Roku’s New Netflix App Does 5.1 Audio & Subtitles

Dave Zatz —  July 22, 2011 — 10 Comments

roku-2-netflix

Along with the introduction of the new Roku 2 digital media streamers ($60 – $100) comes an updated Netflix app. While we knew 1080p video and subtitles (pics below) were onboard, I can now also confirm the presence of┬áDolby Digital Plus 5.1 pass-through audio. Of course, these richer AV capabilities are dependent on items within the Netflix catalog – and it’s safe to assume a good deal of content variability. However, the adaptive bitrate encoded feed that Roku has implemented will allow Netflix video to “adjust constantly to the speed of your Internet connection.” Meaning, no more stopping and restarting of movies or shows in hopes of landing a higher resolution feed when network congestion lets up.

Sadly, the enhanced Netflix app won’t be making its way to earlier Roku hardware. From Roku’s Director of Product Management:

Unfortunately, these new encodings will not be supported on previous generation Roku players. We try to ensure that new features in a channel are supported on all previous generations of players. However, this is not always possible.

Whether or not this is a technical limitation versus a business decision is anyone’s guess. Although the new Roku 2 hardware clearly seems more capable. Other than the small matter of that unresolved storage/memory shortcoming

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10 responses to Roku’s New Netflix App Does 5.1 Audio & Subtitles

  1. Dave,

    I am assuming you already have the box in hand.

    Some questions:

    1. Is there no way at all to force the playback bitrate like you can do in the Netflix PC client?

    2. Is the DD+ audio track in Netflix videos bitstreamed to an AV receiver?

    3. How is the local media playback compatibility? MKVs supported? HD audio bitstreaming?

  2. I am wondering how many of their instant streaming shows are subtitled.

    I haven’t seen that the TiVo S3 can do Netflix subtitles but if the Roku 2 can and most shows have them then it might make me get one just for that.

  3. TiVo really needs to update their Netflix app.

  4. Btw,

    “…the adaptive bitrate encoding method Roku has implemented …”

    is not readily clear (Roku obviously does the decoding and not encoding).

    I assume this is meant only for Netflix (since Netflix provides different bitrate streams to handle network congestion — For the PC stream, we have 250, 560, 1050, 1750, 2350 and 3600 kpbs streams), and I am also interested in knowing the available bitrates for the Roku 2′s streams. (My guess is that Netflix maintains the same streams for both PS3 and Roku 2)

  5. Ganesh, it’s late and my wife’s probably feeling neglected, so I’ll get to some of this tomorrow. However, I have updated the line you took issue with. Basically Netflix offers a few different feeds/streams depending on the capabilities of their streaming partners. So Netflix did indeed encode and Roku decodes, but I’m trying to differentiate this new source (to Roku).

    Regarding forcing bitrate, not sure how the new hardware/software responds yet. But the prior platforms had a back door of sorts to specify a bitrate. See here:

    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2009-08/roku-hits-a-home-run-with-mlb/roku-service-menu/

  6. Now that DD+ pass-through has been confirmed I’m just curious about 1080p/24FPS support.

  7. The fact that it handles 1080P in Netflix is big since it would be the only platform that can do it besides the PS3. This means the 1080P Neflix embargo is over and hopefully other devices will start to do it soon too.

  8. Really bummed about lack of subtitles on previous hardware.

  9. Will I get sound with my Dolby Digital (not plus) receiver?

  10. the roku 2 xs will not give you sub titles
    I was told by netflix to purchase this it wont work im english my wife is spanish and can not speak english i will be returning this my next day off and cancelling my net flix account owell still have block buster

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