updated 11:10 pm EDT, Tue July 19, 2011
Roku 2 media hubs arrive with game remote
Roku late Tuesday claimed a defensive stake in the media hub world through second-generation players. The Roku 2 HD, XD, and XS all have a smaller, nearly Apple TV-like profile and expand beyond just media channels to focus on apps and games. Every model can use a Bluetooth-based Roku Game Remote that provides Nintendo Wii-style motion gaming, such as for special ports of the Angry Birds games and future titles.
Facebook is also new among the more practical apps. Regular video is getting several new channels that include AOL HD, Epix, Fox News, and Major League Soccer.
All three of the Roku 2 boxes have HDMI video out, Dolby Digital Plus audio decoding and a microSD slot to take on local content without having to turn to Wi-Fi. As with the earlier spread, the base model tops off at 720p video, while the XD gains 1080p. Flagship XS models get the Game Remote packed in as well as an Ethernet jack for wired setups.
All three are effectively drop-in replacements at the earlier price points, starting off at $59 for an HD and climbing to $79 and $99 for the more advanced two models. Amazon, Best Buy, Fry's, and Radio Shack should have the Roku 2 before the end of July.
Roku was one of the earliest to embrace networked media hubs but has always been comparatively niche. Some of this has come from its limitation until recently to online sales. Multi-role platforms like the Xbox 360 have stolen some of its thunder and have been compounded by the Apple TV, whose much larger public profile and wide reach have helped it outsell Roku.