Roku 2: Five ways it’s better than the Apple TV – and one it really isn’t

The Roku 2 line of tiny media streamers have been unveiled today, promising tons of content in a tiny box. in fact, all three devices in the Roku 2 line put the hockey puck sized second generation Apple TV to shame. Read on and find out how.

It’s cheaperThe cheapest Roku 2 HD set top box comes in at just $59.99, or a mere £37. That’s only a bit more than a HDMI connector cable for your iPhone 4. Even the top end model, the Roku 2 XS, costs just $99.99 (£60), just like the Apple TV does in the US.

It’s not just iTunesThe Roku 2 boxes naturally don’t have access to iTunes for movie rentals, but they’ve got plenty of other options, including Netflix and Hulu+ movie and TV show streaming (for subscribers), as well as a la carte rentals via Amazon Instant Video, plus loads of other niche channels from news services to UFC and even anime. The Apple TV on the other hand doesn’t even have BBC bloody iPlayer.

It’s higher resolutionThe low end Roku HD 2 model pumps out video via HDMI at the same HD resolution as the Apple TV: 720p. But the Roku 2 XD and Roku 2 XS can sling out full HD, 1080p resolution content on top of that.

It has games right nowWe’ve seen endless talk about using the Apple TV as a games console, as well as a few impressive hacks, but until iOS 5 arrives with screen sharing via AirPlay, it isn’t happening. The Roku 2 XS however comes with Angry Birds preloaded, and a remote control that connect via Bluetooth to play it with. More games are planned too, and are expected to cost around $5 (£3) a pop.

USB playbackThe Roku 2 XS comes with a USB slot for playing back locally stored music, video and image files, where as the Apple TV needs to be on your network to get at all your content. Sure, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s a nice option to have

And that fatal flaw…Slight problem: the Roku 2 isn’t going on sale here in the UK, at least yet. Roku’s premium streaming channels (Netflix, Hulu+, MLB etc) are only available in the US, so even if you import one, which isn’t too tricky, most of them won’t work over here. come on Roku, show us some love!

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