Roku Intros Roku 2 Family, Motion Remote Control
It's hard to keep a secret online nowadays. As was widely rumored and even leaked, Roku has refreshed its line of popular set-top boxes. Called Roku 2 (curious, as this is the third line of Roku devices), the line again includes three boxes priced at $59, $79, $99. This time, however, Roku has added a free copy of Angry Birds and a wireless motion-control remote with the highest-priced model.
Roku has changed the name of the highest-priced model, so the line now includes the HD, XD, and XS. The new boxes are considerably smaller than the previous generation (3.3- by 3.3- by 0.9-inches; 3 ounces), about the size and shape of the Apple TV. They will ship this month, and will be available in Best Buy, Fry's, and RadioShack, as well as on Roku.com and Amazon.
Roku Motion Control Remote
The big news to this release, and the one item that Engadget didn't leak, is that the XS will come with a six-axis motion control remote (like that of the Wii), which lets users play games simply by waving their remote in the air, and a copy of Angry Birds. The motion remote communicates with the Roku box via Bluetooth. Roku is also debuting a games channel. At launch, only Angry Birds will be available. Two other Angry Birds titles as well as Pac Man and Galaga will be available in August. Game pricing hasn't yet been announced.
We were able to test the motion control remote briefly, and it's certainly no improvement over playing Angry Birds on a touch screen. Controlling the game felt awkward, and on-screen movements weren't always exactly what we intended. The company says that it will release updates over time that will make the controls smoother.
Only the Roku 2 XS comes with Angry Birds and includes the motion control remote. For those who decide later that they want games, Roku is selling the remote bundled with a 2GB MicroSD card for $29.99.
Roku 2 Product Line
As before, the HD model will play 720p video, while the top two will play 1080p. They include a MicroSD slot which can be used to store downloaded games. The XS includes a USB port for playing stored videos. Unfortunately, Roku hasn't broadened the video formats that it supports via USB, so owners may have to convert their videos to get them to play.
The XS is also the only model to offer an Ethernet port, for those who need a wired Internet connection.
Curiously, the company dropped dual-band wireless from the top model, something that had been included in the previous generation.
Netflix users may want to upgrade their Roku boxes, as the new line adds support for English subtitles and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. All Netflix titles will include a subtitle option, although not all will include Dolby.
Roku is promoting the decreased energy usage of the Roku 2 line, a smart choice as some media outlets have been focusing on the constant energy drain of set-top boxes and other TV room peripherals. They use one-thirtieth of the energy of a DVR, Roku says.
Finally, Roku owners are getting a few new channels to watch. EPIX, Major League Soccer, AOL HD, and FOXNews.com are all now available. The Fox and AOL channels are free.
"Roku is the best-selling streaming player on the market because of its simplicity, breadth of content and value. Now we're setting the bar even higher with Roku 2 - a more powerful platform with new features including casual gaming," says Roku founder and CEO Anthony Wood. "We've worked closely with Rovio to bring the first full version of Angry Birds to the TV - and best of all, we're including it for free with the top-of-the-line XS model."
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