Editors' note: The Roku 2 XS has been replaced by the new Roku 3, which features a faster processor, sleeker design and a private listening feature for the same price. We recommend all buyers opt for the Roku 3 over the Roku 2 XS.
The Roku 2 XS sits atop the current lineup of Roku streaming media boxes. It offers the most features, and costs the most money -- a still-affordable $100.
All of the Roku models can turn any TV -- an HDTV or an old analog model -- into a "Smart" TV, with the ability to stream hundreds of online video and audio channels and services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, Pandora, Mog, Rdio, and MLB.TV. (Most of the best channels require separate subscription fees, but some -- Crackle, Pandora, and others -- are completely free.) All models offer wireless Wi-Fi streaming and a universal search function (for finding content across multiple video providers). Rokus can also stream photos, music, and video from smartphones and tablets via the free Play On Roku app (which can also double as a remote control), and stream media from PCs and Macs with the Plex app.
But there are some differences among the four models. Here's how the Roku line breaks down:
Roku LT ($50): The entry-level Roku includes all of the features above and retails for just $50. HD video output is limited to 720p, and it includes standard RCA (yellow/red/white) jacks for connecting to older analog TVs.
Roku HD ($60): The Roku HD is basically identical to the LT, except for the color scheme (black instead of purple). Unlike the LT (mostly an online-only product), the HD is available in many brick-and-mortar stores. The list price is $60, but it's sometimes discounted to as low as $40.
Roku 2 XD ($80): The Roku 2 XD is a slightly smaller box than the LT/HD models, and it adds full 1080p HD video output. It supports an optional Bluetooth motion remote, but only a standard infrared remote is included in the box. Analog video output (for pre-HDTVs) is enabled via an included breakout cable.
Roku 2 XS ($100, reviewed here): The top-of-the-line Roku also offers 1080p video output, an Ethernet port, and a USB port for limited local file access. It includes a Bluetooth motion remote and a free copy of Angry Birds.