The Roku—in all flavors—is a great little streaming box. Sticking it into your TV has been enough for many people to kick the cable habit. Transformative! The sequel? Wellllll....
It doesn't seem possible, but truly, the biggest new feature implanted in the Roku 2 is a Bluetooth chip whose sole purpose as of yet is playing Angry Birds. This feat of gaming is achieved with a new motion-sensitive remote—right, like a Wiimote. Only nowhere near as responsive yet. The unit I toyed around with was still undergoing tweaks, and the build of Angry Birds was beta, but both were so jarringly far from being enjoyable to use, it'll take a tiny miracle of engineering to make them fun by their release at the end of this month (which isn't very far away, by my count). Besides, the world needs another way to play Angry Birds like you need a punch in the teeth. (Sorry, it's true.)
If Roku is smart, they'll torque the hell out of the remote and really push their SDK hard for other, more fun super-casual gaming. You know, that's not Angry Birds. And that's good. (Although, the fact that Roku wouldn't disclose the box's guts suggests the thing might have the horsepower of a Fleshlight.)
Otherwise, the Roku 2 sports some fairly straightforward updates. There's an SD Card slot, and the highest-end XS model packs ethernet and USB jacks. All models have also received an appreciable slimming, now packing the frame of an Apple TV. If you want 1080p output, you'll have to spring for the better two of the three models, which cost $US80 and $US100 respectively—the $US60 Roku 2 HD only spits out 720p. The two higher-end models also support 1080p Netflix playback for the first time, along with Dolby Digital Plus audio. Which is pretty nice.
We were hoping to see a lot more here—we'll reserve our full judgments for the final product, but Angry Birds alone isn't a reason to upgrade to the deuce if you already have a Roku.