The Roku XS is a network media player that's designed to allow you to stream a number of online services, including BBC iPlayer and Netflix, directly to your TV. The device is tiny, but it forgoes some of the features we're used to seeing on other media streamers in order to make it as easy as possible to set up and use. So, is there still enough on offer here to justify the £99 price tag?
In the US, Roku offers four different network media players, but in the UK we're only getting two of these: the low end LT model, which is priced at £49 and supports playback resolutions of up to 720p HD, and the top-of-the-range XS model, which costs £99 and supports playback of 1080p HD content. Both players are available exclusively from Amazon. After having had a look at the US prices for these devices, we've got to say we're a bit miffed at their UK RRPs. The XS retails for $99 in the US, which is closer to £62.50, so Roku is adding close to £40 on top for UK consumers. Even Apple would baulk at that kind of mark up!
But let's get back to the actually player. The Roku XS is physically tiny. It measures just 84mm x 84mm and stands a mere 23mm high. As a result it's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The unit is square shaped, but has rounded corners and is finished in gloss black with the XS logo stamped in large letters on the top. Interestingly, there's also a clothes-like tag with the Roku brand-name embroidered on it attached to the left hand side of the device.
There's no display on the actual player, but there is a white LED light on the front that blinks while the device is booting up and then stays lit once it's ready for use. The range of connection is a little bit limited. The right hand side is home to a USB port, while the back of the unit houses the Ethernet port along with the HDMI socket and mini jack AV output. Here you'll also find the micro SD card slot, as well as a pin-push reset button. As you would expect, the player also has Wi-Fi built-in.
Unlike the lower-end LT model, the XS comes with its own Wii-style remote control that connects to the player via Bluetooth. However, the XS also has an IR receiver, so you can use it with universal remotes such as Logitech's Harmony range. Although the remote is motion-enabled, the motion sensing feature is only used for games. When you're moving around the various menus and apps, you navigate using the four way d-pad and the rest of the physical button, rather than by waving the remote around like a wand.
The first time you turn on the XS, it automatically starts up its set-up wizard. This first asks you whether you want to use a wired or wireless connection. Once you select one of these, it'll then download the latest software for the player, which takes around two minutes. After a fairly quick reboot you then select your country and region via onscreen menus. After this the player displays a code on the screen that you then use to register it with the Roku website. Rather cheekily, during the registration process you have to enter either your credit card number or your Paypal account details in order to create an account, even if you don’t want to purchase any paid-for content.
Once you account has been created you select the channels – Roku's name for the various video on demand services and games - that you want to add to the player. This channel list then gets sent to the player where they're automatically downloaded and installed. It's a very user friendly process and you can install more services later directly via the channel store on the player if you need.