Thermal Management Cool-it II Equipment Cooler
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers

Set-top Box: DISH Network ViP® 922 SlingLoaded™ DVR
Blu-ray Player: OPPO BDP-83SE (Special Edition) Blu-ray Player
Media Server: Sonos ZonePlayer ZP80
Remote Control: Remote Technologies Inc. T3-V Controller
HDMI Cable: Accell UltraRun 45-meter 1080p Cable
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables

Review - At a Glance

Roku - HD-XR Media Player


  • 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


  • USB Port

General Information

  • Power Consumption: 6 Watts peak, 4 Watts Standby
  • Size: 5" x 5" x 1.75" (130 x 130 x 41 mm)
  • Weight: 11 oz (300 grams)

Package Contents:

  • Roku Media Player
  • Remote control
  • Two AAA batteries
  • Composite (red/white/yellow) A/V cable
  • Power adapter
  • Getting Started guide
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • One year warranty

  • Company Information
    12980 Saratoga Ave., Ste. D
    Saratoga, CA 95070
    Phone: 1-888-600-7658 (ROKU)
    Fax: 408-446-1734

    International Callers: 1-408-556-9040
    The Sales Hotline is available 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. PST, Mondays - Fridays.


    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    MSRP: $99.99

    Warranty: 1 Year

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