Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Roku Introduces Roku 2 Lineup, Complete with Angry Birds

On Wednesday, Roku announced a revamping of its affordable, Wi-Fi-based, content-streaming lineup of set-top boxes.

The manufacturer's new line is called the Roku 2, and like previous Roku lines, it is available in three models, all at different prices under $100. The Roku 2 HD, Roku 2 XD, and Roku 2 XS are smaller than previous designs, feature new remote controls, and are now equipped for casual gaming.

The premium model, Roku 2 XS, comes preloaded with the full version of the hit game "Angry Birds" and a gaming remote with motion control, similar to a Nintendo Wii controller. At launch, Angry Birds is the only preloaded game, and the only game available for Roku devices, but there are more titles in the works, including more Angry Birds titles. The other two Roku models, while equipped with gaming capabilities, do not ship with the gaming remote—users who wish to play Angry birds on the less expensive Roku 2 boxes will need to upgrade to the gaming remote.

Roku Angry Birds

Roku boxes ship preloaded with "channels" (more commonly referred to as apps or widgets on other devices) of content. The Roku 2's lineup includes Angry Birds, Facebook, Major League Soccer, AOL HD, and These new titles join a channel selection of just under 300 titles, including Netflix and Hulu Plus—both of which require paid accounts. Other offerings from Roku include NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter Live, UFC, Pandora, MOG, Rdio, Flickr, and Vimeo.

The Roku 2 XD and XS have higher video resolution—both are capable of 1080p playback, while the Roku 2 HD tops out at 720p. The top-of-the-line Roku 2 XS—the model with Angry Birds and the gaming remote—has an Ethernet port (in case users wish to go wired rather than wireless) and USB connectivity for playing media stored on USB drives. All units have Bluetooth, which is how the gaming remote communicates with the box, and a MicroSD slot.

In a brief hands-on last week, PCMag was able to check out the Angry Birds functionality on the Roku 2 XD. The controller seemed a tad jumpy compared to the Wii, but we were also at an awkward angle in relation to the Roku box. We anticipate review units in the PCMag Labs shortly.,2817,2388725,00.asp

The Roku 2 HD is priced at $59.99, the Roku 2 XD at $79.99, and the Roku 2 XS at $99.99. The gaming remote upgrade will sell for $29.99 in a package that includes a 2GB MicroSD card. All three set top boxes will hit major retailers like BestBuy and Amazon at the end of July.

Check in the coming weeks for reviews of the Roku 2 lineup.