There are so many ways to stream media onto a screen these days.The great advantage of streaming media players today is that they offer a means to bring the increased number of channels into the home to the modern HDTV set which for all intents and purposes today is essentially a glorified computer monitor. But many people still use regular standard def TV sets and even non-television display systems like data projectors and head mounted displays.
Media players and set top boxes are basically devices that act as gateways to these subscription-based streaming services, and that enable the provision of an increasingly dizzying array of to-the-set media that via the players is fast outstripping linear media alone. The Roku3 for example now offers a range of games to play with its motion control Wii-mote-like remote control. I' reviewed the Roku 3 back in November 2013 and it is a very solid system.
The Roku 2 is a dedicated streaming device that as would be expected, does not perform quite as well as the Roku 3. It could not be expected to, its processor being slower. It is just as satisfying to use as a streaming media player. It is not as quick to respond to remote button actions, events take slightly longer and this is noticeable after using a Roku 3 for while. But the inclusion of the headphone socket in the remote of both the 2 and the 3 is an innovation that sets this device apart from the others in general, including the AppleTV, bar none. Its a small design touch, but one that takes into account the intimate nature of shared streaming viewing and the simple fact that usually not everyone wants to hear the sound of "Columbo" reruns at 3 a.m.!
Roku2 does not have the motion control feature on the remote which is only an issue if you are playing games, Wii-style. The Netflix user interface has changed recently and the older Roku2 does not support it, but this is not something that affects my use of this one service particularly. The Roku 2 lacks the 3’s USB socket, which is not such a big deal if all you are doing is streaming media online, and it also lacks the 5X processor of the Roku3 which is demonstrably faster in most instances, but once a stream is running, the differences are negligible.
Unlike the Roku3 which has only HDMI out, Roku2 sports both HDMI and composite outputs which means it can be connected via an HDTV or a standard definition TV. This is a bigger deal than it sounds when you consider what we used to call in the games business 'the user installed base', or 'the number of people out there with the equipment to actually use the media that earn the money'. There is no YouTube channel with the Roku2, but depending on your views on this service, this may or may not be such a bad thing.
The composite line out signal means, for example, that I can use the device with such pre HDMI legacy display systems such as an old head mounted display I have. I can watch Netflix via my Virtua IO glasses (bought for $800 in 1998 at the height of the LAST VR boom!). Forget Oculus Rift, or Project Morpheus! THIS is the real deal!
So there are advantages of using the older Roku2 over the Roku3 if the speed of the response time of the interface is not such a concern, and you have a standard definition TV and not an HDMI.
I really like the idea of being able to use the device with an older TV set, or to plug the device into something that is not purely digital even (like VHS video recorder, assuming the content is copyright free of course, as much indeed is!).
In this regard, it shares with the original Nintendo Wii a sense of the reality that many people still own TV sets that have the red, white and yellow RCA sockets in them, and that this is a legitimate section of the community who still deserve to be able to watch streaming content without having to use what are, let’s face it, oversized computer monitors.