Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

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Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby thusband » Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:17 pm

I've had the XD for a while now and it performs very well. I get good HD streaming with my hard wired unit. I have to reboot occasionally but not often. What features does the Roku 2 XD have that mine doesn't? I see there's new software available but not for my old XD. Would I be happier with a new Roku 2 XD?

Many thanks
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby mikeyts » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:04 pm

Of course, the value of the gaming remote and Angry Birds is subjective. I bought my XS for the wired network connection the month that it hit the market. I tried Angry Birds with the gaming remote once and that RF remote has sat the bottom of a little bin of stuff for over a year. I have a bunch of platforms on which to play Angry Birds if I want to and I rate the Roku just above my smartphone in terms of desirability for the purpose.

If I hadn't wanted a wired network connection I'd have definitely bought the XD.

Does the XD support selectable closed captions/subtitles in Netflix? If not, it should be mentioned that the Roku 2s do. Also note that to listen to the 5.1 sound available on some Netflix titles, your AVR (or whatever you connect it to for sound) has to be Dolby Digital Plus capable; the Roku cannot convert it into anything else and simply passes it through.
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby thusband » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:36 pm

Thanks for the answers. The comparison chart is handy. I'm not into the games so that's not important. Ethernet connection is a must have so the XD is out. My XD now is hardwired so if that's the only thing the XS has going maybe I'll hold off. Video resolution between my XD and the new XS seems to be the same. Faster processor in the XS and more channel memory but I only have a hand full of channels now. USB and Bluetooth aren't important to me. It might be nice if my XD switched channels and loaded stuff a bit quicker but I can live with it.

I think I talked myself out of buying a new box.

Thanks again.
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby mikeyts » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:36 pm

thusband wrote:TVideo resolution between my XD and the new XS seems to be the same.

That depends upon what you watch. If you're into Netflix, most HD titles have 1080p video encodes which the Roku 2 XS' Netflix player can play but the Roku XD's Netflix player cannot. This is a limitation of the older Roku's Netflix players which is not going away.
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby mikebdoss » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:37 pm

mikeyts wrote:
thusband wrote:TVideo resolution between my XD and the new XS seems to be the same.
That depends upon what you watch. If you're into Netflix, most HD titles have 1080p video encodes which the Roku 2 XS' Netflix player can play but the Roku XD's Netflix player cannot.


Do "most" titles really stream in 1080p? I know they CAN, but I was under the impression that most were 720p upscaled.
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby thusband » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:01 pm

mikeyts wrote:
thusband wrote:TVideo resolution between my XD and the new XS seems to be the same.

That depends upon what you watch. If you're into Netflix, most HD titles have 1080p video encodes which the Roku 2 XS' Netflix player can play but the Roku XD's Netflix player cannot. This is a limitation of the older Roku's Netflix players which is not going away.

That's interesting. The comparison chart shows both the old XD and XS with 480i/480p and 720p/1080p capability. So you're saying when I watch Netflix HD movies they really aren't 1080p but something less?
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby mikeyts » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:20 pm

mikebdoss wrote:Do "most" titles really stream in 1080p? I know they CAN, but I was under the impression that most were 720p upscaled.

Nope. Netflix HD titles have 720p24 video encodes at 2350 and 3600 Kbps and most have a 1080p24 encode at 4800 Kbps. Add to that 192 Kbps for stereo sound and 384 Kbps for 5.1 channel DD+. I have measured the difference between the two using the realtime bandwidth usage monitor in my router.

To see the difference, examine the same frame captured from the titles of a film called The Resident, one at 1080p and one at 720p; I chose this because it has lots of tiny little details which can be seen to be sharper in the 1080p version upon careful comparison. (For this, I like to open a window in the Chrome browser, placing the frames in two separate tabs. Blow it up full-screen with F11 and instantly bounce back and forth between the two with CTRL-TAB. I like to use Chrome for this because full-screen is full-screen; no vertical or horizontal scrollbars. If you're using Chrome like me, drag one of the links into the New Tab at the top of this window, drag that tab off into its own window, then drag the other link into that new window's New Tab).

For grins also compare this capture of a frame from a BD of the movie Outbreak with this 1080p Netflix version of the same. Not bad, huh :)?

(All screen captures courtesy of AVS Forum member msgohan's "Netflix PS3 streaming comparison PIX" thread, saved before all of his great work was auto-magically converted to 800x450 by ImageShack :roll:).
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby mikeyts » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:35 pm

thusband wrote:
mikeyts wrote:
thusband wrote:TVideo resolution between my XD and the new XS seems to be the same.

That depends upon what you watch. If you're into Netflix, most HD titles have 1080p video encodes which the Roku 2 XS' Netflix player can play but the Roku XD's Netflix player cannot. This is a limitation of the older Roku's Netflix players which is not going away.

That's interesting. The comparison chart shows both the old XD and XS with 480i/480p and 720p/1080p capability. So you're saying when I watch Netflix HD movies they really aren't 1080p but something less?

That's exactly what I'm saying. The Roku XD's hardware may be capable of displaying 1080p, but its Netflix player cannot access and play the available 1080p video encodes. (The forum post that I linked to explains that, though it makes no attempt to justify it; there was a big ugly fuss about it in a thread linked to by that post). For one thing, those encodes are only present in the set of encodes for adaptive bit rate streaming (ABS); the XD also cannot do that.

ABS is a technology which dynamically switches between video encodes at different bit-rates/picture-quality-levels as available bandwidth on your connection to Netflix's servers (or the responsiveness of those servers) fluctuates. If for whatever reason the player can't keep its buffer full, it drops back to a lower bit-rate/lower-quality version of the video until conditions improve, when it switches upward to a higher bit-rate/higher-quality encode. The player should make these switches very smoothly; when done well, it's like watching the focus of a camera lens soften and sharpen. This avoids the old stop-to-buffer-a-lower-bit-rate-encode strategy (which never switched back to a higher bit-rate one).

Sadly, some of the subset of titles which are 720p-only are the relatively-recent-release films from Netflix's deal with Epix (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Warrior, True Grit, Super 8, etc). Most of these also lack digital 5.1 sound. No doubt these limitations were specified by Epix in the deal (though they let Amazon stream 5.1 sound with the same films).
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby kc8pql » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:22 am

mikeyts wrote: The Roku XD's hardware may be capable of displaying 1080p, but its Netflix player cannot access and play the available 1080p video encodes.

Put simply, the old boxes and the new boxes use different Netflix streams. Only the new boxes can access the 1080p stream.
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby thusband » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:18 am

Thanks all. Lots of good information here. I guess I've changed my mind again and will buy the XS.
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby todd95008 » Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:27 pm

kc8pql wrote:
mikeyts wrote: The Roku XD's hardware may be capable of displaying 1080p, but its Netflix player cannot access and play the available 1080p video encodes.

Put simply, the old boxes and the new boxes use different Netflix streams. Only the new boxes can access the 1080p stream.


You only get the 1080p stream if you select the dolby 5.1 plus soundtrack (if available).
I tried this last night and there is quite a difference Vs the 720p 2.6Mbsec stream.
The titles start out in much higher quality (adaptive bitrate) too Vs 720p.
Only problem is I don't have a DD 5.1 plus decoder in my system or TV so I had no sound :(
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby Buckeye911 » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:26 pm

Another difference, as of today, is Vudu is now available on the Roku 2XD but not on the old XD.
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby mikeyts » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:46 pm

todd95008 wrote:You only get the 1080p stream if you select the dolby 5.1 plus soundtrack (if available).
I tried this last night and there is quite a difference Vs the 720p 2.6Mbsec stream.
The titles start out in much higher quality (adaptive bitrate) too Vs 720p.
Only problem is I don't have a DD 5.1 plus decoder in my system or TV so I had no sound :(

Not true for me (or at least it wasn't--I haven't tested it recently). I have bandwidth consumption graphs showing that the difference between a stream with stereo sound and one played with 5.1 sound is negligible, whether it be at 720p or 1080p.

You can see a graph of bandwidth consumed playing minutes 5-14 of Ong Bak 2: The Beginning with video format set to 1080p and stereo sound here and a graph of the same at 720p here. (Relevant numbers are in the transmission stats, as in transmission from the router to the Roku). Note that 30% more data is consumed for the 1080p stream (444.71 MB) versus 720p (339.89 MB).
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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby todd95008 » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:31 pm

Let's move this here from Vudu thread...

mikeyts wrote:I tried it this morning and I get the same results that I got a year ago. Monitoring bandwidth consumed while playing minutes 5 through 14 of Ong Bak 2: The Beginning on the Roku 2 with the global Audio Mode set to "Stereo" and stereo selected in the title's "audio & subtitles" sub-menu I get 444.25 MB down for those 10 minutes as opposed to 444.71 last year. That's a raw average bit rate of 6211 Kbps today and 6217 Kbps last year, consistent with the 1080p encode (raw because some of that data read in those 10 minutes is still in Roku's buffer, unplayed; for 720p I get a raw average of around 4700 Kbps).

So I don't know why you don't get 1080p when Netflix sound is set to stereo but I do get it under those circumstances.


Thanks for your testing..
I'll have to try the title you mention and see if I SEE a difference (I have no other way to tell a difference) ?
I was using the TV show Scandal (Episode 6) for my previous test.
Could be that this show in stereo is only 720p and 1080p with DD 5.1+ ??
I'm curious what you used to measure bandwidth ??
I also have a 2 year old XDS I use on my other older TV (only 720p) and I keep the XDS permanently in debug mode so I always see the bit rate and all HD titles are at 2.6Mb/sec. They used to be at 3.6Mb/sec until about 6 months ago (USA streams btw).
I'm always above 20Mb/sec internet speed so that is not an issue.
I wish the Roku 2 XS would still show bit rate in debug mode (works in other places but not Netflix)..
Been searching for something that will convert DD plus but no luck, might as well get a cheapo AVR for $250 ??

Any other thoughts ??

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Re: Difference Between Roku 2 XD and Roku XD

Postby mikeyts » Fri Sep 21, 2012 11:47 pm

todd95008 wrote:Thanks for your testing..

You're welcome. I live for geeky experimentation :D.

I'll have to try the title you mention and see if I SEE a difference (I have no other way to tell a difference) ?

Sadly, there is no way to tell on the Roku for sure. The PS3's Netflix player and the player on 2012 Sony BDPs have this cool stream status overlay which indicates which video encode you're getting: Low/SD, Medium/SD, High/SD, Medium/HD, High/HD or X-High/HD, where X-High/HD is 1080p. A few other devices have something similar.

I was using the TV show Scandal (Episode 6) for my previous test.
Could be that this show in stereo is only 720p and 1080p with DD 5.1+ ??

Seems unlikely--sound and video are uncoupled in these adaptive bit rate oriented encodes so that you can choose stereo or 5.1 or an English dub of a French film or whatever. They have example clips with 5 or 6 selectable audio tracks for different language dubs (those clips, of course, have no dialog :D).

I'm curious what you used to measure bandwidth ??

I'm using some open source firmware for my venerable old Linksys WRT54G router called Tomato. Tomato has a realtime bandwidth monitor graph; the graph shows bandwidth usage over a ten minute span. I use Ong Bak 2 for a couple of different reasons: first, it has a very high action, encoder-challenging sequence near the beginning, martial arts combat in the rain, which creates a stream with the highest possible average bit rate for the 10 minutes that I need; second, it was available on all of the streaming services that I cared about (Netflix, VUDU, Amazon, Zune)--I ran this test on every one of them on every device that I owned that they could run on. All I do is start the movie and set a countdown timer; at the end of 14 minutes I capture a snapshot of the graph.

You can see the data I collected this morning on this graph; data collected under the same circumstances a year ago (except that the Roku's global audio mode was set to "5.1") can be seen on this graph (unfortunately there's no control of y-axis scale so the curves look more different than they are).

I also have a 2 year old XDS I use on my other older TV (only 720p) and I keep the XDS permanently in debug mode so I always see the bit rate and all HD titles are at 2.6Mb/sec. They used to be at 3.6Mb/sec until about 6 months ago (USA streams btw).

That's interesting--I briefly owned an XDS and decided to return it. The Netflix players on the old Rokus and the Roku 2 use two different sets of video encodes; for the newer, adaptive bit rate oriented encode sets HD titles have 720p encodes at 2350 and 3600 Kpbs and (usually) a 1080p encode at 4800 Kbps. Add 192 Kbps for stereo sound or 384 Kbps for 5.1 channel DD+ (or 64 Kbps for stereo in the web player). They're highly variable bit rate encodes, so you if you're monitoring the bit rate of a fairly static sequence it might not get anywhere near as high as those average limits. For instance, the 10 minutes following the one that I use in Ong Bak 2 is much more sedate (martial arts training and meditation, etc) and has a 37% lower average bit rate.

Perhaps they reduced the average bit rate of those older encodes to save space. Perhaps they think that few people will notice or care. Perhaps they used new encoders which achieve the same results in 38% less bandwidth. If so, perhaps they'll do the same thing to the newer set of encodes. It behooves them to continually seek ways to save server storage and bandwidth; the storage costs them money and the lower the stream bit rate the more people they can serve who scrimp on network service speed. Amazon's 720p w/5.1 sound is pretty decent and they encode it at 2.3 Mbps. Not as good as Netflix's 1080p at its best, but not at all bad.

I'm always above 20Mb/sec internet speed so that is not an issue.

The nominal speed of your network service is an upper limit which does not guarantee any particular average speed to any arbitrary site. There could be a lot of traffic on the path between you and the Netflix server you get assigned to.

I wish the Roku 2 XS would still show bit rate in debug mode (works in other places but not Netflix)..

I agree, but in those other places it just shows the bandwidth measured in a very short test. I'd want something like the PS3 display that I linked to above, with a continuous indication of what you're getting now.

Been searching for something that will convert DD plus but no luck, might as well get a cheapo AVR for $250 ??

That's what I did when Netflix came out with 5.1 DD+ on Roku 2, but I'd been considering upgrading my AVR for a couple of years--this was just the final straw. But weren't you the guy with the Bose system whose speakers can't be used with another AVR?
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