Roku goes all out against AppleTV with new set top boxes

Roku XDS

Roku Wednesday introduced its new line of streaming set top boxes, which promise better performance, smaller physical footprint, and lower prices than the previous versions of the popular net TV appliance.

The new lineup includes: Roku HD for $59.99, Roku XD for $79.99, and the Roku XDS for $99.99.

The HD offers 720p high definition streaming, both wired and wireless connectivity, and HDMI and composite A/V outputs. It is similar to the Roku HD that debuted last year, but comes in the new smaller 1" x 5" chassis.

The XD offers 1080p high definition streaming, wired and wireless connectivity including support for 802.11n, and HDMI and composite outs.

The new top-of the line XDS offers 1080p HD streaming, support for dual-band 802.11n, composite and HDMI outs, optical video output, and a USB port with the new USB Playback channel, which supports content from connected storage devices, a feature heretofore absent from the Roku streamers.

Another new addition to the device is the "Instant Replay" button. This remote key skips 7 seconds back in streams with no rebuffering delay. In the last generation of Roku streamers, any fast forwarding or rewinding required a few seconds for the stream to rebuffer, and often the playback would be in different quality after having done so.

The XDS will no doubt be AppleTV's fiercest competitor in the streaming set top market, since the products cost exactly the same amount, but offer different sources of content. Roku offers well over 50 public channels such as Netflix, Amazon on Demand, Vimeo, MLB, UFC, Revision3, MediaFly, and even more "private" channels from independent content producers which brings content from adult services, YouTube, NASA, and more. AppleTV, on the other hand, offers content from iTunes, one of the most robust online media shops in the United States.

All of the Roku products are available immediately directly from Roku, or as preorders from Amazon. For XDS users, the USB channel will not be available until November.

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