May 10, 2012
- Small form-factor
- Lots of streaming services supported
- Connects to HDTVs & analog TVs
- No Ethernet port (Wi-Fi only)
- YouTube & Vudu are missing
The Roku HD is a tiny Wi-Fi streaming media box that connects to your HDTV and provides access to dozens of streaming media services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora and more. While only lacking a few important services, you get quite a lot and is a good way to make any TV Internet.
The Roku HD has mostly the same design as the Roku LT aside from having a different color exterior and costing a little more. The LT version has all the same features as the HD version, but the LT is now discontinued. The only differences seem to be visual differences. One is that the Roku HD model now includes analog RCA video outputs in addition to HDMI-out for HDTVs. The previous LT model used a single A/V out port and a breakout cable.
Also in the box besides the Roku HD itself is a power adapter and a small remote. The remote is designed as expected with a small four-way directional pad with an OK button in the middle and some basic playback controls. There is also dedicated shortcut buttons for Crackle, Netflix and Pandora.
Setting up the Roku HD is pretty easy and only requires you to create a Roku account, which requires you to enter a credit card or link a PayPal account for purchasing optional premium channels. Remember, the Roku HD is Wi-Fi only, so connecting via Ethernet is not an option. This also means that to get optimum audio and video quality, make sure you put it in a place where you get a strong Wi-Fi signal.
The Roku's home screen is very basic and includes a simple horizontal row of channels to select. To get you started, it comes preloaded with Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Netflix and Pandora channels. For most users, this will suffice, but you can download and install other applications to connect you to other online media services. To get more "channels" you browse for them in the Channel Store. Here you will find apps like Picasa, Flicker, MLB.TV, Revision3, NASA and others. The full list of available services is on Roku's website. The only two services that we found to be missing are YouTube and Vudu. While not a horrible omission, it still is worth mentioning.
The overall user interface is very clean and easy to use. The Netflix app features searching through the online streaming catalog, which is something that not all media streamers allow.
One last note: the Roku HD supports content at 720p HD only, not full 1080p HD. While not a big deal, some mediaphiles may be disappointed. For most users, including our own eyes, we didn't notice much difference between 720p and 1080p content.