Roku HD1000 Media Receiver
When digital still cameras were new and no match for conventional film photography, a typical TV had little trouble doubling as a "slide" projector. But analog TVs can't do justice to images produced by today's multimegapixel cameras. Even so, most set-top media receivers - whether they take a flash-memory card or a home-network connection - still provide no better than standard-definition picture quality. That's a far cry from the nearly million or more pixels an HDTV is capable of displaying - or what you're used to seeing on your computer monitor.
Enter the Roku HD1000, a slim set-top media receiver that's geared to images and connects to an HDTV via its component-video or VGA output. It also has an S-video output for analog TVs but no dedicated composite-video output (you can convert one of the component jacks for use with a TV having only a composite-video input).
DIMENSIONS 17 x 1 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches INPUTS/OUTPUTS front inputs CompactFlash, SD/MMC, Memory Stick, and SmartMedia slots rear component- and S-video inputs with stereo audio; VGA, component-video, and S-video outputs with analog stereo and digital audio; Ethernet and USB ports PRICE $300; $499 with six Art Packs MANUFACTURER Roku, www.rokulabs.com, 866-400-7658
Using the supplied component-video cable and the pass-through component input, I hooked up the HD1000 between my high-def cable-TV box and my HDTV. I also plugged in my own Ethernet cable to connect it to my home network. (A Wi-Fi adapter is an optional accessory.) I turned on the Roku and waited a minute for it to boot up its Linux-based operating system and to be assigned an IP address by my network before I saw a setup screen.
The easiest way to use the HD1000 is as a memory-card viewer. I pulled an SD card from my less-than-state-of-the-art 2-megapixel camera, plugged it into the front of the Roku, and marveled at the sharpness of individual fronds on a palm tree from my year-ago Caribbean vacation. When I compared the same image via the photo viewer on my ReplayTV connected to the same TV through its S-video input, those fronds had melded into a yellow-green mélange.
The most fun that I had with the HD1000 was playing the Roku Art Packs. Seven of these CompactFlash cards were available in February, including Classics Art and Nature Art ($69 each, or $39 if you download them). Classics Art contains 56 paintings by such masters as Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh. Admirers of the novel The Da Vinci Code will jump to Leonardo's The Last Supper and use the remote's nine levels of zoom to hone in on the disembodied arm holding a knife between the third and fourth apostles.