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Geek Gifts 2010: Roku XDS streaming media player

The original Roku media player was a featured gadget in the Geek Gift Guide and the Roku XDS continues the tradition with new features and technology.

In June 2008, I gave a very favorable review of the Roku Netflix Player and it was one of our featured gadgets in the 2008 TechRepublic Geek Gift Guide. Well, the 2010 Roku XDS iteration of that streaming media player continues to impress. With new features, access to more content, and the same low price, the Roku XDS is one of 2010's best geek gifts.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 4.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Networking:
    • 802.11n Wi-Fi (b/g/n compatible) with WEP, WPA and WPA2 support, Dual-band 802.11n (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz)
    • 10/100 Base-T Ethernet
  • Video output:
    • Composite video (480i)
    • Component video (720p/480p). Requires Roku XDS component cable (sold separately)
    • HDMI (1080p/720p/480p)
  • Video modes:
    • 1080p High Definition (HD)
    • 720p High Definition (HD)
    • 16:9 anamorphic / 4:3 standard
  • Audio output:
    • Analog stereo
    • Optical digital audio (5.1 surround sound pass-through and stereo)
    • Digital over HDMI (5.1 surround sound pass-through)
  • Port: USB 2.0, supporting video and image files
  • Cost: $99

What I like

  • Ease of use: One of the best things about the Roku XDS is how easy it is to setup and use. The instructions for activating the device are straightforward and take only few minutes. And, once it is up and running, streaming media is just a few clicks of the remote away.
  • WiFi: The original Roku had a very good WiFi radio, but the XDS ups the ante with a dual-band 802.11n compatible system.
  • Available content: While Netflix is still the primary content provider, there are new content deals being made all the time. Hulu Plus will be available in December 2010 and there are now dozens of other channels available with a Roku box.
  • Upgrades: Roku is designed to be easily upgradeable for new features and new content and these upgrades happen automatically.

What I don't like

  • No 1080p yet: The Roku XDS is capable of streaming a full 1080p HD signal, but none of the content providers is actually sending those signals yet. Within the next year, 1080p on the Roku should be common place, but it is not yet.
  • Growing pains: The popularity of streaming media, especially with Netflix, means there are some growing pains. Sometime services get overwhelmed and content is not available. However, Netflix, for example, is very sensitive to these outages and has always given credit off the monthly subscription fee for any downtime.

Geek bottom line

The Roku XDS is a fine piece of hardware that does exactly what it is designed to do and does it elegantly and without complications. A Roku player streaming media to your home is one of the most enjoyable multimedia experiences a person (geek or otherwise) could ask for. And at a reasonable price of $99, the Roku XDS is very highly recommended.

Geek Gift Score

  • Fun factor: ****
  • Geek factor: ****
  • Value: *****
  • Overall: *****

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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