(Update: The Roku 2 is now shipping.) This week Roku announced the next generation of their popular digital video player, the Roku 2. As before, there are three models from which to choose, the HD, the XD, and the XS. All three Roku 2 devices include built-in wireless for streaming from your Wi-Fi connection, Bluetooth for connecting a game remote, and a MicroSD slot for what Roku bills as "additional game storage".
The basic Roku 2 HD supports 720p HD video and sells for $59.99. The Roku 2 XD ($79.99) and the Roku 2 XS ($99.99) step the HD video up to 1080p. (Note: many of the 250+ Roku channels do not provide HD video, and you may receive a less-than-HD stream if you have a slower internet connection or if the content provider experiences high demand, so don't expect an all-HD experience if you're a new Roku user.)
The top of the line XS model adds an enhanced remote with Wii-style motion sensing, indicating Roku's expected increase in focus on the gaming market. Expect more games to be added to the Roku Channel Store in the future. You can put that enhanced remote to use playing Angry Birds, a full edition of which is offered free with the XS. If you buy the HD or XD model, you can still add the enhanced remote later, as Roku says they will be offering as a stand-alone purchase.
Other features that distinguish the XS are an Ethernet port if you prefer a hard-wired connection over wireless, and a USB 2.0 port for playing music and videos and displaying videos through the Roku.
Speaking of that USB port, Roku's website says that USB playback will be achieved through the free Roku USB Media Player channel, and that full USB functionality won't be available until a software updated is rolled out, which is anticipated in September 2011. File formats to be supported on the USB drive are MP4 (H.264), MOV (H.264), MKV (H.264), and ASF/WMV (WMV9/VC-1) for video; MP3, AAC, Dolby Digital (MP4, MOV and MKV pass through only), and DTS (MKV pass through only) for audio, and JPG and PNG for images.
All models are currently available for ordering from the Roku website, although a posting in the Roku Forum says that they won't be shipped until early next week. The Roku 2 XD and the Roku 2 XS are currently available for pre-ordering from Amazon. Big-box retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart will be offering the Roku 2, but there's no information yet on whether or not all of the models will be available in these stores.
I've placed my order for the Roku 2 XS and will report back once I've received it and had a chance to test out all the features. I'm hoping that the new units will allow the use of a larger number of channels so I don't have to delete and re-add channels like I do now. The MicroSD slot is said to allow "additional game storage", but it will hopefully allow the storage of more non-game channels as well.