Roku HD1000 review: Roku HD1000

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The Good Streams audio, video, and photos from networked PCs; outputs in standard and high-definition TV resolutions; works with or without a network connection; A/V pass-through; great interface and case design.

The Bad No built-in wireless-networking support; can't play WMA files; supports only MPEG video; chokes on some MP3 files.

The Bottom Line The stylish Roku HD1000 serves up digital video and photos in high definition, but it streams fewer file formats than competing devices.

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6.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6

Review summary

The HD1000 is the first digital photo viewer/media receiver that can natively display HDTV resolutions. The $299 device accepts files on plug-in media and over a streaming network connection. Roku's proprietary Art Pack cards (available separately for $70 each) turn your television into a virtual art gallery. But while this gee-whiz product will appeal to image-quality buffs looking to maximize their investment in a plasma screen, digital-audio fans will probably opt for a more affordable way to enjoy their music. The $200 Prismiq MediaPlayer, for instance, lacks the HD1000's polished design, high-def output, and front-panel card readers, but it offers similar video-, audio-, and photo-streaming capabilities, with greater file compatibility.

The HD1000's good looks set the receiver apart from the competition. At 1.63 by 17 by 8.88 inches, the silver console can slip into any A/V rack with room to spare. The front panel holds a power button; three control keys; a four-way navigator; and slots for CompactFlash, SD/MMC, Memory Stick, and SmartMedia cards. A third-party CompactFlash adapter that handles the xD-Picture Card format is available separately for about $60.

A small but comfortable sculpted remote enables easy navigation of the HD1000's polished onscreen interface.

The HD1000's back panel distinguishes the machine from the horde of competing photo readers and media receivers. In addition to the standard S-Video hookup, you get component- and VGA-video outputs for displaying 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1,024x768-pixel resolutions on compatible HDTVs and computer monitors. For audio, there are stereo analog and coaxial digital outs. An Ethernet jack accommodates home networking, and a USB connection accepts peripherals such as wireless 802.11b adapters. The HD1000 even has a set of analog-audio, S-Video, and wideband component ins, so it can pass signals from DVD players, set-top boxes, and other high-end devices without claiming its own input on your TV or your A/V receiver. An RS-232 port provides an interface for home automation and system integrators.

The HD1000 can output digital pictures and MP3 files that you feed it via a network connection or flash media cards, such as Roku's proprietary multimedia Art Packs. Song order is either user-defined or random. Unfortunately, the only music formats the HD1000 plays are MP3, WAV, and AIFF, so if you have large caches of WMA, AAC, or Ogg Vorbis files, you're out of luck.

As a photo viewer, the HD1000 performs the same basic functions that we've seen on similar units, such as the SanDisk SDV1-R. You can page through photos individually, display them in a timed slide show, rotate them, and examine them more closely with a multilevel zoom. The big advantage here is that high definition theoretically makes the pictures 50 to 125 percent sharper than standard TV resolution.

Video streaming is limited to MPEG-2. Roku claims that the HD1000 can support full HDTV bandwidth (ATSC-compliant video streams), and though we didn't have compatible files with which to verify that feature, it promises to open a realm of possibilities for the small but dedicated community of PC users with HD tuner cards and DVR software.

One of this device's most unique selling points is Roku's Art Packs. These CompactFlash cards hold high-resolution images of various works of art and scenic vistas. The HD1000 displays them in slide shows, accompanied by appropriately tasteful music. Interspersed with the still photos are LiveArt modules, looping videos designed to turn your flat-screen TV into a virtual window looking out on rolling clouds, flowing streams, and other scenes. Other LiveArt modules, such as aquariums, a real-time world clock, space travel imagery, and holiday themes, are also available.

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