When it comes to an easy, effective and inexpensive way to get streaming video and other media from the web to your living room TV, reviewers say that the Roku XDS is the best choice for most. One big reason is the vast lineup of content partners -- more than 100 at last look, which beats all comers by a good margin. Notably, Roku is the only set-top box at present to deliver access to Hulu Plus for the most comprehensive streaming of current-season TV programs. Other premiere partners include Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Pandora, Facebook and more. Sports fans can catch streaming feeds of out-of-market baseball and hockey games live via MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter. And the list goes on and on.
Setup and use is easy, though some complain that things could be more streamlined (you need to sign up and maintain subscriptions with most streaming video providers separately). Picture quality is generally complimented. Connectivity is good, including support for older TVs. Wi-Fi is built in, and the Roku XDS supports dual-band 802.11n wireless for the best possible throughput. A USB port, recently enabled, lets you view your own files via Roku, but streaming from a networked PC or other device isn't natively supported. The step-down Roku XD (Discontinued) removes dual-band wireless and USB support, but delivers similar performance otherwise. The most basic Roku player, the Roku HD (Discontinued), removes wireless-n support (though there's still 802.11b/g Wi-Fi) and limits resolution to 720p -- the latter is not as big a deal as it sounds, however, since few content partners are currently streaming in 1080p for the Roku player. While most critics give Roku the edge, Apple TV (*Est. $100) could be a compelling alternative for those who make extensive use of iTunes, which the Roku player does not support.
Given the rising popularity of watching streaming video from the web, it's not surprising that the Roku XDS has received tons of editorial reviews. Best places to see opinions include CNET, PCMag.com, Switched.com, PC World, Macworld, BigPictureBigSound.com, ConsumerReports.org and elsewhere. There are hundreds of user reviews at Amazon.com.
CNET looks at the Roku XDS in a detailed testing-based report. Comparisons are made to other digital media players. In the end, the editors are sufficiently impressed with content, usability and value to give the Roku XDS the site's Editors' Choice award.
Review: Roku XDS (2100X), John P. Falcone and David Carnoy, Dec. 2, 2010
2. PC World
Though not overly long, this review at PC World -- where the Roku XDS is the top-rated digital media player -- covers the essentials. Yardena Arar is disappointed that the Roku XDS can't stream content from a networked PC or storage device, but says that when it comes to streaming from the Internet, the Roku XDS is "a great choice."
Review: Roku XDS (2100X), Yardena Arar, Sept. 22, 2010
Tim Gideon and PCMag.com take a contrarian view to most experts, awarding the Roku XDS one of the lowest grades among digital media players it has reviewed. Video quality takes a knock, as does Wi-Fi streaming and the limited number of free content providers. Gideon also complains that the necessity to sign up for each provider separately seems tedious. A number of owners post their own ratings for the Roku XDS, and those are notably higher.
Review: Roku XDS, Tim Gideon, Sept. 22, 2010
The Roku XDS com makes the cut as one of the best Network Enabled Replay Devices (NERD) -- aka digital media players. Positives and negatives are explored, though not in tremendous depth. In the end, the Roku XDS is said to be best for those who want a simple and reliable way to access Internet media from Netfilx, Hulu Plus and more -- as long as they don't also want to stream content from their computer.
Review: Best Boxes for Streaming Internet Video (and More) to Your TV, Jon Chase, Dec. 2, 2010
Jason Snell compares the Roku digital media player to Apple TV and gives the edge to Roku. Ease of use and performance are praised, but access to more varied content is the big advantage. While iTunes users might still favor Apple TV, Roku's bigger stable of content providers gives it "a distinct advantage." One negative is that unlike Apple TV, Roku can't natively stream from a networked computer, though unsupported third-party work-arounds to do that are available.
Review: Roku Players, Jason Snell, Nov. 5, 2010
6. Big Picture Big Sound.com
BigPictureBigSound.com's Ian White rates the Roku XDS higher than any other digital media player he's reviewed and grants the streaming video player the site's The Biggie award. The review is meaty, testing-based and balanced. White reports that he is so impressed with the Roku XDS that he's added it to his own home system.
Review: Roku XDS Review, Ian White, Dec. 3, 2010
From the March 2011 edition of the print magazine, ConsumerReports.org posts a brief summary of the capabilities, positives and negatives of the Roku XDS. There's also an opinion of which type of user would be happiest with the digital media player.
Review: How Set-Top Boxes Compare, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
More than 500 owners have posted their opinions of the Roku XDS digital media player here. Some owners report issues with network connectivity and with customer support that could be more helpful. However, far more are mostly to completely pleased, resulting in an overall rating of 4.2 stars (out of 5).
Review: Roku XDS Streaming Player 1080p, Contributors to Amazon.com