When You've Cut the Cable
(But Still Love TV): Roku 2 XS

Tech Test Lab Review

Product: Roku 2 XS
Price: $96.97 (Amazon)
Rating: Strong Recommend*

Cutting cable can be a big deal for some, while an easy transition for others. It all depends upon your viewing habits and preferences. My friend Angela, an avid TV viewer, recently made the decision to free herself from the cable bill umbilical cord and was worried all she'd be watching was P90X infomercials (in Spanish) once she disconnected. She agreed to share her experience transitioning over to the Roku 2 XS...

Angela: I had a wake up call this summer when my cable television promotion ended and my bill jumped an extra $40 a month. Immediately, I started to look for alternatives. The Roku XS caught my attention because it had more channels available than the Apple TV and you can play games on it. But let's be honest, it was the extra channels that really caught my eye

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Specs:

  • 500+ entertainment channels available, including hundreds of free movies

  • Works with virtually any TV
  • Plays both 720p and full 1080p HD video
  • Extended-range Wireless N (Wi-Fi b/g/n compatible)
  • Enhanced RF remote with motion control for games
  • FREE full edition of Angry Birds game
  • Ethernet port and USB port

Set-up
When I got the box, I wasn't sure if anything was in it because it was very light. When I opened it, everything I needed was neatly packaged including the compact sized Roku XS player. The box also included the remote control with two AA batteries, power adapter and A/V cable. Instead of using the A/V cable, I decided to use a HDMI cable to connect to my HDTV. The HDMI connection allowed me to take full advantage of the 1080p setting for better resolution.

One of the things I immediately noticed when I hooked up the Roku was how quiet my home was. Before, my cable box/DVR constantly made noise even when my television was off. The Roku is super quiet and small which is great for my place.

Build Quality
The set-up was easy but the feel and look of the Roku XS player was flimsy. For example, once it was hooked up by the HDMI cable, the weight of the cable lifted the lightweight plastic Roku player to one side. I had to play around with the cables to make the box laid flat. You're probably wondering why I didn't put a weight on top of the box - the thing is, the player emits heat and it's recommended not to put anything on top and it should be placed where there's ventilation.

What sets the Roku XS apart from the other models is the Bluetooth remote control that lets you stop hunting for the infrared remote sensor. Oh yeah, and you can play video games. For those who have played with a Wii controller, this remote will look and feel familiar to you with its wristlet and vertical and horizonal display. The controller is simple and doesn't have a billion buttons like my previous cable box remote too.

In Action
The great thing about Roku is that you have over 500 channels to choose from. Unfortunately, no YouTube channel (that's on Apple TV). Once you select the channels you want for your Roku, they are displayed in a single row you can easily flip through using the arrow buttons on the remote. The one drawback is when searching for a movie or show on a channel you have to wave the remote around and click on letters which can take some time. To go around this, I suggest downloading the Roku app for your smartphone. Your phone acts as the remote and you can type in the words faster.

The video streams have been clear and I haven't had any buffering issues. I'm not a huge gamer but I had to test out the pre-loaded Angry Birds game. Wow! The sounds of the birds from my TV were clear and the screen was bright. For those who plan to use this for gaming, there is a MicroSD memory card slot so you have more memory to store games and movies on the device. I don't think the Roku XS is going to replace game consoles but it's nice to know you can download some video games if you want to play it on a big screen.

Another cool feature is the USB port on the Roku XS so you can show photos play music from your own collection. However, it doesn't support all formats so make sure you check what the Roku can play or show before you transfer your data.

Closing Thoughts
If you want on-demand movies and shows, the Roku XS is great. However, be mindful if you plan on buying subscriptions to streaming services - it adds up. For me, this unit did exactly what I wanted it to do - I have access to hundreds of channels, movies and shows on-demand at 1080p and at a fraction of the price I was paying before. And since I never had a game console, now I can play video games on my TV too.

Pros: Access to 500+ channels, easy set-up, compact size, Bluetooth remote control, Roku app for smartphone, USB port, MicroSD memory card slot.

Cons: Lightweight and flimsy construction, need to place Roku in well ventilated area because of heat.

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend*
Recommend
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Special thanks to Angela Kim. Angela is a multi-media journalist and blogger living in Los Angeles. You can find her on Twitter at @angelaishere.

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.

(Photos: Angela Kim)

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