Review: ROKU HD (2500X)

I originally bought a RCA DSB772WE streaming media box which was swiftly returned to the store because it was awful and not fit for purpose. Then I bought myself a Roku HD (2500X) box for $10 more ($64.37 including taxes), which is what I should have done in the first place. The Roku HD is a solid media streaming box but the Hulu Plus channel has some audio issues, Netflix, Pandora and Crackle all work flawlessly so it’s a channel software issue rather than a technological issue.

Setting up the 2500X was a breeze; when you first turn on the device, it asks what language you wish to use, then it asks you to goto to input the code shown on screen, you then have to create a account or login into your account. I set up an account, which is as simple as typing in your name, email address and other basic information before asking for credit card information, which I dislike. Why should I supply credit card information if I don’t intend to use Roku’s paid channels, surely that should be optional; at least it does allow you to setup a pin so you don’t make accidental purchases, then it takes you to a page to select which channels to install!

Once you have finished inputting your information and selected channels, the 2500X downloads your selected channels, all that remains to do is start each channel and input username/passwords for the services that require them; then it’s ready for use. The Netflix, Pandora and Crackle channels work great, really have no complaints, no problems with the playback and the interface is relatively quick. But then we come to the Hulu Plus channel which has some bad audio issues, one in every two times when coming back from an advert break, the audio is garbled, squeaks, pops and static sounds instead of the audio track. Pausing and resuming playback resolves the issue until after the next advert break, but having to stop/start half dozen times in a hour is not acceptable.

But my biggest issue is the Roku technical support people; who just gave me copy and paste responses, seemingly not actually reading what I wrote. First reply was a “have you tried turning it off and on again?” type of response, telling me to remove and re-add the Hulu channel. The second reply told me to do a speed-test on my internet connection, which came back as five times faster than Roku’s recommendations. The third reply was comprehensive but didn’t even address my issue, the copy/paste text related to low wi-fi signal strength, which I don’t have an issue with, the Roku box claims to have an “excellent” signal from my 300Mb Wireless N router. At this point I have given up on Roku tech support and tried Emailing Hulu support instead, 24 hours later I haven’t heard anything back other than an auto-responder message, the lost art of customer service!

Would I recommend the Roku HD (2500X)? Well that depends on whether you use Hulu Plus or not; if you use Netflix, Pandora and Crackle then, yes! But if you need a box to playback Hulu Plus, then I can’t recommend the 2500X because of the highly annoying audio issues. I definitely do not recommend the Roku technical support, cut & paste responses and not listening to your problem!

These are the steps I took in an attempt to fix the audio issue:

1. Removed and re-added the Hulu Plus channel
2. Reset the Roku box to factory defaults and set-up box from scratch!
3. Tested Roku on 3 TV’s, Phillips 32PFL3504D/F7, RCA L40FHD41YXB and Symphonic WF-1901.
4. Checked Internet connection on, results were 12 to 15mbps download speed.
5. Reset my modem, router and Roku device and set my router DNS servers to OpenDNS servers.

Also note that all my other Internet connected devices including my Sony Playstation 3; Apple iPad2, two Samsung Android cellphones and a Coby Android tablet connect and stream from Hulu Plus without an problems, the issue is specific to the Roku box, it is not a network problem!

Update [September 6, 2012 @ 15:40]: I have received a reply from Hulu after 48 hours, and they are taking a positive stance on this, asking for more information so they can investigate the issue and work with Roku to get the issue resolved. Even better is that Hulu are going to credit two weeks service to my account. Great customer service, shame about the slow response times.
Update [November 9, 2012 @ 10:03]: Two full months have passed since my last update on the Hulu Plus issue on the ROKU HD; the garbled sound problem is better; but it still happens from time to time, once or twice in a four hour viewing session I’d estimate. And Hulu didn’t keep their promise to reduce my next month of my subscription by 50%, so they’ve now gone from good customer service to poor customer service by not following through with their promises!
Update [December 2, 2012 @ 11:01]: After three months; I wholeheartedly can not recommend the Roku HD if you want to use Hulu Plus. The problems have now increased; the sound issue is still intermittent; the problem seems to happen when viewing older 4:3 ratio programming. But now there is a new problem of intermittent stuttering video and adverts freezing; forcing a reset! Hulu Plus works fine on all other devices I own, including PS3, PC, iPad and Android devices!

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