Roku is calling its new line of streaming-media boxes "Roku 2," but this is actually the fourth iteration of the device, which started its life as the "Netflix Player" in 2008. Like Apple TV, this is still a Netflix video streamer at its core--and a very good one--but along the way Roku has shrunk the box down; added several new "channels," including Amazon Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, and Pandora; and bulked up feature-wise, upping the ante this go round with a new Bluetooth motion remote (included with the top-end $100 Roku 2 XS) that allows you to play games.
The end result is arguably the most robust little streaming-media box for less than $100. True, the new gaming feature is very limited at launch (Angry Birds is included for free with the XS but as of yet, no other titles are available), but that the capability is there adds a touch of sizzle and helps distinguish Roku from its competitors.
Don't care about gaming? Well, there's some good news there, because you don't have to pay for the fancy remote if you don't want it. The two step-down models in the line--the Roku 2 XD ($80) and Roku 2 HD ($60)--have nearly all the features you'll find in the higher-end XS but trade the Bluetooth motion remote for a standard IR remote (the entry-level Roku HD offers 720p video output instead of 1080p but all three models are gaming-enabled--if you have that Bluetooth remote).
If this all sounds like a more compelling alternative to Apple TV, it is, so read on to get the full skinny on all the new Roku 2 models--including a point-by-point comparison on Roku 2 versus Apple TV (and other streaming-media boxes).