3 December 2013

REVIEW: Roku 2

Solid as a Roku.

As Christmas approaches you’re all probably planning a nice few days tucked up at home in front of the telly. Trouble is (and we mean this for everything except re-runs of You’ve Been Framed) TV is a pile of crap these days. Unless it’s streamed from the internet then quite frankly we don’t want to waste our mulled wine smelling breath. Fortunately we’re all set for the festive period with a brand new Roku.

We’ve previously reviewed the Roku 2 XS here, and although that was a treat for our living room enjoyment, Roku have gone and reinvigorated their streaming box range. Now available in the UK is the Roku LT, as well as the Roku 1, 2 and 3. We test the range slap-bang in the middle with the Roku 2.

A cute little box weighing in at less than 10 cm across, the Roku 2 is sleeker and curvier than its predecessor the 2 XS. Included in the box is the streamer itself, a very ergonomic remote control, a pair of earphones, power cable and a composite TV cable. Because of this it can be connected to any TV and used right away, but if you have a HD set you’ll need a separate HDMI cable which unfortunately isn’t included (but it wins all the points back by including the two AA batteries needed for the remote).

On the gadget itself there are ports for the power, HDMI and composites… and that’s it. There’s no option for connecting to the internet via Ethernet and there is no USB or SD card port. Still, that WiFi is pretty good, with 802.11 dual-band with WEP, WPA and WPA2 support – so they'll be no bother connecting to your home network.

Setting up is an absolute breeze and although you’ll need to sign up to a Roku account on their website, the whole process takes just a few minutes. We already had an account so it was literally a case of plugging it in, finding the WiFi network and entering a unique code online to activate the box. After that we just signed into Netflix on the dedicated app, and starting streaming old episodes of Fawlty Towers. Bliss.

In terms of performance we found quite a few improvements over the XS, namely the speed at which the device got started. From wake up to actually being able to select a channel takes just a few seconds; a marked improvement over previous Roku models that we've played with. Also the user interface has been redesigned making it simpler and slicker, and it also now allows for customisation in the form of themes. We chose the spacey one, coz y'know...

Preinstalled channels include (as well as the aforementioned Netflix) the BBC iPlayer, Vimeo, Sky's Now TV, 5 on Demand and Crackle - with many others available to download from the Roku store. Unfortunately there's no YouTube app like the one we enjoyed the heck out of on the Panasonic Smart Viera TV,  but there are Facebook and Picasa photo apps. So not a bad selection at all, and to be honest we've tended to use it purely as a way to get Netflix on our big telly.

A nice little feature on the included WiFi remote control is a headphone jack. Once you have plugged in the included earphones (or any, for that matter) can enjoy catching up with Eastenders without bugging anyone else in the room. This wireless headphone capability gives the Roku 2 a massive boost in our opinion, and it never once lagged with lip syncing: a great and very well received bonus.

So although it lacks the ethernet, USB and motion control remote of its big brother the Roku 3, the Roku 2 is an extremely welcome guest in the Test Pit Towers living room. Price and specification put it fairly equal with the Apple TV, but the versatility of channels, that gorgeous UI, and the headphone jack on the remote, make the Roku 2 a clear winner in our eyes.


Visit www.roku.com/uk

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