The Roku HD is the least expensive model in the Roku lineup. It has the same core features as the highly regarded Roku XDS (Discontinued). Key differences include a lower video resolution of 720p versus 1080p for the Roku XDS, but experts note that since few streaming video providers offer content in the higher resolution that might not be too big a deal. More important, the built-in Wi-Fi is only 802.11b/g compatible, while the Roku XDS includes support for the faster 802.11n standard (though your router also needs to be compatible with 802.11n to notice any difference). Finally, connectivity is more limited -- just HDMI and composite video.
Roku video players have received a lot of editorial coverage, though most focus on the more expensive Roku XDS. Because most features are the same and picture quality should be similar -- save for the very few providers streaming 1080p video to the Roku -- the commentary is still helpful. Best sources include CNET, Switched.com, PCMag.com, Macworld, PC World, BigPictureBigSound.com ConsumerReports.org and elsewhere. User reviews of the Roku HD help fill in the blanks, and lots can be found at Roku.com.
CNET looks at the Roku digital media players in this detailed report. While the focus is on the Roku XDS, some observations about the Roku HD are also made. John P. Falcone and David Carnoy say that depending on their network set up, most will do just fine with cheaper Roku HD. However, they add that their own preference is for the Roku XDS, which earns an Editors' Choice award here.
Review: Untitled, John P. Falcone and David Carnoy, Dec. 2, 2010
2. PC World
This review at PC World -- where the Roku XDS is the top-rated digital media player -- is on the short side, yet is reasonably complete. Yardena Arar focuses on Roku XDS. Some disappointments are noted, but Arar says that the Roku XDS is "a great choice" for streaming from the Internet.
Review: Roku XDS (2100X), Yardena Arar, Sept. 22, 2010
Reviewer Tim Gideon criticizes the Roku XDS, complaining about video quality, Wi-Fi streaming and little free content. Gideon says the step-down versions, including the Roku HD, are better values but that none have kept up with the evolution of Internet streaming to TV sets. Owners also post reviews and most are more impressed.
Review: Roku XDS, Tim Gideon, Sept. 22, 2010
This review compares several different set-top boxes for streaming media to your TV. While the Roku HD is not specifically addressed, the Roku XDS com is named a top choice as a simple way to access Internet media -- though those that want to also access media from their computers will find better choices.
Review: Best Boxes for Streaming Internet Video (And More) to Your TV, Jon Chase, Dec. 2, 2010
Jason Snell compares all three Roku digital media players -- including the Roku HD -- to Apple TV. Overall, he says that Roku's offerings come out on top for their access to a more varied line up of providers. Ease of use is another plus.
Review: Roku Players, Jason Snell, Nov. 5, 2010
BigPictureBigSound.com gives the Roku XDS the site's The Biggie award -- not really a surprise since the reviewer says he was so impressed with the XDS that he bought one for himself. While we wish some discussion was dedicated to the Roku HD, what's here is balanced and comprehensive.
Review: Roku XDS Review, Ian White, Dec. 3, 2010
ConsumerReports.org lists a number of digital media players, including the Roku XDS, and names their positives, negatives, and which type of user they are best for. Information on what each digital media player can do is also helpful. No ratings or rankings are provided, but the article is free to non-subscribers.
Review: How set-top boxes compare, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
Nearly 33,000 owners have posted their opinions of the Roku HD digital media player at Roku's web site. Though some negatives are noted, most are pleased and 95 percent of those offering opinions say that they would recommend the Roku HD to a friend.
Review: Roku HD, Contributors to Roku.com