For the last few years, Roku has held the market on the best set-top media streaming box for the living room, but when Apple announced it’s revamped Apple TV priced at $99, many suspected Roku’s lunch had been eaten. Wednesday, however, Roku struck back against the Cupertino company and its fleet of fanboys by unleashing a brand new lineup of devices starting at just $59.
Roku now comes in three flavors: HD, XD and XDS. The HD, at $59, is basically the Roku of old, with built in WiFi and an HDMI port, while the XD, for $20 more, features 1080p video playback and extended range Wireless N capability. For another $20, the XDS gives you dual-band Wireless N, component video and optical audio outputs, as well as a USB port to load local media.
The XD and XDS also include a fun new trick no other streaming device offers: a DVR-esque instant replay button. Now when watching streaming content, users can rewind in 7-second intervals without causing the stream to rebuffer. With the focus of set-top box media shifting from local storage to over-the-air streaming, anything that makes the experience feel more natural is a welcome addition.
Replay button or not, at $99 the Roku XDS is a solid alternative to the new Apple TV (which only features 720p content). One area it comes up short in, however, is file format support. The Roku will only support MPEG-4, MP3, JPG and PNG files, while the Apple TV supports many more audio, video and photo formats. Roku users will miss the easy wireless syncing with iTunes (if that’s your music library manager of choice), but access to Amazon’s Video On Demand, Netflix and MLB.TV help make up for it.
So what’ll it be? Roku? Apple TV? Or Google TV perhaps? Oh, and don’t forget the Boxee Box! Leave us a comment and let us hear it!