Roku's lovely $99 Netflix Streaming box, equipped with HDMI and optical outputs from day one, is getting Netflix HD streaming support by "the end of the year," according to the company. With the software update users can expect access to Netflix's entire HD library, an HD-specific, upsampled interface and "another major new feature" (Hulu?) that we'll have to just wait "a bit longer" to find out about. Dramatic teasing aside, this update isn't all good news. Whether because of the Roku box's limited horsepower or a desire to cater to a wider range of broadband speeds, Roku's version of Netflix HD will be one of a "substantially lower bitrate," which doesn't sound great when considered against the Xbox's higher quality, good-but-not-great HD streaming performance. I'll hold judgment until we can test it for ourselves — a good decoder or postprocessing filter could do wonders for a sludgy picture. Or not. [Roku Forum via Hacking Netflix]
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