2 new Roku boxes launched for Netflix & more

Roku’s streaming set-top set-top boxes now come in three flavors, adding new features as well.

The biggest improvement for videophiles will be HD streaming on both the $100 Roku HD and the $130 Roko HD-XR. Both boxes have HDMI output and an optical audio output for surround sound, but the HD-XR adds wireless n connectivity, while the Roku HD is constrained to the legacy wireless b/g standards.

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Roku also introduced the $80 Roku SD, which plays only in standard definition as the name suggests, and uses wireless b/g. All three players also have an Ethernet jack for wired connections.

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But the most exciting prospect for these boxes, I think, is the expected inclusion of the “Roku Channel Store.” The players already allow access to Netflix instant viewing, Amazon Video on Demand and MLB.tv, but Macworld reports that Roku will add “a number of new content channels for the Roku player” in the weeks ahead.

The Los Angeles Times notes that Roku supports Adobe’s Flash player, so Netflix could be looking to bring in streaming video sites such as Hulu, except that content providers have been skittish about letting their Internet content play conveniently on a television. I can’t think of what else Roku might add in its video channels, but the idea of Roku expanding as a content hub sounds good to me.

It actually makes me jealous that I’m stuck using an Xbox 360, which is confined to Netflix’s Instant Watch content alone. I’d love to see a full-blown Roku app on the Xbox 360, but I’m not holding out hope for that.

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