“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

New Roku XR Promises Upgrades

by October 23, 2009
Someone wipe the dust off that box

Someone wipe the dust off that box

While there has been no official announcement, Roku is releasing a new box soon dubbed the Roku XR. Engadget (who we swiped the picture from - we think the dust lends it that air of authenticity) has revealed that it will have 802.11n wireless support and a USB port (probably for streaming movies/music/pictures). Over on Revision3, they let slip that not only will their content be available on the new box, but a glance at the video revealed possible support for Flickr, ROKU Channel Store, TWIT, and Pandora. This adds to the already available streaming services from Netflix, Amazon OnDemand, and MLB.com.

While not a huge announcement for non-fans of streaming, the fact is that Roku has been facing a lot of competition these days. When they first debuted a year and a half ago, they didn't really have much (if any) competition. Most users were streaming Netflix to their computers and only those handful with HTPCs had a really viable way of getting that content into their home theaters. Roku changed all that with their $100 box. But now we have Blu-ray players from Samsung, LG, and most recently Insignia, not to mention displays from LG and Sony, the Xbox 360 gaming system and the select DVRs from TiVo. On top of that, companies like PlayOn are bringing Netflix to the PS3 and Wii gaming platforms as well (albeit with clunkier interfaces). If you are on the market for a new device, you very well may have a Netflix option open to you.

With all the added competition, Roku has had to evolve and add services or face oblivion. First they added Amazon OnDemand (which is also becoming available on other devices) and most recently MLB.com. But with a $100 price tag and so much competition, consumers may be interested but they might not be convinced. With the addition of the faster 802.11n wireless support, this will make it easier than ever to swallow the $100 price tag of the Roku XR (provided they don't raise the price which they very well may). The additional channels are surely of interest to enthusiasts, but how many people really know what Revision3 is or Pandora or really feels the burning desire to use their Flickr photos as a screensaver (it sounds like the new family vacation slideshow torture to us).

The USB port may give users access to more content - specifically home and burned movies that they didn't have a way to stream into their living rooms - but it still requires a bit of work on the user's part. Instead, it seems like Roku would do well to work toward networking their box to stream content from connected computers. The fact is that Roku really captured the imagination and attention of consumers when it was released because of Netflix. Since then they've added features, but nothing has had the "wow" factor of that initial announcement. While the XR is definitely an improvement, we're not convinced that it has the punch that it needs to put the Roku XR out in front again.

About the author:
author portrait

As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

View full profile