Roku is increasing the appeal of its product line with an even cheaper $79 SD player and a slightly more advanced $129 HD-XR player to go with its standard $99 player (read our Trender review of Roku here
). For a limited time, Roku is throwing in free shipping for customers purchasing through either the Roku or Amazon web sites.
All three have built in Wi-Fi (the Roku HD-XR adds 802.11n support) and stream content from partners Netflix (17,000 shows and movies), Amazon (45,000 titles), and MLB.TV (out-of-market games subject to black-outs). We are also interested to know that they will all be compatible with Roku’s upcoming Channel Store, which will add a wide variety of new content partners (nothing announced yet).
The Roku HD and HD-XR players feature high definition streaming capability, connecting directly to any TV using HDMI or component video (both products also include S-video or Composite video outputs as well). We will need to check to see whether the HDMI cord comes with the box (it did not with the standard player but we added one for our review). The Roku HD-XR adds the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11n dual-band, giving customers improved connectivity range and better overall wireless performance across the home network. The HD-XR also works with legacy routers and Roku claims it can often boost Wi-Fi range inside the house. Finally, the Roku HD-XR includes a USB port for future use (ooh, meeesteeerious— is Roku planning to support playing of digital media such as pictures and music?).
You will see from our review that we really like the Roku player, and this announcement only broadens its appeal. One of the key variables that will help spur the adoption of over-the-top (OTT) video is the availability of simple, low-cost solutions for bridging the gap between the broadband Internet connection and home TVs. Right now, Roku is the best answer to this problem, at least until we see how Internet-enabled TVs perform in the future (will they be too cluttered and complex for average consumers?). Good move Roku.