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Roku HD (2012) review: Roku HD (2012)

Editors' note: As of October 2013, the product reviewed here has been discontinued and replaced by the Roku 1.

Roku HD (2012)
8.0

Roku HD (2012)

The Good

The <b>Roku HD</b> is a small streaming-media box that costs only $60. It offers hundreds of streaming-video and -audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Vudu, Pandora, Mog, Rdio, and MLB.TV. Roku also offers cross-platform search, capable of finding content across major streaming services. And the HD also supports older TVs via its analog video output.

The Bad

For those invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Roku HD doesn't offer the same tight integration as the Apple TV's AirPlay functionality. The Roku HD also lacks channels for YouTube and Spotify. And there's no Ethernet port, so you'll need a solid Wi-Fi signal in your home theater.

The Bottom Line

With its ability to stream hundreds of audio and video channels (including Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, and Hulu Plus), the $60 Roku HD would be our top pick for those seeking an ultra-affordable Internet media box -- if not for the fact that it's nearly identical to the slightly cheaper Roku LT.

What's the difference between the Roku LT and the Roku HD reviewed here? Ten dollars, a different color body, and not much else. But you just want to know one thing: should you buy this box?

The answers: if the Roku LT is sold out (or discontinued), yes; if the HD is discounted to $50 or less, yes.

That's because the $60 Roku HD is, so far as we can tell, all but identical to the $50 Roku LT, which remains an enthusiastic CNET Editors' Choice as the most affordable streaming-media box you can buy. Both models offer hundreds of video and audio channels, including favorites such as Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Crackle, Pandora, MLB.TV, Mog, Rdio, and HBO Go. Both connect seamlessly to your Wi-Fi network. And both can be connected to new HDTVs or any old-fashioned analog TV.

The only differences appear to be cosmetic: the LT is purple with a black base, the HD is black with a purple base. But the electronic innards, features, and performance of the two boxes appear to be identical.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The other distinction between the LT and the HD is one of availability. The LT is intended as an online-only product, while you can find the new Roku HD at brick-and-mortar retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Fry's (though it's available online, too).

So, if these are basically the same products in different packaging, why does the Roku HD cost $10 more than the Roku LT? Your guess is as good as mine. That said, the LT is so popular that it's often out of stock at online retailers like Amazon. If you encounter that problem -- especially if you're buying one as a gift -- spending the extra on the Roku HD isn't a bad backup plan. In the meantime, we'll continue to consider these products to be more or less interchangeable.

Read the full review of the Roku LT.

Roku HD (2012)
8.0

Roku HD (2012)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8