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Roku 2 XS teardown analysis: Smaller device hides significant hardware changes

A new processing platform and consolidated USB/Ethernet controller let the tiny Roku 2 XS deliver 1080p video and run apps like Angry Birds.

In July, 2011, Roku revamped its line of streaming media players with the Roku 2 HD, XD, and XS. The new Roku boxes are smaller and have a more-rounded design and a glossy exterior.

The HD model provides video playback at 720p, while the XD and XS support 1080p. All Roku 2 players have built-in Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n connectivity, but the XS also has Ethernet and USB ports. The XS version comes with a motion-control remote (needed to play games, such as Angry Birds).

As of this writing, the Roku 2 HD is $59.99 (US), the XD is $79.99 and the XS is $99.99. The motion remote is included with the XS, but HD and XD will soon be able to purchase the remote for $29. The Roku 2 XS weighs 3.0 ounces and measures 3.3" x 3.3" x 0.9". This is significantly smaller than the Roku XDS which measures 4.9 x 4.9 x 1.2 inches and weighs 7.2 ounces.

I cracked open the Roku XDS in January, and was interested to see the tech packed into the new player's smaller case. What I found, a new processing platform and consolidated USB/Ethernet chip, was an interesting surprise.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Roku 2 XS

Cracking Open observations

  1. Easy open case and standard screws: The Roku 2 XS's case has two halves, held together with four Torx T6 screws. The screws are hidden under the rubber pad on the base, but you can easily remove the pad without damaging the pad or base. The motion control gaming remote is held together with a single Phillips #0 screw.
  2. Single circuit board: Both the Roku 2 XS and motion control remote have a single PCB.
  3. Same amount of storage as Roku XDS: The Roku 2 XS has 256MB of storage thanks to a Hynix HY27UF082G2B NAND Flash chip. This is the same amount of storage provided by the older Roku XDS' Samsung K9F2G08U0B NAND Flash chip.
  4. Same amount of RAM as the Roku XDS, but fewer chips: A single Samsung K4P2G324EC-AGC1 LPDDR2 RAM chip gives the Roku 2 XS 256MB of RAM. The Roku XDS also has 256MB of RAM, but the older box uses four Samsung K4H510838G-LCCC DDR DRAM chips to achieve the same result.
  5. Consolidated USB and Ethernet controller: Roku stuck with SMSC for USB and Ethernet support, but the company was able to use a single SMSC LAN9512-JZX chip instead of the Roku XDS' SMSC LAN8710A and SMSC USB2512A chips.
  6. No dedicated video/audio chips: The Roku XDS used both the Trident Microsystems / NXP Semiconductors PNX8935 multi-format source decoder and NXP Semiconductors TDA9981A HDMI transmitter to deliver HD video/audio playback. In contrast, the Roku 2 XS appears to combine the Broadcom BCM4336 and SMSC LAN9512 chips into a processing platform that handles video/audio playback and central processing functions. Broadcom doesn't list specific information about the BCM4336 on its website, but from the chip markings and its position on the PCB, it appears to be a combination Wi-Fi chip and application processor.

Internal hardware

The following hardware components were visible on our Roku 2 XS's main PCB:

The motion control game remote had the following chips:

Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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