updated 09:30 pm EDT, Wed September 22, 2010
Roku HD, XD and XDS media hubs arrive
Roku tonight unveiled three new Internet Players as part of its mission to hold off the new Apple TV. The Roku HD is now one of the least expensive networked media hubs yet and costs just $60, or less than two thirds the price of its Apple rival. Video reaches the same 720p, and it supports Amazon VOD, Netflix and MLB.tv for video as well as MP3tunes, MOG, Pandora and RadioTime for audio. Media from Facebook and Flickr also pipes through the device.
It and the other Internet Players are also more compact than the outgoing models at one inch tall and five inches across. Every model, including the HD, has both HDMI for a digital signal as well as RCA for legacy TVs. Networking on the entry level model comes from either 802.11g Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
The Roku XD builds on the formula and at $80 brings full 1080p playback, 802.11n wireless and an instant replay button on its remote that will skip back 10 seconds without having to rebuffer streaming video. At an Apple TV-matching $100, the XDS brings in full dual-band 802.11n to pick a frequency with less interference, component video for HD on some older TVs, and a USB port for playing media directly from local storage.
All of the hubs are available to buy directly from Roku this evening and should reach Amazon shortly.
The launches make Roku one of the most aggressive challengers to Apple so far and in some areas keep its boxes ahead of the Apple TV. Apple has the major advantages of combining the iTunes Store and Netflix for top-tier content, but Roku currently has a more diverse range of premier services in addition to the lower prices. Apple's hardware is smaller and quieter but is also limited to just HDMI for output.