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The Roku 2 streaming box was one of our top picks for giving your TV some internet-smarts, and while it wasn?t as fast as the flagship Roku 3, this year?s refreshed model packs in some updated internals for what Roku?s promising is speedier performance, alongside an Ethernet port for wired connectivity and plenty of apps and channels to watch. Can it compete with the rest of the TV streaming sticks and pucks out at the moment? We fired one up to find out.

The good

When Roku simplified its line-up into three distinct streaming boxes (and a Streaming Stick), it simply named them Roku 1, Roku 2 and Roku 3, with each number signalling how fast each box is and which one packs in more features - we reckon Roku now needs to rethink its naming structure. That?s because the Roku 2 has just been updated for this year, and it?s wicked fast and practically as speedy as the Roku 3, with quick and responsive menus that leaves Amazon?s Fire TV interface in the dust - all for a much cheaper ?79.99. Pulling down videos from the web is rapid, with streams starting instantly even if you?ve connected up the box using its dual-band Wi-Fi - and with the new Ethernet jack, videos start playing back even quicker, with higher quality options on tap if you?re connected directly to your router.

Roku offers heaps of apps for you to tap into with its Roku 2, alongside plenty of channels that?ll keep you entertained - you?ll feel spoiled for choice with what?s on offer, and channels and apps are constantly updated too. Search is something that Roku has got nailed down, as you?ll be able to flick through almost all the services that are on offer, with search results then sorted by price - and if you use the Roku app on your phone, you can tap into voice search too. You'll find some handy features included, such as the ability to send over what's currently on your phone's screen, letting you easily show videos or photos, and apps like Plex make it easy to get your own media up on screen too.

The bad

Still, while Roku has given its middle child a speed increase, it has unfortunately taken away some of its better functionalities too. The previous version included RCA jacks to let you hook up the box to older, standard definition televisions, but those have now been replaced by an Ethernet jack so you have to hook it up via HDMI. That?s good if you?re fully up to date with a newer television, but if you wanted to add streaming skills to an older model, you?ll have to go with the slower Roku 1, which does retain the RCA video and audio jacks.

Even worse though, Roku has ditched the private listening headphone jack on the remote, a handy feature that makes late-night listening a breeze so you don?t disturb anyone, and it?s been downgraded from a Wi-Fi Direct remote to a standard IR pointer - that means you need to make sure it?s aimed directly at the box each time you hit a button. It?s also jarring as you can still buy the older Roku 2 for cheaper (we?ve spotted it for around ?40), which retains the superior remote - we?re puzzled why Roku?s downgraded one of the best points of the Roku 2. You can pick up an upgraded remote if you want for extra, but that's an added cost that drives up the price even more.

There?s also still no Amazon Prime Instant VIdeo app on the Roku box, despite it being available on US Rokus - that?s unlikely to change any time soon though, although it would be great to have all the top services in one single place.

The bottom line

The new and improved Roku 2 definitely brings the value of the Roku 3 into question, giving you equally speedy performance at a lower price point, but we feel Roku?s downgraded the whole package to give its top-end model a clear advantage. Amazon?s Fire TV Stick offers even better value though, but if you?re a Roku fan and want to upgrade or stick with the ecosystem, this year?s box offers a faster UI and plenty of options over its predecessors.
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