The Good Affordable sub-$100 price tag; ultrasmall factor; streams more than a hundred Internet video and audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Pandora, Major League Baseball and NHL games, and Mediafly podcasts; built-in dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi; works with all TVs, including non-HD models; upgradable firmware allows for periodic update of content and features; good HD video quality (on channels and programming that support it).
The Bad Most worthwhile services require monthly or per-use fees; some game consoles and ever-cheaper Blu-ray players offer many of the same Internet-viewing options plus disc playback; currently offers no official support for streaming from USB drives and home network sources; video quality varies from channel to channel, depending upon provider and source material; setup and content queues usually require at least some PC interaction; yet another box under the TV; currently offers no access to PC- and USB-based media; lacks official support for YouTube.
The Bottom Line Thanks to its wide range of content offerings--including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, and Pandora--the Roku XDS is the best all-around streaming media box you can get for less than $100.
Editors' note: As of July 2011, this product has been discontinued and replaced by the Roku 2 XS.
It seems hard to believe now that Netflix streaming video is available on nearly any Internet-connected home video product, but back in the spring of 2008, the only Netflix-compatible device was a tiny streaming media box called the Roku Player. In the two years since its release, a series of firmware upgrades has expanded the program offerings on the Roku, even as the company added a new generation of products. The fall 2010 lineup comes in good, better, and best versions: the $69.99 Roku HD, $79.99 Roku XD, and the $99.99 Roku XDS (reviewed here). (Note: The Netgear Roku Player NTV250 is just a rebadged version of the Roku XD.)
In its latest incarnation, the company has made its little black box even smaller, while retaining the same onscreen look and feel as well as "channel" options. Roku currently offers one of the strongest lists of online content providers: Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Video on Demand are the big headliners, with plenty of other video providers (Vimeo, Flixster, Blip.tv, Break.com, Revision3), audio services (Pandora, MP3tunes, MOG), photo services (Flickr, SmugMug, Facebook) and live sports providers (MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, UFC). There are dozens more, though many are, admittedly, aiming for niche audiences.
Which streamer should you buy?
Plenty of options exist for streaming Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and the rest. We've reviewed almost all of them. Here are our picks.
YouTube TV will launch Roku and Apple TV apps in early 2018
Cable TV cord-cutters expecting YouTube TV's full app for Roku and Apple TV devices this year will have to wait a little longer.
Amazon Prime Video comes to Apple TV
The addition makes Apple TV one of the most complete streaming platforms.
Get an Apple TV for $84.55
That's by far the lowest price anywhere for the fourth-gen 32GB model. Plus: the lowest price to date for a Sonos Play:1.
Get a Roku Streaming Stick Plus for $48
Why wait for Black Friday? Best Buy is already offering a killer deal on this 5-star 4K streamer. Plus: games!
Philo charges just $16 for 35 channels, but no sports or locals
Headlined by AMC, Comedy Central, HGTV, TLC and A+E, the inexpensive new streaming service aims for cord cutters who don't care about sports, news or local broadcast channels.
Black Friday Roku deal: Get our favorite 4K streamer for $50
At its regular price of $70, the 4K HDR-capable Roku Streaming Stick Plus is an outstanding value and our highest-rated streamer. It's $20 cheaper for Black Friday.
Apple TV 4K update will fix this one major flaw with HDR
Apple's high-end TV box converts everything to high dynamic range, and that's a no-no. A forthcoming software update will fix the issue.
YouTube TV app coming soon to Roku, Apple TV, Xbox and more
Rejoice cord cutters: You no longer have to use Chromecast to watch YouTube's live TV streaming service on an actual TV.
Nvidia Shield TV gets a $20 price cut after Apple TV 4K debuts
The 4K and HDR-compatible streamer is down to $179 -- the same price as the Apple TV 4K.
These are Amazon's new Fire TVs, report says
Here's a first look at two upcoming Amazon Fire TVs, according to a report.
Roku said to be preparing for IPO this year
Maker of streaming boxes and software seeks a valuation of $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports.