Roku 2 review: A cheaper Roku with nearly everything you want

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Ecosystem: 9.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Value: 9.0
Reviewed:
Updated:

The Good The Roku 2 has nearly all of the important functionality of the Roku 3 for $20 less. More than 1,000 channels are supported, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Amazon Cloud Player, and Vudu. It also has cross-platform search that scours several major TV and movie services to find content. And the Roku 2's nifty remote has a built-in headphone jack that lets you listen without disturbing others.

The Bad Some services, including Netflix, have an outdated interface compared with what's on other streamers. The Apple TV still works better within Apple ecosystem. And the Roku 2 is slightly slower than the Roku 3.

The Bottom Line The Roku 2 offers tons of content sources and an innovative remote with built-in headphone jack for less, but the Roku 3 is still our favorite pick.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

Editors' note: For a more recent comparison of Roku's current products, check out CNET's Roku buying guide.

Here's the pitch for the Roku 2: it has nearly everything you love about the Roku 3 , including the remote with a headphone jack, for $20 cheaper.

It's a tempting offer. You don't get geek-friendly extras like the SD card slot, Ethernet jack, or the USB port, but those seldom-used features aren't worth the extra money for most buyers. The Roku 2's remote doesn't have a built-in motion-sensing or gaming buttons like the Roku 3's remote does, but there's not much gaming to be had on the Roku, aside from the occasional Angry Birds session. The Roku 2 even one-ups the Roku 3 by including analog video jacks, making it compatible with older, analog TVs.

The real drawback to the Roku 2 is speed. The Roku 2 lacks the superfast processor of the Roku 3 and, while the difference isn't huge, it is noticeable. Zipping through menus has a subtle lag, although it's not that bothersome, especially if you haven't been spoiled by the Roku 3. I tended to notice it the most when using the cross-platform search feature, with the Roku 2 stuttering a bit as I zipped around the onscreen keyboard to enter text.

The Roku 3's superior speed may also increase its longevity. Roku has been particularly excellent about continually updating its boxes years after they're released, and the Roku 3's more powerful processor makes it more likely your box will stay snappy several software updates into the future.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

  • Roku 3

    Starting at: $80.80
    4.5 stars

    The Roku 3 nabs CNET's Editors' Choice Award for streaming-video boxes, with tons of content...

  • Roku Streaming Stick (2014)

    Starting at: $39.99
    4 stars

    Roku's Streaming Stick offers a wide variety of apps, a real remote, and a compact design...

  • Apple TV

    Starting at: $84.95
    4 stars

    The Apple TV is an indispensable living room companion for people invested in iTunes content...

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick

    Starting at: $39.00
    4 stars

    Amazon's second video streamer of the year delivers 95 percent of the original's features...

 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Type Streaming player
  • Functionality Content streaming
  • Connectivity Protocols Wi-Fi
  • Type Enhanced remote control