First off I live in Canada - more on that below. But to the point - other than cable/satellite offerings, AppleTV is the only other major player that you can rent movies from ... without trying to pretend you are in the US. Secondly, this review does not deal with "picture quality".
For a while I have had Netflix and felt to capitalize I need to roll it out to more rooms in the house. I wanted to get an Apple TV but needed HDMI with the latest generation - so I bought a 32" LG TV. In the living room (SD) we were using the XBOX (cumbersome without a real remote) and for the kitchen (SD) I decided to buy the Roku XD. A few weeks later the Roku XS went on sale and I bought that too.
Comes only with wireless and a large concern I had was - because of the poor wireless in some parts of the house (even with updated routers) I felt a wired connection would be better. But for that - this unit worked flawlessly with WIFI.
The only real bonus with this unit is the remote. In some ways I prefer the "softer" Roku XD remote but this one has two bonuses (a) Angry birds are included and the remote can be used to play - think RF style. (b) There is a "quick back" button - a bonus when you want to quickly go back I think 10 seconds while watching Netflix versus having to hit "back (a tap that does the same thing)" and "play" -- just a nice single button.
The rest of this unit isn't so hot ...
During my 30d window to keep/return I discovered that when moving forward or back when using Netflix it would result in random network errors and/or put you back at the Netflix program menu. I Googled this and found it was 100% related to the Wifi - with a bunch of "try this try that waste your life here waste your life there" with zero solution. Well, one solution - apparently the moment you plug in the wired RJ45 - the problem goes away - and I can confirm that is 100% true. So if you want Wifi - stick with the Roku XD.
In order to get your channels you need to register online and lock in your address (BIG ROKU BROTHER). If I give them my real address - bye bye a lot of things. So I had to make up a fake US address. This would allow me to add say "Hulu" whereas if I said I lived in Canada I could not.
Signed up for a service so that we can watch some additional content "as if" we live in the US (so technically I could now subscribe to "Hulu" and watch it). Discovered (well past the return date) that yes the Roku worked with this setup but because I was changing the DNS I preferred to modify the DNS "at the device" not "for the home". Lo and behold ... Roku does not allow you to modify the DNS settings. Joy. The work around - my router allowed me to setup a specific IP range and attach a DNS to that range. Fixed. But less tech savvy people would be negatively affected by this.
The single greatest improvement to Netflix in the last few years is wasted on the Roku 2's thanks to their decision NOT to ever offer profiles for the "still can buy them in the store" Roku 2 units. This was confirmed by Roku support and since then I have told people I know NEVER buy a Roku device. Oh sure - buy a Roku 3 and get profiles. But then what happens when Roku 4 comes out and a new neat feature is available somewhere and they say "nope - not going to support Roku 3". This is not a hardware thing - and IMO it is a horrible precedent ... quite frankly outrageous.
To support I stated that my: (a) XBOX**; (b) Apple TV**; (c) iPads** (2/mini); (d) Android phone; and (e) 2006 Nintendo Wii** --- ALL SUPPORT PROFILES...
(** these units allowed me to modify the DNS; the Android is not rooted hence I cannot adjust)
Long story short - I paid about $60US - and instead of buying another box I go the Wii working in the kitchen. Eventually I will buy a single HDTV for the living room with SmartTV and play Netflix off that; then move the Roku 2 into the kitchen. Someone mentioned that another company called MyGica offers a similar product - but uses Android. (The person suggested that Roku and this company were one then they split out to these two companies). I also will mention that the Roku offers a channel in which you add software to a PC then connect to your home network - as mentioned online cumbersome and not a great experience. That is were perhaps the MyGica may offer something better - being more open. That is one area I have disliked about AppleTV - I am forced to turn my movies into Mp4 then run special software to enable the AppleTV to see the movies. I have a SageTV home PVR system with Hauppauge MVP (SD) units at each TV and love the ability to record straight in MPEG2 (easy to manipulate) and it will play DivX. Sadly Sage was bought out by Google and there is no Netflix support.
You have been warned ...