Product Review (August 2004) - Roku Labs
HD1000 High Definition Digital Media Player

Digital media players are actually quite easy to find with various designs being offered by dozens of manufacturers. However, none of the players we have seen offer the capabilities of the new Roku HD1000 Digital Media player. Priced at $299, the HD1000 is certainly more expensive than most media players, but one must consider the capabilities of this unit. No other media player that we know of can produce the stunning still images and high-definition (HD) real-time video like we have seen on the HD1000. Now you can thoroughly impress your viewers with high resolution photographs instead of those fuzzy looking ones shown over composite or s-video connections. The design of the HD1000 started from the ground up with 2D and 3D HD video processors, a real-time HD MPEG2 hardware decode engine that supports all HD formats. There's 16MB of internal flash memory and 64MB of DDR DRAM. The built-in real-time HD MPEG2 decompression processor supports ATSC-compliant MPEG2 transport streams. What does this mean to the average user? Probably not a whole lot, but if you happen to have an HD tuner card in your PC like we do, you'll quickly be able to stream prerecorded files to this media player in glorious high definition. The HD1000 supports MP3, WAV and AIFF audio formats. More formats will most likely appear in future firmware upgrades. The built-in screen saver will automatically start if the screen doesn't change for a set amount of time. It will also detect video on the pass-through input and will enable the screensaver if no video change is detected (such as paused video).

The chassis of the HD1000 is solid and measures 17" wide, 9" deep and less than 1.75" high with the feet. Although the chassis is small, it does have to dissipate some heat generated from the powerful processing going on inside the unit and with no fan, it would be wise to provide adequate ventilation. We made the mistake of placing the HD1000 inside a cabinet and soon found out that it was not a good idea as it got quite warm.

The front panel of the HD1000 accommodates a variety of memory cards including CompactFlash, SD/MMC, Memory Stick/Memory Stick PRO, and SmartMedia. The OS automatically recognizes any media that is inserted into the unit. The left side has a power button, but the unit is really always active. The right side has Menu, Exit, Navigation (4-position) and Select buttons. There are two LEDs on the front for Power and Memory Card Activity.

Rear Panel
The rear panel of the HD1000 has input connections for both component and s-video as well as two channel audio. The intent of the inputs is to provide a pass-through capability for components that need to share resources, particularly the display. For example, an existing DVD player can be connected to the HD1000 and be used to drive the inputs of a high definition display while the HD1000 is off. If the viewing wished to use the HD1000 he or she simply turns the unit on and the same display input is now working with the HD1000. Both component and RGB outputs are provided as well as a lower resolution s-video connection. For composite video, the user needs to use the Y signal of the component outputs. A pair of audio outputs are also provided as well as a coaxial digital output. The USB port can be used to interface a wireless ethernet adapter. The wired ethernet port has indicators for speed (10/100) and activity (ACT) near the connector to monitor traffic. The detachable IEC power cord is a nice added feature that allows the unit to be modular when installing it into a system.

An RS232 port is available for custom installers who need to completely control the operation of the HD1000 using simple ASCII control commands. This capability is also available over the ethernet interface, but we didn't have a chance to try out either of these control functions.

Setup
The HD 1000 is easy to configure and the menu interface is well done. The Setup menu has several submenus for Art Pack Settings, Bypass Mode, General, Network Shares, Screen Saver, Set Time, Video Format, Video Placement and Wireless. Not all areas need to be configured for operation, but it is helpful to look at the available options.

The Video Format submenu has ten different screen modes with support for composite, s-video, component and VGA interfaces. NTSC, 480i, 480p, 720p 1080i and 1024x768 resolutions are available. The Screen Placement controls let the user position and size the image for a perfect fit. We connected the HD1000 to an InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 DLP projector using the component outputs. We also used it with a Mitsubishi LT-3020 high definition LCD display. Our HTPC (Sony Vaio PCV-RZ22G) provided the media for music and pictures as well as high definition content thanks to our MIT MDP-100 ATSC tuner and recorder. We networked the HTPC and the HD1000 using a 5-port SMC switch that was also connected to our main network.

For testing purposes, we installed an AirLink USB WiFi adapter (Model WLL013) and it worked great once we found out that the HD1000 does not like to be rebooted after the installation process is complete. There are no drivers to load for the USB adapter, so the process is simple. However, the user must set up the SSID and password in the Wireless submenu screen. Bandwidth was significantly less than our 100 Mb/s wired connection, so we decided to use the 10/100 ethernet port to avoid any possible dropouts with our streaming media tests.

Unlike our other digital media player, the HD1000 will output MP3 music from the digital output connection. We used this to listen to all of our music files. The analog outputs worked well, but for simplicity we used the digital link.

Remote
The remote that comes with the HD1000 is simple and functioned well for us. We experienced no problems with the operation. Menu, Power and Exit buttons are at the top with the navigation buttons just below them. Three buttons placed in the center of the remote are used to control Play/Pause and chapter skip (Forward and Reverse). These work great with audio tracks, but there are a few limitations that we ran into. When watching streaming video media, there was no way for us to fast-forward or rewind the video clips. We could skip chapters forward or backwards, but in most cases this was too coarse a step with our media files (15-minutes per chapter). The last set of buttons are for rotating an image and zooming in and out, which allows the operator to choose a region of interest within the image and see more detail. What's great about this feature is that the user can rotate pictures that are not properly oriented with a simple button push. Unfortunately, it only rotates clockwise, so you might have to push it three times to get your picture oriented correctly. Finally, the Info button is used to get information about the image being displayed (description, resolution, etc.). Pronto remote users will be happy to hear that Roku provides the needed CCF file to support this unit (See www.rokulabs.com/support/downloads/HD1000CCF.php).

The operation of the Roku HD1000 is based on the Roku Operating System, which happens to be an open platform that includes Roku’s advanced media APIs and a Linux Kernel. Unlike any other consumer product we've seen, the HD1000 opens the doors to developers who can design and create custom applications for the unit. System resources include the display interface, network link, memory card access, MP3, MPEG, windowing system, graphics library, and other media engines. Roku even includes a Software Development Kit (SDK) for users who want to start development of these applications right away. The built-in networking capability is based on "Windows File Sharing" or "SMB" which is the Windows file sharing protocol. As a result, the user does not need to install any server software to access all of the networked media such as photos, music, and MPEG2 Transport streams.

User Interface
The HD1000 Graphical User Interface (GUI) looks very nice and is easy to navigate through. The user can access programs, display images and listen to music with a few simple button pushes. Streaming video requires launching the StreamPlayer application that is available from the Roku website. As each memory card is plugged into the front panel of the HD1000, an icon appears on the screen so that the user may look at the content. If you plan to use the new XD format, a low-cost adapter will be needed. The icons on the left of the screen show the memory resource (Built-in memory, Memory Cards, Networked PCs, etc.) with the available content to the right (music, photos or applications). For example, if you install a Memory Stick and select it, the screen will show you what items are available on the memory resource. The system will also scan the resource for available files, especially in the case of a PC with a large hard drive. In some cases this can take a considerable amount of time.

Viewing Photos
Photos can be viewed from any of the memory card slots on the front of the unit (CompactFlash, MMC, SD, Memory Stick and SmartMedia), as well as from the network share. The image quality is just amazing with the HD1000 as any photo with decent resolution looks far better than any other media player we've see thus far. Users can insert their camera's memory card and get an instant viewing of the contents without having to worry about downloading them into a PC. The Rotate and Zoom functions also come in very handy when viewing the pictures. Pressing the info button reveals data about the picture.

Streaming Music
Using our HTPC as a music server, we loaded some of our MP3 files into a directory so that the HD1000 could access them. All of our files were encoded at the higher 320k rate for maximum sound quality. As mentioned, the HD1000 took some time to scan the entire disc for music content. Once this was complete, the files were available on the user interface. The subdirectories are also displayed for reference on the screen. The supported audio formats are MP3, WAV and AIFF. We only tested out MP3 and WAV files and never had any problems.

Streaming Video
We had our file server set up to provide the HD1000 with both images as well as high definition transport streams. Our HDTV tuner is a MIT MDP-100 that is capable of recording over-the-air high definition content. Roku requires the 1.5 software release in order to play ATSC-compliant MPEG2 transport streams.
We currently have version 1.5.18 loaded onto our HD1000 so we were all set to go. After all, what good is all this if you can't watch high definition video as well. We were skeptical based on other reviews we read about the unit's ability to stream high definition video. We started by downloading StreamPlayer version 0.1d from the Roku Labs website. The zipped file contains a PDF file that explains how to use the software and a file called StreamPlayer.roku that needs to be loaded onto a memory card or resource so that the HD1000 can run it. We used a CompactFlash card to load the software for the test. Inserting the card into the HD1000 instantly showed up on the user interface. Executing the program was easy and soon we were asked to select a file. Since our network had a Sony Vaio running a 100 Mb/s ethernet interface with a 2.4 GHz processor, we were set.

The readme (PDF) file that included with the StreamPlayer program says that the maximum file size for media files is 2 GB. However, our media files are partitioned into 15 minute blocks that result in files approximately 4GB each. We had no problems playing our files and the video never dropped out on us. The picture was absolutely beautiful and no different than our HTPC video quality. We also had the coaxial digital output connected to our Parasound processor and everything worked fine. Some have complained about not being able to stream video over the HD1000, but I can assure you that our set up worked perfectly. These streams can be either standard-definition or high-definition, and in many cases include Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Utility Programs
There are a couple of utilities applications that we downloaded from the Roku website that came in handy while using the HD1000 user interface. A Copy application will allow the user to copy any file from one location to another. For example, you might want to copy a commonly used file to the Built-in memory from a PC on the network. Simply select the Set Source file and Set Destination directory and then Start the transfer. There's also a Delete utility for removing files on the HD1000.

Art Packs
The Roku HD1000 Gallery Collection includes an assortment of Art Packs (Classics, Nature, Aquarium, Space, Holiday, and Clocks on one 256MB CompactFlash and backup on CD-ROM). This package saves you $160 compared to buying them separately. Optional Art Packs are available for both download ($39.99) or physical shipments ($69.99). Downloadable versions include Aquarium (30-second loop clip that looks like a real aquarium), Space (Images from space) and Holidays. The physical shipment versions include Classics, Nature, Aquarium (Full version includes a 30-second loop and 3-minute clip on a 64MB CompactFlash card and CD-Rom), and Clocks.

Conclusion
The Roku HD1000 is a great product capable of producing high definition still images and real-time video. We've seen no other product like this and for a mere $299, the performance is a bargin. As user's begin to network and integrate PCs into their home entertainment systems like we have, the HD1000 will become a valuable resource for streaming high resolution video and 5.1 audio.

- Kevin Nakano


Review System

Projector: InFocus ScreenPlay 7205 High-Definition HD2+ DLP™ Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" Luxus Deluxe FireHawk Screenwall
Display:
Mitsubishi LT-3020 30" High Definition LCD Display
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 TripoleŽ Surround Speakers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
HTPC: Sony Vaio PCV-RZ22G with Macro Image Technology MDP-100 HDTV Tuner
D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
A/V Cables: Ethereal A/V Cables
DVI Cable: Transparent Audio High Performance 30-foot DVI-D Cable
DVI Extender: Gefen DVI 1000HD DVI Extender Systsem
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer: Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 Multi-Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro with ColorFacts Software


Review - At a Glance


Roku HD1000 High Definition Media Player


Package Contents:

  • Roku HD1000
  • Component Video Cable
  • Remote Control
  • Two "AAA" Batteries
  • Audio Cable
  • Power Cable

    Optional Accessories:

  • Rack Ears
  • Wi-Fi Adapter
  • Roku Art Packs
  • 2m, 6m or 10m DVI Cables

  • Company Information
    399 Sherman Ave., Ste. 12
    Palo Alto, CA 94306
    Phone: 888-600-7658 (ROKU)
    Fax: 650-321-9648

    Email: support@rokulabs.com
    International Callers: +1-408 -848-2548
    Customer care is available Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm , Pacific Standard Time

    Store: www.rokulabs.com/buy

    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    MSRP: $299

    Warranty: 1 Year

    Any comments or questions regarding the LAAF Web Site should be forwarded to laaudiofile@socal.rr.com

    Copyright © 1985-2004 L.A. Audio File.