Roku 3 Streaming Media Player

$89.00

$89.00
7

DESIGN

80/10

    FEATURES

    70/10

      USABILITY

      80/10

        VALUE

        60/10

          PERFORMANCE

          82/10

            PROS

            • - Wired Ethernet port
            • - USB port
            • - The user interface is incredibly simple to navigate
            • - The search feature makes it easy to find content
            • - Dual band wireless card makes it easier to connect to networks

            CONS

            • - Some of the more popular channels do require a monthly subscription
            • - No comparable alternative to the Apple TV’s AirPlay
            • - No access to iTunes content
            • - Doesn’t come with an HDMI cable
            • - Less expensive Roku models will be more than adequate for many people
            Vendor Amazon.com
            Manufactuner Roku
            Price: $89.00
            Item weight: 5 ounces
            Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches
            Item Model Number: 4200R
            Batteries: 2 AA batteries required. (included)
            Date First Available: March 5, 2013

            Roku is a device that allows you to stream video and audio content directly to your television. Using a Roku device is easy and user friendly. A small black box, Roku plugs directly into your television and can be set up in minutes. Many devices on the market allow you to access instant videos and music, and Roku has its own pros and cons.

            Content

            Roku provides access to video and audio content. Companies that stream TV shows and movies include Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon. Musical content is accessible from Pandora Internet Radio and MP3Tunes. For sports fans, Roku provides access to NHL Gamecenter Live, NBA Gametime and UFC. News is available via Roku Newscaster, which provides news from places like NBC, CNN, and CBS. Although this is a large catalog of content, some of these companies also require paid memberships, adding to your cost.

            Hardware

            Roku is a small, black box that plugs directly into your television. Users with current digital televisions can use the HDMI port. However, Roku also provides RCA video/audio outputs for users with older televisions; Roku’s competitors do not. Roku’s current XD|S model also has a USB port that allows users to play MP3 and MP4 audio and MP4 video files. You can also load and view JPG files. The con is that many users have .avi video files, which the Roku XD|S cannot play.

            Speed

            The speed at which Roku loads your video and audio content depends largely on your Internet connection’s speed. Users with cable or DSL Internet will experience a fast loading process. Users with digital televisions who use the HDMI output on their Roku device will also experience a faster loading process than users with older televisions and RCA connections, due to RCA technology. Users with only dial-up Internet will not be able to access Roku’s content quickly.

            Video and Audio Quality

            Roku users with digital televisions using HDMI output will experience a smooth, high quality video and audio feed. High definition video content is accessible and playable on HDTVs quickly. However, users with older televisions using RCA video/audio connections will experience a drop in video and audio quality. Graininess may occur in RCA video content. This is due to RCA technology, not the Roku streaming device. Roku’s video and audio quality is as good as the user’s television will allow.


            Faster and more powerful than ever. Stream 1,000 channels of movies, TV shows, sports, and more to any HDTV. Plug headphones into the motion-control remote to play games or watch late-night flicks without disturbing the household. Fully loaded with one-stop search, 1080p, dual-band wireless, Ethernet and USB.

            1000+ entertainment channels. Choose from the best selection and widest variety of streaming entertainment, including movies, TV shows, music, sports, news, and more.
            Lightning fast and powerful. Experience ultra-smooth performance with a 5x faster processor and extended-range wireless.
            Remote with headphone jack for private listening. Use the included headphones and crank up the volume to enjoy a late-night flick without disturbing the household.
            Motion control for games. Enjoy action-packed games with a motion-control remote. Get the fun started with Angry Birds Space, included free.
            One-stop search. Find your favorite movies and shows in a flash from top channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and VUDU.
            Free iOS® and Android™ app. Transform your mobile device into a Roku remote. Browse and add new channels. Even use your phone or tablet to send your music, photos and personal videos to your HDTV.
            All the bells and whistles. 1080p HD support, Ethernet and USB ports, and a microSD slot.
            Works with virtually any HDTV.

            ⋆⋆⋆⋆Our favorite media streamer, and the simplest to use, too
            By Engadget.com on September 01, 2013

            Roku’s media streamers have carved out a notable niche for themselves, with what started out as a Netflix box, but quickly grew to include hundreds of other entertainment options. Whatever they’ve lacked in style, they’ve always made up for with an easy-to-navigate menu and remote, not to mention low prices. In fact, they’ve become our default recommendation in the media streamer category, and now the company is back with its third iteration.

            Its approach hasn’t changed: the Roku 3 is still a simple $99 box that brings internet content including video, some simple apps and even games to your TV. But this one is touted as the most powerful Roku ever, and the team behind it has even dared to tweak that boring, but simple menu system. There have always been some rough edges that needed polishing, along with holes in its offerings — join us to see if it’s good enough to be the best.

            Pros

            • New UI is a welcome improvement
            Upgraded CPU eliminates performance issues
            Simple, capable and relatively cheap

            Cons

            • Still no official YouTube or DLNA support
            No analog AV output

            Hardware

            The Roku 3′s design is but a small departure from the miniature hockey puck that preceded it, with a shape that bulges and flows with fewer sharp edges. It’s still all black with just a small purple tag and painted-on “Roku 3″ label — something you probably won’t see again once it’s hidden away within your entertainment center. The grippy material on the bottom covers less area than the Roku 2′s, but thanks to a slightly heavier weight, it seems to hold its placement better, where the 2 would occasionally fall victim to dangling HDMI cables and the like. Read more »

            One element is missing this time around: the breakout port that provided support for analog video on the Roku 2 XS has disappeared. If you’re living an all-HDMI lifestyle, you’ll probably never notice, but owners of older TV or visitors to such forgotten hideaways should prepare for disappointment. The SD card and USB ports remain, however the power adapter has changed slightly from the previous gen — it looks the same, but it won’t plug into older models and vice versa. The new Roku is packing dual antennas inside and we didn’t have any problems connecting to home or hotel networks in our testing, although we’d never had a problem picking up a signal on the old box either. There’s also an upgraded CPU, but without detailed performance specs, we’ll consider it later by judging how the software runs.

            The remote is how many users will interact with their Roku, and thankfully that remains largely unchanged. The switch to WiFi Direct for communication with the box, plus a headphone-out and small volume control buttons, have not noticeably affected the size, shape or feel. That’s good news for existing users, who won’t have to relearn anything, and its dreadfully simple setup is easy to pick up for newbies. The d-pad is responsive when navigating through menus, and the back and home buttons still function as consistently as ever within the apps. One thing that might be nice would be the ability to control the TV’s volume with those side-mounted buttons, just to cut down on any potential remote swapping. The Roku 3 still supports IR control too, so if placed correctly, your universal remote will take over without a pause. Unfortunately, there’s currently no support for HDMI-CEC control for features similar to those found on the Roku Stick.

            As far as the new audio-streaming capability, we didn’t have any problems listening to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon with headphones plugged into the remote’s jack. The stereo sound was clear to our ears, however we suspect you’d be well-served by tossing the bundled earbuds and using any others you may have lying around. We tried running the batteries down, but despite 20-plus hours of headphone-equipped streaming plus additional regular use, we’re still on the original set of AAs with no low-battery indicator in sight.

            Software

            While the Roku 3 features hardware improvements both inside and out, its software has received the most TLC this time around. Users will immediately notice a difference in the UI: instead of the old horizontal layout, there’s now a grid of icons, which has greatly increased the amount of information on-screen at any given time. Roku has taken a page out of the classic gaming console’s book and it shows — like the evolving experiences on (most notably) the Xbox 360 and the PS3, the new screens also include a healthy amount of promo space for additional channels and / or content. Still, the navigation is simple and the ad / promoted space is far enough out of the way that we don’t anticipate it bothering users. Overall, the change works as intended, offering quicker access to the channels you already know you want and bringing to light channels most users may not even know exist from its catalog of 750-plus.

            The apps themselves have remained the same for now, although a number of the more recently released ones (Spotify, Amazon) have been chugging noticeably on the Roku 2. There’s no hint of that here, with the upgraded CPU capably handling each option we tried. One minor annoyance remains: not every channel has the same features. For example, pressing down on the d-pad doesn’t always reveal picture quality or time left information. In our limited testing with Plex, the app loaded much more quickly and began streaming videos faster. Video performance seems to be the same between the newer and older units, while forum posters report the Roku 3 could more capably handle their streaming 1080p MKVs, though YMMV. One other addition is the opportunity to change the UI with different themes. It’s not a major change, but we tried out a few and found them pleasant enough, without any that negatively affected the experience.

            Still fresh on the software front is a feature that actually debuted late last year — Roku’s cross-provider search. While other devices (TiVo, Xbox 360) and services (Flixster, TV.com) offer similar functionality, Roku’s implementation comes out on top, especially with the upgraded hardware. If you’re really trying to find a particular movie, particular actor, et cetera, one of the included services will have it and you can reliably and quickly find them, especially if you’re using the iOS or Android mobile apps for a keyboard. Of course, limited selections on subscription video services mean most of what you’ll dig up will cost more money to stream, assuming it’s available online at all. That said, Roku’s wide coverage of services and lack of a monthly service fee make it an ideal solution.

            Regarding those mobile apps, we didn’t notice any substantial updates. And that about sums up our thoughts on the software changes — that they don’t go far enough. If you were expecting significantly expanded support for different file formats / codecs, it’s not here; the list of new channels is (for the moment) limited and even the updated UI will appear on older boxes within the next few weeks. We’ve seen Roku continue to mold its players via updates and we expect no different from this one, but today, the difference in experience from 2 to 3 doesn’t feel like a generational leap.

            We’d like to see Roku do more to become an entertainment hub / extender with cloud-based games or more apps that tie into pay-TV services like Comcast or DirecTV. It’s already made strides in that direction with channels like TWC TV and HBO Go, plus a few games / apps, and it feels like the platform has a considerable amount of headroom going forward. It’s greedy, sure, but many with a Roku can envision a future where it’s the only box connected to their TVs, and the software hasn’t quite brought it there yet.

            The competition

            Compared to other boxes in the segment, the Roku’s standing has stayed largely the same. If you’re looking for integration with Apple’s iLife, the Apple TV with support for AirPlay streaming of music, video and games will consistently win out, despite fewer options for native apps. If you’d like to bring your own content to the box via a library of rips, downloads or otherwise, the WDTV Live family offers more consistent file / format support, network connectivity and a fleshed-out local player interface, however having a Plex client here helps to even the playing field. The Roku 3′s strengths aren’t exactly game changers (yet) but as a mostly platform-independent box that offers access to many of the media services you probably already use for a reasonable price, its place remains secure.

            Some of the new Roku’s biggest competition for new buyers will come from its own predecessors. Currently, the Roku 3 replaces the Roku 2 XS, and unless you require an analog audio out, it’s an upgrade in every way for the same price. The difference in the software experience will be easier to evaluate once the older boxes have been updated with the new menus — due next month — but the value proposition here, again, remains mostly the same. The $99 box offers several features you may never take advantage of over its lower-priced brethren (1080p, gaming remote), but, particularly with the processor difference, if you’re planning on using it for more than just a Netflix box, this is the only real option right now. We’ve already seen many apps require the Roku 2 and up, and future-proofing for whatever’s down the road is not so expensive that moving down the line makes a lot of sense.

            For those who already own a Roku, this makes a worthwhile replacement if you’re ready to pass that box off to a friend or move it to another room. That said, we’d probably wait a bit longer to see exactly what software tweaks, upgrades and differences come out in the future. A faster, smoother-operating box and the remote control / headphone feature are nice to have, but not at $99.

            Wrap-up

            Just like the Roku players before it, the Roku 3 is the easiest-to-recommend media streamer on the market. An appealing package of services, accessibility and price has gotten even better with this round of updates, and we expect it to keep improving over the coming months. YouTube continues to stand alone as the oddly shaped hole in Roku’s streaming-channel library, which can certainly be an issue when you’re searching for cat videos, but an abundance of premium content helps keep that issue hidden in the background most of the time.

            Any failure of the Roku as the one true set-top box similarly fades when you look at its competition, all of which falter in one or more areas; whether DVR, game console, media player or HDMI-connected PC, they suffer from complicated UIs, subscription fees or high upfront prices that the Roku just doesn’t have. We just want to lean back and watch, and despite having room for improvement, the Roku 3 still does that cheaper, faster and better than the rest.


            ⋆⋆⋆It’s fast and has new features but the Roku 3 is still a disappointment
            By Techrada.com on December 27, 2013

            The latest update of the Roku media player, hitherto known as the Roku 3, features a number of welcome refinements over the cheaper Roku 2 and entry-level 720p Roku LT.

            It offers wired and wireless connectivity and a much faster dual-core Broadcom chipset. In short, it’s the best built Roku player seen to date, but it still has foibles.

            A cursory glance might suggest that nothing much has changed in Rokuville.

            This new player is still a glossy black puck, although with slightly less girth, at 90mm across. In situ, it looks like little a futuristic pebble sprouting cables.

            The distinctive Roku fabric tab is still in evidence and there’s a tiny status LED which glows when the unit’s on.

            While the Roku 3 has integrated dual-band Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n compatible), the wired Ethernet option is invariably the best choice when it comes to streaming. The unit sports an HDMI output and USB for local media playback.

            Completing the I/O roster is a MicroSD storage expansion slot used to increase the capacity of the player (which is apparently limited to 512Mb). Cards might typically be used to store game apps or an overflow of Roku channels. Incidentally, there’s no power-off; the player stays online (consuming less than 3.5w) and updates itself automatically.

            The main Roku user interface is unchanged and set-up remains straightforward.

            If you’re new to the platform, you’ll need to open an account before you can get anywhere. This allows easy debiting should you pay to view content but for general use you won’t be parting with any cash. Read more »

            It’s a bit of a pain because it forces you to connect to the internet to update the firmware before you can even get into the menu. If you don’t have an active internet connection you will not be able to use the Roku 3 even for offline tasks.

            It’s also a pain that you have to give your credit card details even if you don’t have any intention of spending money with them.

            Existing Rokuites upgrading kit can simply authorise the box online and add it to their inventory (apparently it’s not unusually for fans to employ multiple boxes). The process takes but a few minutes.

            Roku seemingly takes the gaming aspect of its player quite seriously. The remote control incorporates a motion sensor and has a Wii-style safety strap. Angry Birds is obviously the star turn here, and it plays beautifully on this device with smooth animation, but there’s also Galaga, Downhill Bowling, Sudoko and US game-show spin-offs Wheel of fortune and Jeopardy to dabble with.

            While there’s very little to actually be done when it comes to setup, the menu does offer a selection of UI templates. Most are a bit dour, however the cartoon blue skies of Daydream make for a sunny enough interface.

            The Roku 3 offers a choice of video resolutions up to 1080p, and while the native content available in the brand’s Channel Store doesn’t match this, the unit does a good enough job upscaling to warrant optimism.

            Perhaps the biggest benefit of opting for the Roku 3 is the upgraded silicon inside. The first Roku with a dual core processor, this thing is speedy. Navigating menus is lighting fast while jumping to and from TV channel apps is exceptionally fast. For example, hopping between BBC iPlayer and Netflix takes no time at all.

            As a content platform, Roku provides a solid selection of services via its Channel Store. Here you’ll find some major streaming attractions, including Sky’s Now TV platform (Sky being a shareholder in Roku), the ubiquitous Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Vimeo and DailyMotion. Unfortunately, there’s some notable exceptions to (itvPlayer, 4OD, YouTube) plus a heap of crusty curiosities of limited appeal (Moonlight Movies, Zombee TV to name but two).

            Audio apps of note include Spotify, Tunein and Vevo. In addition to the official channel store selection, you can also browse a selection of Invitation channels off-piste.

            Performance

            Overall image performance is extremely good, provided your channel source is up to snuff. With a fast broadband connection, premium services such as Netflix and iPlayer appear crisp and textured.

            The remote control itself offers a 3.5mm headphone jack for Private Listening. When headphones are inserted, the screen audio mutes. Unfortunately, the supplied earbuds are dreadful. Their tapered design is awkward enough, but the shrill noise they emit makes for a penalty few would willingly opt to endure.

            Swapping in some convenient Sennheisers brought a significant improvement, although the Bluetooth delivered output was still far from pleasant, perhaps evidence of a pretty woeful headphone amplifier. While convenient, Private Listening is not a feature we would expect to make much use of.

            If the Bluetooth controller doesn’t quite fit the bill, there’s a Roku app for iOS and Android too. In addition to basic menu controls, you can use this to scroll through channels, search for content and throw compatible music and video files, along jpegs, from your mobile device to the player, using the integrated Play On Roku feature.

            File support

            Where this Roku singularly fails to impress is as a media player. While there are actually several media playing channel options, none allow the Roku 3 to function as a competent replacement for a dedicated media player, Smart TV or connected Blu-ray deck.

            Its native video codec/container support is way too limited at just MP4 and MKV. While the Roku is MKV friendly, it’s unable to downmix the AC3 audio commonly found on MKV downloads and this means you’ll need to run the player through an AV receiver just to decode audio. If you connect directly to a TV, the file simply plays silent.

            While there’s a Plex media serving channel available in the store, this requires a Plex installation on a networked PC to work, which is no small undertaking.

            Verdict

            Overall, we rate this latest iteration as the best Roku yet made. But that $100/£100 price tag seems punishingly expensive given the lackadaisical attitude to file playback and lack of UK specific catch-up content.

            Remember, you can buy Sky’s similar Roku-made Now TV box for under a tenner (sans Netflix) which offers much of the same functionality. Ultimately, where the Roku 3 really scores is in its wonderful usability, be it the blazing processor speed or the improved functionality the hardware tweaks have bestowed upon it. Worth auditioning, but consider its limitations carefully.


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆ New Roku Box Makes Streaming TV Even Easier

            By New York Times on March 25, 2013

            Roku’s new streaming media player, the Roku 3, looks remarkably like its predecessors: a hockey puck. Instead of upgrading the appearance, the company has improved the way the device works, while keeping the price at $100.

            For starters, browsing the menus on the TV screen is more intuitive and smoother, which helps because Roku now has more than 750 channels to scroll through. Nine channels appear onscreen, as opposed to three on the older devices. And the flow from screen to screen has improved, making it much easier to navigate and search for new channels and content. A universal search features allows you to find content. (The new interface will be available for older Roku models as a free software update in coming weeks.)

            Other improvements include dual-band wireless connectivity, as well as a port for an Ethernet connection. The Roku 3 also includes a USB port and a microSD slot for storage and a remote control app for iOS and Android devices. Even the Angry Birds video game that came on older models has been upgraded, to Angry Birds Space.

            The most convenient enhancement is to the remote control, which now has a headphone jack. Roku even supplies a pair of ear buds. Just plug them into the remote, and the TV mutes for private listening.

            However, not all change is good. The media player no longer comes packaged with a standard-definition audio/visual cable. In fact, there is not even an input for it. The exclusion means that you have to use an HDMI cable, which provides better resolution anyway, up to 1080p. However, you have to buy your own HDMI cable, because Roku did not include that with the new model, either.

            If you don’t have an HDTV, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, I do own one; however, it has only one HDMI port, which is occupied by my cable company. To use the Roku 3, I have to unplug the cable TV, which is really inconvenient, or buy a switch box.


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆ More power, a streamlined interface, an invaluable cross-service search feature
            By PCmag.com on November 25, 2013

            Roku is a pioneer in video-streaming media hubs, but as Apple TV $92.95 at ABT became popular, and HDTVs and Blu-ray players began supporting Netflix and other online services, Roku boxes started to look less unique and less useful. The latest box, the Roku 3 ($99.99 direct) $94.47 at Amazon changes that. What’s new? More power, a streamlined interface, an invaluable cross-service search feature, and a remote-mounted headphone jack. The Roku 3 costs twice as much as the budget-price Editors’ Choice Roku Streaming Stick, and with the exception of the headphone jack in the remote (also available on the Editors’ Choice Roku 2$68.99 at Amazon), it doesn’t offer a compelling reason to choose it over its more affordable siblings. 

            Design

            The new box is curvier than previous Rokus, and it’s lighter and even more compact. The 3.5-inch glossy black square with rounded corners stands just 1 inch tall and weighs a scant 5 ounces. In fact, it’s light enough to get kicked around if you use too heavy an HDMI cable to connect it. There’s an indicator light on the front panel and power, Ethernet, and HDMI ports on the back next to a microSD card slot and a reset button. A USB port sits on the side of the box. 

            The remote is a light, wriststrap-equipped, half-sausage-link-shaped piece of rounded black plastic, almost identical to the one that’s bundled with its predecessor, the Roku 2 XS£93.55 at Amazon. There’s one major exception: It now has a headphone jack on the left side. The 3.5mm audio port can be used with the included (admittedly low-quality) purple earbuds or with your own headphones to listen to audio played through the Roku. The box automatically mutes sound through the HDTV when you plug in headphones, so you can seamlessly switch back and forth. It’s ideal if you’re watching late-night TV and don’t want to keep anyone else up, even if it’s not particularly useful beyond that sort of scenario. Read more »

            A dedicated volume rocker on the right side of the remote, opposite of the headphone jack, adjusts volume through the headphones without affecting the volume on your HDTV. Besides the headphone jack, the remote has a directional pad, basic playback and navigation buttons, A and B buttons for use while playing games available through the Channel Store on the box, and a motion-sensing feature that works with the included Angry Birds Space.

            The biggest changes to the Roku 3 are on the inside. Roku claims it added a lot of processing power to the system compared with the Roku 2 boxes (Roku doesn’t specify the exact technical differences, but the responsiveness is notable), and the speed is apparent as soon as you navigate the new interface. Menus shifts back and forth quickly, and it only takes a few seconds to load most channels. The channels are also much easier to navigate structurally, thanks to the new menu system discussed below. The new interface will be pushed to older Roku boxes via a firmware update in April, but it might seem comparatively sluggish since the Roku 3 wields greater processing power.

            Improved Menus

            The new interface is a refreshing change from the line of channels you had to flip through on the older Roku boxes. Channels are now arranged in a grid, and the channel store is integrated into the main menu instead of a separate system. The screen now shows twelve choices instead of just five, and a two-pane system lets you browse through a grid of choices while seeing details of the highlighted item on the same screen (or, if on a main screen, an advertisement or promotional panel for a popular show or movie available on one of the channels). The new interface supports skins, and comes with five different choices to make the menus look slightly different. Roku has not yet announced the availability of additional skins or whether different designs will be available from third parties.

            Many services are also integrated into the new search function, which lets you see if a particular movie or show is available on multiple Roku channels. I searched for a classic early 1990s action movie featuring Robert Patrick as a super-powered villain (Double Dragon), and the Roku 3 told me it was available to watch for free on Netflix (with a subscription) or I could rent it for $2.99 on Amazon Instant Video or Vudu. The search function doesn’t integrate every channel available on Roku, but it includes Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, and Vudu, so your bases are covered for the major services. It’s a remarkably useful feature if you don’t want to wade through different catalogs.

            You can control the Roku 3 with your iOS or Android device with the free Roku app, which both turns your Android smartphone, iPhone, or iPod touch into a Roku remote, and lets you stream photos and music to the Roku 3 with an AirPlay-like feature. (You can’t stream movies or mirror displays from mobile devices, though.) The official Roku iOS app is designed for the iPhone and iPod touch, but can be used in double screen-size zoom mode on the iPad. The Roku 3 also supports playing local media from a USB drive, but file support is limited to h.264, .mkv, and .mp4 movie files, AAC and MP3 music files, and JPG and PNG picture files. The box can’t handle files played from networked storage out of the box, relying on third party content channels to add that support.

            Roku Channels

            Besides the aforementioned big streaming names, Roku offers hundreds of content channels and apps including the likes of Pandora, HBO Go, Facebook, Picasa, and various professional sports services. It comes preinstalled with Angry Birds Space, which you can play with the motion controller remote just like the original Angry Birds that came with the Roku 2 XS. There are many more choices than with Apple TV, but individual channels are still a mish-mash and many aren’t integrated into the search feature, so you have to wade through a lot of things you might not want. The channels can also add features like networked file playback, but it makes the process much less streamlined and consistent than the Apple TV’s integrated, first-party networked file playback.

            The Roku 3 fixes many of the problems with the sluggish and clunky menu systems of previous Roku boxes, and its integrated search feature turns it into a video library powerhouse if you subscribe to multiple services. It’s still not quite as flexible with local networked media playback as Apple TV, but the excellent selection of services and much-improved interface make it a strong competitor. The Editors’ Choice Roku 2 and Roku Streaming Stick stand out as better buys than their bigger brother, however.


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆ A set-top box to trump all other set-top boxes
            By Arstechnica.com on Mar 22, 2013

            Roku is no stranger to set-top boxes—we’d even go so far as to say that the company has managed to set the standard for what these little streaming devices should offer. It’s the content partnerships that have made the devices so successful—consumers have a great deal of choice when it comes to streaming, something that the Apple TV and even the WDTV Play are still catching up on.

            To be fair, Roku, Apple, and Western Digital all offer slightly different things. Roku is especially made for those who want to stream a variety of content from third-parties, while the other two act more as a mediator for users to play content they already own while still having access to some of the more widely used third parties. Regardless, the Roku has been successful in its model, and the Roku 3 continues in the company’s tradition of delivering an affordable, feature-filled streaming device.

            New look, same great offerings

            The Roku 3, available now for $99.99, calls itself the “most powerful, responsive streaming box” that Roku has ever built. It features an ARM-based processor and other components all wrapped inside a shiny, hockey-puck shaped chassis. At 3.5 × 3.5 × 1 inches, it’s a bit smaller than the second- and third-generation Apple TV and Western Digital’s Play set-top box. It also feels a bit like a paperweight, but that helps keep the puck from sliding around in your entertainment center.

            On the back, the Roku 3 features an Ethernet port, HDMI port, microSD slot, and power plug. It’s 802.11 a/b/g/n compatible, with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 support. On the side, there’s a handy slot for a flash drive or portable hard drive. The Roku 3 no longer features any RCA outputs as past iterations have, so users with older televisions will want to check out the older versions of the Roku. Read more »

            The Roku’s interface underwent a major overhaul, and it no longer features the static, flip-through icon carousel of older iterations. Users can see more channels at a glance and change the background theme of the interface, and there is a nice transition effect while perusing through menus. Overall, the new interface is more user friendly than older versions of the Roku, as menus are easier to navigate through. Still, some of the “channels” haven’t evolved along with Roku and are still sporting dated interfaces.

            The Roku 3 also allows users to search for content across different services. Say you’re aching to watch the BBC’s Sherlock: simply type the name into the search option on the Home page and Roku will retrieve the different services that are streaming it—a helpful option for users who might have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and even Amazon Instant Video but aren’t sure which service has the most episodes to offer. It’s only a shame that there’s no voice control like on the Xbox via the Kinect, because the keyboard input via the remote is a bit slow.

            The new interface is currently exclusive to the Roku 3, but the company has said that it will push out the update to its latest generation of Roku boxes at the end of April.

            The remote

            The Roku remote is a notable hardware update itself. It hooks up to the Roku 3 via Wi-Fi Direct, so you don’t have to point it at the box to change the channel. It also features a headphone jack and volume buttons, so you can listen to a movie or music without disrupting others in the room. You could probably use the Roku remote as a music player around the house, too, if your place is small enough. It doesn’t have the greatest range, however—I left the Roku 3 plugged into the television on the second floor of my house while it was streaming Spotify, but it began to break up when I took the remote downstairs.

            The remote has Wii-like motion sensing features, though Roku’s game offerings are slim pickings, and the only game that really made use of the motion sensing was Angry Birds Space. I would have also preferred to have rubber the buttons and OK button surrounded by the directional pad rather than right below it. The solid buttons feel very different from other remotes, and it was a bit of an adjustment trying to browse left and right with the new plastic directional buttons.

            Playback

            Roku has managed to become a hub for some of the most widely used streaming services—about 750 and counting. Like a television, Roku offers channels that are essentially apps that link to a streaming URL. Any channel you download or subscribe to is linked to your Roku account so that it’s available when you move devices. Some of the major players include Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Cloud Player, Spotify, and Pandora. It also offers the live TV application from Time Warner Cable. Those interested in cooking can tune in to All Recipes and Recipe.TV, and those looking for educational content can watch TEDTalks and NASA TV. There’s programming for children via the Disney app, and sports fans can watch MLB.TV and purchase a premium subscription to watch their favorite teams play. If you’re especially curious or new to Roku, the company offers a complete listing of its available channels online.

            The only major service that Roku doesn’t offer is an official YouTube channel, apparently a years-old issue that does not yet have a resolution. There are a couple workarounds to this, however. Adding private channels like Twonky to beam YouTube content from your Android or iOS device to the Roku 3 seems to work fine.

            The Roku 3 also allows users to stream their own content. With a flash drive or portable hard drive, users can play back digital media files including MP4, MKV, AAC, MP3, JPEG, and PNG files, though an application is required for this functionality to work. It does not support AVI, nor does it support DLNA playback, but users can set up a slight workaround by connecting to an existing Plex Media Server with the app available in the Roku channel store. You can also use the microSD card to sync Roku channels that are over 50MB, though it will have to be formatted before you can use it.

            The app

            The Roku app—available for iOS and Android—is probably my favorite thing about this set-top box. As an Android user, I feel like I don’t always get first pick of the litter when it comes to app interfaces and features. Compared to the WDTV Android app for its streaming devices, the Roku app is a real winner. It’s easy to use, immediately responsive, and the keyboard works properly within other applications. It displays all of your downloaded channels at a glance, allows you to launch a channel by speaking its name, downloads other apps, and pushes content from your smartphone to the Roku itself, though it only supports photos and music.

            Should you get it?

            If you happen to have a first-generation Roku in the house, you will definitely want to considering passing that off to another family member—or shoving it in another room—and securing one of these. If you’ve just recently adopted a Roku into your home, don’t fret—you’ll get the new user interface soon enough. However, the Roku 3 feels faster than its predecessors rather than feeling like an old dog with new tricks, as some of the older models sometimes did. While previous hardware updates felt incremental, the Roku 3 is a monumental leap forward for the company. It’s still a shame that the Roku 3 has such limited options for locally stored files, though; users with a hoard of content ready to be watched may want to consider the WDTV Play for this reason alone, despite its slim app offerings. Apple users and those who are linked to the Apple ecosystem may be more inclined to stick with the Apple TV, but they should at least consider the Roku 3 as a TV companion for “other rooms.”

            Those looking to ditch cable and go full streaming should consider the Roku 3 as a great way to do just that. All of the available channels and options to pay for premium content ensure that you’ll get that same television experience without having to pay for all those channels you don’t want, and with the Roku 3′s affordability, you can easily buy one for every television.


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆ Lots of Content, Little Hassle
            By Tomsguide.com on April 22, 2014

            Roku was founded nearly a dozen years ago by one of the creators of the DVR, Anthony Wood, and the company has built its popularity on two ideas: simplicity and variety. The company has attracted nearly every major—and minor—streaming content player from Pandora to Stitcher, Amazon to Netflix. Roku has also honed its interface to make toggling through the virtually limitless variety of content as quick as possible.

            Roku also has several eponymous models to suit nearly every type of viewer. The $100 Roku 3 is the most advanced, with full 1080p HD video support and Ethernet, HDMI and USB ports — plus a microSD slot for additional media. Add in a remote with headphone capability, and it’s easy to see why this is our top pick among set-top boxes.

            Design

            The Roku 3 has rounded corners and invites the hockey puck analogy, much like Apple TV. It is a far cry from the big, black A/V boxes of old, measuring just 3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches and weighing 5 ounces. You can connect the device to your TV and then hide it just about anywhere below or beside the set. If you want the absolute smallest device, consider the $50 dongle-style Roku Streaming Stick. But Roku 3 offers several additional capabilities and features for its larger price and size, including a faster processor and more-sophisticated remote.

            Setup

            Setting up the Roku 3 is as simple as possible. Plug in the power adapter, connect an HDMI cable from the Roku 3 to your TV or A/V receiver, and power it on. (Note: An HDMI cable is not included, so make sure to purchase one, which should cost no more than $10.) Read more »

            Roku then takes you through a three-step process. First, select and provide the login information for your home Wi-Fi network (or connect Roku using an Ethernet cable). Roku then displays an activation code that you enter in a registration form on Roku’s website. Finally, Roku will ask you to update to the latest software, which triggers a download, installation and restart. 

            You then log into whatever online services you’d like to use, such as Hulu or Pandora. Some apps require you to enter the username and password from the Roku interface. Others provide an online activation tool. In general, you can skim through the Channel Store and just select streaming services of interest.

            Interface

            Roku has done an excellent job of combining hundreds of online services into a unified front. Unencumbered by a widespread ecosystem, Roku’s interface was updated a couple of months ago. It uses bigger, crisper artwork than Apple TV’s interface, and it’s easier to follow and find what you want to watch.

            Remote Control

            Roku includes a simple RF remote control that offers less than a dozen buttons (home, back, play/pause, etc.) and a four-way directional pad. It’s easy to master and has two ingenious features. The first is motion control sensors for playing casual games delivered through the box. The Roku 3 is the only Roku model with this capability.

            Better yet, there’s a headphone jack in the remote control, turning any set of cans into wireless headphones for late-night or private TV watching. Roku includes a pair of earbuds, but you can attach any headphones with a standard 3.5mm jack. One caveat: Using headphones will deplete the remote’s two AA batteries more rapidly.

            Search

            Roku allows you to search across a range of entertainment sources — a feat unmatched by the competition. Searching for the movie “Argo,” for example, revealed that it’s available for rent from Redbox for $2.99 versus $4.99 on Amazon. Roku will not search broadcast and cable TV listings, but it does now search across the contents of more than 10 sources, including Netflix. We like that you can find the best price, as well as avoid inadvertently paying for a movie you could watch on a subscription service you already have.

            Unlike Amazon’s much advertised but limited voice control on its Fire TV streaming box, you cannot bark out search commands at Roku. However, Roku’s free iPhone and Android remote-control apps offer virtual keyboards as an alternative to using the hunt-and-peck onscreen method with the directional pad on the physical remote.

            Performance

            As with the other leading streaming boxes and devices, the Roku 3 delivers up to full 1080p HD video. The image quality ultimately depends on the quality of your Internet connection. Roku claims that the processor in the Roku 3 is five times faster than those in its other devices, but for a set-top box, the responsiveness depends largely on the Internet connection and on the individual channel provider. However, there is one notable strength of this Roku box.

            After testing the Roku 3 in multiple locations, we found that its dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5GHz) Wi-Fi is particularly good at picking up and retaining a connection even in places where Wi-Fi-equipped smart TVs and other devices (connected Blu-ray players, game consoles and smartphones) have failed. Depending on your setup, that ability could mean better quality video than you get from some competing devices.

            Content

            If there’s a streaming media service online, Roku probably supports it. From Cantonese primetime shows to the likes of Amazon Instant Video, Roku’s Channel Store is the inspiration for people who have chosen to ditch their cable company. Roku has a cornucopia of more than 1,500 subscription, on-demand and free Internet video and music channels.

            The options range from spiritual shows to libertarian programs. Because Roku doesn’t have its own movie or music service, it doesn’t have to keep out competing services, as Apple does with some video and music providers So there are plenty of competing services, such as Redbox, Amazon, Blockbuster and Netflix. Roku offers many offerings that Apple TV lacks — Pandora, Spotify, Stitcher and Facebook, to name just a few. Roku does, however, offer prominent placement for M-GO, an a la carte video service with which it shares purchase and rental revenue.

            Roku continues to add more channels at a rapid rate. Roku even has its own Facebook client. There are also hundreds of so-called “private” channels run by individual companies, ranging from training programs to HR support videos. Private channels are not listed in the Roku channel store but you can add private channels to your Roku 3 by entering a code the channel maker provides into a form on Roku’s website. (See our tutorial on adding private channels for instructions.)

            The Roku 3 also has limited Chromecast-style casting ability. Currently the Android and iOS apps for YouTube and Netflix include a button to mirror their content on the Roku player. But since nearly every content app can be installed directly in the Roku 3, there isn’t such a strong need for casting as there is for the Chromecast, which requires that method and enabled apps to get any content on the device at all.

            Accessing Personal Content

            If you have your own videos or music files that you’d like to get to the TV, you can load them into the Roku 3 by plugging a USB stick into the port on the back of device. To learn how, see our tutorial on loading content from a USB drive.

            In addition, Roku’s remote-control app can stream videos, photos and songs that reside on your mobile device to your TV. From the mobile app, you select Play on Roku and then navigate to the collections on your device.

            Games

            A streaming media player is not going to supplant an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but Roku proves that it can deliver some casual divertissements. It has now amassed more than 60 games on its device, including popular titles like “Angry Birds” and “Centipede,” that you can easily control from the motion sensitive remote.

            If you are running short of storage for all those games, you can insert a microSD card into the slot on the back of the player.

            Bottom Line

            Most consumers like choice, and Roku offers the most choices in this category, covering all the major sources of video and music entertainment. Yes, there are lots of obscure channels devoted to religious or special interest topics that you may never watch, but it’s good to have the options if you’re going the cord-cutting route. We also appreciate Roku’s powerful search feature, which gets you to the content you want quickly–without having to wade through individual channel apps. Moreover, the headphone jack on the remote for private listening is an invaluable feature for midnight movie fans.


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆ This is how you make a set-top box
            By Theverge.com on September 10, 2013

            There are two things you should know about me right up front. One is the list of shows I’m currently watching: at this moment I’m at various points in The West Wing, Homeland, House of Cards, Scandal, Alias, Mad Men, Community, The Office, Parks and Recreation, How I Met Your Mother, Workaholics, The League, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Girls, New Girl, Modern Family, The Newsroom, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Louie, and The Wire. (And those are just the ones I’ve watched recently.) I also watch a lot of movies, and religiously follow three different sports. The second thing you should know is that I don’t have cable, so I’m entirely reliant on the internet to get my fill.

            That combination has led me to audition nearly a dozen different set-top boxes over the last couple of years. I’ve used an Xbox 360 for my TV-watching needs; I’ve been a relatively happy WD TV Live Hub owner; my Apple TV remains one of the most-used gadgets I own; I at one point used a Chromebox for streaming movies straight through a browser; I’ve even repurposed a Mac Mini and an old Windows laptop as ersatz media centers. One device has just never done the trick for me, because I watch so many things and the industry is unfortunately in a place where almost no device or service has everything I need.
            Actually, Roku’s slowly begun to offer the stuff I want to watch, but it’s also always offered clunky interfaces and underpowered devices. But with its latest model, the $99.99 Roku 3, the company claims it’s changed its ways — it promises a cleaner, faster interface, better content discovery, and even a remote with some tricks up its sleeve. Could this finally be the whole package, the brains-and-beauty-alike set-top box I’ve spent so much time looking for? Read more »

            Tuning in

            I want my set-top box to me as small and non-descript as possible — in my home theater stack, design flair is a problem. The Roku 3 is fortunately both: a glossy black rectangle, 3.5 inches squared and an inch tall, that blends nicely with the also-black, also-glossy stand on my TV. It’s a little heavier than previous Roku models, but that’s a good thing — it’s now sturdy enough to not slide off the back of your TV stand when a cable’s attached. There’s a “3″ emblazoned on the top, the words “Roku 3″ on the front edge, and the company’s telltale purple tag sticking off the side, but other than the branding there’s no decoration to the device whatsoever. Power, ethernet, HDMI, and microSD ports carve up the puck’s back, and there’s a USB 3.0 port on the right side for plugging in a drive and playing local content. The layout is smart — you’re going to use the USB port more, so it makes sense to have it more accessible — and helps the device slide unnoticed into your home theater setup.

            While testing the Roku 3, I got the sense over and over that the company just gets what people want from a set-top box. That’s especially true with the remote — it’s simple, spartan, and impossibly easy to decipher. The glossy black rectangle feels a little cheap and chintzy, but there’s a surprising amount of cool tech inside. It works via Wi-Fi Direct, which means you don’t need to point it at the box to get it to work — feel free to stick the Roku 3 in a closet or hide it behind your TV. There’s also an accelerometer built into the remote, which means you can fire your Angry Birds slingshot with just a flick of your wrist — there are a bunch of games on the Roku 3, and they’re all fun, though gaming isn’t really a reason to buy this device.

            All that is great, but the headphone jack in the remote immediately became my favorite feature of the Roku 3. Plug in a pair of headphones, and audio automatically stops playing on the TV and comes through your headphones instead; unplug them, and it starts playing on your TV speakers again, all without the video ever skipping a beat. (A pair of purple headphones is even bundled, though they don’t sound particularly good.) There’s a volume control on the remote, but it only applies to the headphones, which means that you unfortunately can’t control TV volume on the Roku remote but also means you won’t accidentally blow out your speakers when you unplug your headphones. All in all, probably a smart choice.

            I should mention here that there are other Roku models out there, all of them cheaper than the Roku 3. The $49.99 Roku LT comes with all the same content as the latest box, and will be getting the new interface soon as a software update, but only the most expensive model offers the more powerful internals, the headphone jack in the remote, 5GHz Wi-Fi the USB port, and 1080p playback. It’s the most powerful box by far, and is easily worth the upgrade if you can afford it.

            Getting set up couldn’t be easier, but you will need a computer handy. You just plug the Roku in to an outlet and your TV, and follow a bunch of on-screen prompts. The first connects you to the internet, which you can do via Wi-Fi or ethernet (I mostly used Wi-Fi). Then you need to connect the box to your Roku account, which is where the PC comes in — Roku has a great web interface for creating an account and adding and managing channels, and it’s worth spending ten minutes getting everything you want loaded on your box.
            You should also install the Roku app, available for iOS and Android, because it makes setup a whole lot easier. Entering your Wi-Fi password on your TV is a down-right-right-right-down-down nightmare, and the apps let you type it in right from your phone; same goes for logging into all your various content services. The app isn’t a great replacement for general navigation on the Roku — you’re better off using the actual remote, which doesn’t make you constantly look down to ensure you’re hitting the right button — but it is great for jumping between channels, which you can see in a list on your phone rather than having to go back to the Roku’s homescreen and interrupt whatever you were watching.

            What’s on?

            Over the last few months and years, Roku has quietly built an ecosystem, an “app store” if you will, that utterly decimates nearly every one of its competitors. The company boasts it has 750 “channels,” ranging from Netflix and Hulu to Asian Crush, the Old Time Radio Network, and about a half-dozen channels devoted exclusively to horror movies. There are even apps for Time Warner Cable and a couple of other cable providers, plus TBS, SyFy, Fox, and other channels, which means the Roku can double as a second cable box for your house. You can play local content, up to 1080p (with sound up to 7.1 channel surround), using the USB or microSD slots. The file formats are pretty limited, though: MP4 and MKV for video, AAC and MP3 for music, and JPG and PNG images. If you have a giant hard drive full of movies you want to play, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

            Once all the channels you want are installed — Netflix, Hulu, and a few others come preinstalled, but you’ll need to add all your niche programming — and you’re logged in everywhere, there are two ways to go about using the Roku, which I call “the iPhone approach” and “the Google approach.” The iPhone approach is to go into an app — Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Crunchyroll, what have you — and look around for something to watch. It’s kind of like channel-surfing on your TV, since each Roku channel looks different and offers different content. A few are clunky or confusing to navigate because they still use Roku’s old interface, but most apps (and all the popular ones) are hyper-visual and easy to use.

            Everything’s fast, too, thanks to the Roku 3′s new processor, which improves the whole experience — menus and videos load faster than on the Apple TV, and much faster than on any previous Roku. The Roku menu is simpler and faster as well: the old interface has been replaced by a split screen menu, with quick navigation — “My Channels,” “Channel Store,” “Search,” and “Settings” — on the left side and a grid of nine channel icons on the right. It’s simple, fast, a little reminiscent of the Apple TV interface, and works really well.

            If you know what you want to watch, though, there’s a better option: the Google approach. Go to the Roku home screen, select “Search,” and enter in whatever you want to watch (again, your phone keyboard comes in handy here). Up comes a list of where you can watch it, and how much (if anything) it costs. A search through my channels for 500 Days of Summer let me know I could rent it from Amazon, Vudu, or Blockbuster, for between $2.99 and $3.99. Searching for Jiro Dreams of Sushi brought up the same results, plus the option to stream for free on Netflix or Amazon Prime. The more channels you add, the more options you’ll get, and search is impressively well integrated across Roku’s most popular channels, from Vudu to Netflix to Crackle. Only a few times did the search come up empty, and that was only when I worked pretty hard to stump the box. Everything I found myself actually wanting to watch, Roku found me a way.

            What I watch isn’t necessarily what you watch, though, and making sure your set-top box has everything you need should be step one when you’re thinking about which one to buy. Unless you have remarkably specific and niche taste, the Roku should have you covered – from movies and TV to sports and music, there’s very little it doesn’t offer. Of course, you may have to subscribe to several dozen different services to get them all to work, but it’s all there if you want it.

            Well, all but one thing: YouTube. There’s never been a YouTube app for Roku, which means to stream music videos or sports bloopers, your only options are clunky third-party apps like VideoBuzz. There are a number of theories about why the otherwise-ubiquitous service is missing from such a popular and otherwise content-rich platform, but regardless of the reason, it doesn’t seem like it’s coming anytime soon. I can do without it, but your mileage may vary.
            The other feature I miss on the Roku 3 is AirPlay. Partly because Apple’s service lets you stream YouTube videos from your phone or tablet onto your TV, which would solve that particular problem, but mostly because it’s such a clean way of getting things off your device and onto your TV. There’s a “Play On Roku” feature in the Roku mobile apps that lets you send pictures and music to your TV, but that’s only part of what AirPlay can do; I find myself often using my Apple TV to show someone what’s on my laptop screen, or push a movie to a bigger screen with better sound. With some elbow grease, you can set up Plex to do most of the same things, but Apple TV and AirPlay are such an elegant, simple solution.

            Wake-up

            I’ve found myself using both an Apple TV and a Roku 3 over the last couple of weeks — the Roku as a set-top box, and the Apple TV purely as an AirPlay device, its other functions made redundant by the Roku’s breadth of content. That combination works perfectly, but at $200 isn’t a cheap home theater add-on. The good news is that if you’re not an Apple user or don’t have much need for AirPlay, you only need one box — and that box is the $99.99 Roku 3. It’s the best, most versatile, and most usable set-top box on the market, and buying it is a no-brainer. It was for me, anyway – mine’s on its way to me as I write this.


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆ Excellent user interface and playback from USB drives make this a fantastic media streamer
            By Expertreviews.co.uk on Oct 9, 2013

            The Roku 3 streams video and music from the internet direct to your TV. You can choose from many different types of content, from catch-up TV via BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 to live news via Sky News and special interest programmes about alien abductions and Thai cooking. If you have a subscription to Netflix or Sky’s Now TV you can use the Roku 3 to watch your films and sports too.

            The Roku 3 is an evolution of the Roku 2 XS, and is the flagship model in Roku’s new range of media streamers. Like the Roku 2 XS, the Roku 3 has a Fast Ethernet port, a Micro SD card slot and a USB port, but it loses the A/V output. This means that you’ll only be able to use the Roku 3 with HD TVs. Should you wish, you can use the USB port to play music, videos and photos from USB drives.

            Predictably, it’s as easy to set up the Roku 3 as it was the Roku 2 XS. You simply connect the device to your TV with an HDMI cable, plug it in and switch it on. However, you must have a smartphone, tablet or computer handy, as you must go to the Roku website, create a Roku account and link the device with your account. To link the device, you must enter a short four-letter code shown on your TV into the Roku website. As soon as you’ve done that, your Roku device bursts into life and downloads your channels. You can then set the output resolution of your device, although you can only choose between 720p and Full HD 1080p.

            INTERFACE

            Once set up, you can add more channels to your Roku in the channel store. The available channels are split into categories to make it easier to browse for something that interests you. Many of the channels are free, but there are also a good many that require subscriptions, such as Netflix movie streaming service, or a one-off payment, such as the Pac-Man and Galaga games. Read more »

            Annoyingly, services that require subscriptions are frequently listed as free, and you must click through to the channel description and check that it doesn’t say “may require additional fees” at the bottom left of the screen to be sure that it really is free. However, it’s easy to remove channels, so don’t worry about cluttering up your channel list.

            We were massive fans of the Roku 2 XS’s user interface, and the Roku 3 builds on the great design by having a scrollable natural language menu on the left-hand side of the screen and a matrix of tiles that you can move through on the right-hand side of the screen. You use the left-hand list is used to move through categories and options such as Special Interest and Settings, while the tiles represent channels. The graphics used by the Roku 3 are very high quality, the animations are slick and incredibly smooth and the user interface is a breeze to navigate. However, it’s a shame there’s no search function.

            It’s possible to organise your channels, so that you can, for example, have a block of movie channels, a block of catch-up TV channels and a block of games. All you have to do is press the asterisk button on the remote control and select “Move channel”. You can then place wherever you want.

            The image quality of the channels varies. BBC iPlayer looks great, for example, especially if you select HD, whereas the Thai Food channel can suffer badly from compression artefacting. Even so, the Thai Food channel is still watchable and you can easily follow the recipes prepared by the chefs.

            BRILLIANT YET REMOTE

            Another neat feature of the Roku 3 is the headphone socket built into the remote control. This means you don’t have to sit next to your Roku 3 to listen to media. Even better, plugging your headphones into the remote control mutes your TV. This means you can listen to music or watch films on a big TV without disturbing other people in your house. Unplug the headphones and your TV will output sound again.

            The remote control is a motion controller, just like the Roku 2 XS’s remote control, and works just like a Wiimote. This makes it an ideal controller for games such as Angry Birds.

            As mentioned earlier, you can play media from a USB drive, but file format support is limited. The Roku 3 only plays the MKV and MP4 video formats, and you can only view GIF, JPEG and PNG images. However, its audio format support was much better, and it played MP3, FLAC, AAC, WAV and WMA files. Sadly, it can’t stream media from other devices on your network such as a PC or NAS unit, but you can add the Plex channel and use a Plex server on your PC to stream media from that computer.

            CONCLUSION

            The Roku 3 is even better than the Roku 2 XS. We complained that the Roku 2 XS didn’t have enough UK-oriented TV channels, and that situation has improved greatly with the inclusion of Now TV, Sky News and Demand 5. The addition of 4oD and ITV Player would make the Roku 3 near-perfect as a catch-up TV device; while the continuing lack of LoveFilm support will force its subscribers to look elsewhere. If that doesn’t put you off, and you want a fantastic media streamer then look no further than the Roku 3.


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆Could It Kill Cable and Satellite TV?
            By Forbes.com on Jan 04, 2013

            I started out to review the new Roku 3 — which I will do in just a minute — but as I started writing, I realized that Roku is evolving into what could become a serious competitor to cable and satellite.

            When I got my first Roku in 2008, I saw it mainly as a way to stream Netflix to my TV set.  I still mostly use Roku to stream movies and TV shows but over the years Roku has grown way beyond Netflix.  It now supports 750 channels including 94 TV and movie channels along with music channels and channels for streaming games.  In addition to Netflix, TV and movie fans can access Amazon Instant video (including free programs on Amazon prime), Vudu, Hulu Plus, HBO Go (you need a cable or satellite subscription to sign in) and even news and information channels ranging from Al Jazeera English live programming to Fox News, HuffPost Live and plenty more.

            You can’t yet watch the Super Bowl or March Madness live via Roku but that could change now that the service is featuring at least some live programming, including MLB TV.  The major networks, including CBS, NBC, Fox and Disney/ABC already have some programming available for Roku. It’s only a matter of time before they realize that it could also be a platform for the rest of their lineup.

            Once you buy a Roku (prices range from $49.99 to $99.99), there are no monthly fees for the basic service and lots of channels are free, including some that show movies and TV shows. My favorite channels, including Netflix, Amazon, HuluPlus and Vudu either charge by the month or per view, but you’d have to subscribe to a lot of channels or watch a lot of pay-per-view shows to pay anywhere near a typical cable bill.

            New interface

            The best thing about the Roku 3 ($99) is that it already has the new Roku interface but all Rokus are being upgraded with new software so even if you have an older model, you’re soon going to get the search feature that allows you to find programs on any Roku channels. Read more »

            When you locate a show, actor or director it displays all the channels where you can stream it. If you click on a listing it shows if it’s free or how much it costs. One improvement I’d like to see if to display the price along with the list of shows you so don’t have to click to know what it costs. It’s not uncommon to find shows that are available for free on some channels — typically ones where you pay by the month —  but that cost money on others.

            Roku 3

            When it comes to hardware changes, the big innovation of Roku 3 is the headphone jack that automatically silences the TV and routes the sound to earbuds or headphones.  It’s a great feature for those of us who sometimes watch TV while our partners are sleeping or when my wife wants to listen to music or read while I want to watch video. It’s one of those “isn’t that obvious” innovations that should be built into all remote controls.

            Another advantage to the built-in headphone jack is that you can listen to streaming audio while the TV is turned off. You would still have to turn on the TV for a moment to tune in Pandora, Spotify or one of the other music channels but you could then turn it off and save energy while you listen through the earphone jack.

            The remote has an accelerometer for use with games that you can stream via the Roku network.

            Remote connects via Wi-Fi Direct

            The audio and the remote communicate via Wi-Fi Direct so you don’t need a line of site view of the device to use it. In fact, the Roku can be inside a cabinet and still communicate. The Roku does, however, also accept standard IR so it stil works with universal remote controls.

            The new Roku 3 has a faster processor which streamlines selecting channels to watch. The actual performance and quality of the program still, however, depends largely on your broadband connection but most DSL or cable broadband systems should be just fine, even for HD programming.  Still, there may be times when the quality of the signal drops a bit if your broadband connection starts to slow down.

            Should Comcast, Time Warner, Dish and other providers worry?

            To answer the question posed by the title of this article, Roku — by itself – definitely won’t kill cable and satellite.  But, along with other streaming options, it will further put a dent in the oligopoly of home video providers that has been continually raising its prices over the years.  What I like about Roku is that it gives users a choice. You can subscribe to just the channels you want or just pay for just the shows you want to watch. And, because almost all of these channels are also available to watch on the web and/or on mobile devices, you also get a choice as to where to watch your shows. Sometimes I’ll start a show on the Roku and finish it on my laptop or tablet, so I get to chose not only what want to watch but where and when I want to watch it


            ⋆⋆⋆⋆Media stream offers handy features at a price
            By Pcadvisor.co.uk on Oct 18, 2013

            Although the Roku 3 is now available in the UK, the firm has refreshed its entire line-up by introducing the Roku 1 and Roku 2. Therefore, we’re not able to compare this new model to the older Roku 2 XS.

            The box itself is just as small and discrete as ever and has a new rounded design; we prefer the straight edges of the older model but this doesn’t matter much.

            If you don’t know what Roku is all about then it’s an internet media streamer which lets you watch online content on your TV, or a monitor. There are more than 450 channels to choose from and while most are free the big names are Netflix, BBC iPlayer Sky Now TV, Crackle, Demand 5 and Spotify.

            You’re rarely going to get the full selection but nevertheless, 4OD and ITV Player are both missing. So bare this in mind. You’ll also need to pay for some of the channels, namely Netflix and Sky Now TV.

            If you’re just after Sky, BBC and Demand 5 content then the Sky Now TV box is a steal at £9.99.

            The Roku 3 only has an HDMI port for connecting to your TV or a PC monitor, the AV port (mini-jack to left/right/composite video RCA) has been dropped and Roku doesn’t even include an HDMI cable in the box which is a shame.

            Setting up the box is fairly easy using the built-in dual-band Wi-Fi or its physical Ethernet port. You’ll need to create a Roku account online and type in a code shown on your TV to activate the box.
            Once you’re setup there’s nothing left to do but choose what channels you want and get streaming. Read more »


            The faster processor in the Roku 3 means the interface is zippier than ever with almost no lag at all and we noticed no problems during streaming at all.

            The remote control works seamlessly and doesn’t even need to have line of sight to the Roku 3 box since it doesn’t use the traditional infrared method. Roku has added a headphone port and volume buttons so you can listen privately through headphones – a potentially handy feature.

            Roku also has free apps available for iOS and Android if you want to control the device that way.

            As well as the faster processor and Ethernet port, the Roku 3 has other exclusive features which you won’t find on the cheaper models. It’s got motion control for games like Angry Birds and a microSD card slot, although this is only for expanding storage rather than viewing content on it.

            If none of these features sound essential then you can save a few quid. The Roku 2 is £20 cheaper and still has dual-band Wi-Fi and a headphone jack in the remote for private listening. If you’re not even bothered about those features, the Roku 1 is another £20 cheaper.

            Other Reviews

            By A. Dent on March 6, 2013

            For anyone new to the Roku world, I would recommend the Roku 3 over any other previous models mainly on it being so much faster to operate. If ‘cost’ is an issue and 720p only is not a bother then the LT should be a great pick for half the price.

            True for all Roku models: there’s an enormous amount of channels to choose from, including most popular ones. And if there’s something that you can’t find in the official store you can always check the private channel listings (I included the URL of my favorite site) which is where I found things such as streaming CNN, CNN International and BBC World.

            The streaming is exceptionally smooth. Quite impressive considering that I set this Roku on the second floor, some 60-70 ft. and two floors away from our Wi-Fi router located in the basement.

            This model especially, due to the more powerful processor is easy to operate through Roku’s very basic remote control.

            Roku 3 and all Rokus are stable. I didn’t have the Roku 3 for too long (will update) but my experience with a Roku LT was that it almost never crashes and I only had to manually reconnect to my Wi-Fi router once over a 6-months period.

            The ‘universal search’ feature is quite amazing. You simply type in the name of a movie or show even an actor and you will see all you options on all channels and you will know in advance whether it’s going to be free or exactly how much it was going to cost. On the Roku 3 all information appears almost instantly.

            By PCMag on April 01, 2014

            The Roku 3 adds an interface overhaul along with a nifty remote-mounted headphone jack for private listening, but the Roku 2 is a better buy.

            By Know Your Mobile on March 06, 2014

            If you’re a PC user, the Roku 3 is the best set top streaming box you can buy. However, if you’re a Mac user, I would still say you should opt for the Apple TV over the Roku 3. The Apple TV is too tightly integrated into the OS X and iOS ecosystem to…

            By Home Cinema Choice on March 04, 2014

            Last year we reviewed the Roku LT, a cute streamer with Wi-Fi hookup, slick interface and neat handset. It offers loads of on-demand content, arranged into a grid of channels that can be added to or removed from as you choose. Among them are BBC iPlayer,…

            By GadgetSpeak on January 23, 2014

            The thing that enticed me to look at Roku 3 was its ability to stream sound so that you can have no sound from your TV and still hear sound through the ROKU 3 unit to headphones or earbuds, ideal for those who don’t want to disturb…

            By GadgetSpeak on December 10, 2013

            On a recent visit to a UK preview of an American Consumer Electronics Show, I was introduced to a product designed to stream content from various sources. This product is Roku…

            By T3 on December 04, 2013

            On the debit side, it’s horribly limited as a media player and undeniably expensive, especially considering the giveaway price of the Roku-made Now TV box. That said, there’s no denying that the Roku 3 is the smartest Roku media streamer yet. It gets a qualified thumbs up.

            By TechRadar AU on November 27, 2013

            Overall, we rate this latest iteration as the best Roku yet made. But that $100/£100 price tag seems punishingly expensive given the lackadaisical attitude to file playback and lack of UK specific catch-up content. Remember, you can buy Sky’s similar…

            By Pocket-lint on November 02, 2013

            The Roku 3 is a decent TV set-top box that will offer plenty to most people looking to “cut the cable” as Americans would say. While there are some annoyances with the interface layout and a lot of dross in the app store – do you really want…

            By micromart.co.uk on October 29, 2013

            Previously, I reviewed the Roku LT (£49.99), a tiny box that gives you access to streamed video content. The new Roku 3 is at the other end of the Roku range, costs twice as much for basically performing the same job somewhat more smartly. On first…

            By PCAdvisor on October 18, 2013

            The Roku 3 has some handy features including a faster processor and headphone jack on the remote. However, the Roku 2 and Roku 1 provide better value for money and unless you have to have access to Netflix, the Sky Now TV Box offers the same big name services for under £10.

            By PC Advisor on October 18, 2013

            Although the Roku 3 is now available in the UK, the firm has refreshed its entire line-up by introducing the Roku 1 and Roku 2. Therefore, we’re not able to compare this new model to the older Roku 2 XS . The box itself is just as small and discrete as…

            By Expert Reviews on October 09, 2013

            Fantastic selection of online services, excellent user interface and playback from USB drives make this a fantastic internet media…

            By gadgetshow.channel5.com on October 07, 2013

            Put simply, the Roku 3 is the finest media streamer on the market right now. It’s small, powerful, does almost everything, and its only real downside is its lack of AirPlay support. If you don’t live in a house filled with Macs and iPhones though, and…

            By CNET UK on October 07, 2013

            The Roku 3 is quick and easy to use for accessing online video services but it’s pricey. It’s also disappointing that it lacks support for key movie and catch up TV services including 4oD and…

            By Chip Chick on August 20, 2013

            Roku can most definitely sub-in for your cable box, but it requires heavily on your needs. It’s not a perfect replacement, but instead a potentially amazing alternative. My best piece of advice is to check out all the channels it offers before…

            By Home Theater Review on August 12, 2013

            The Roku 3 streaming media player may have converted me from my Apple-centric ways. In addition to its extensive channel lineup, fast speed and great reliability, this player and its accessories offer many little perks that simply work the way they’re…

            By businessspectator.com.au on July 29, 2013

            Australians are often treated like second class citizens when it comes to online video, but with the Roku 3 and a little geo-dodging know-how you can issue yourself a virtual green card and enjoy US-only services. It involves bending the rules, but at…

            By makeuseof.com on May 21, 2013

            As more content becomes available online, the need for a traditional television subscription may not be enough anymore to justify the costs. Instead, if all the content you care about is available online, there’s little reason to keep your TV service…

            By Wired on April 17, 2013

            The Roku 3 is the official must-have device for cord-cutters. With a library of over 750 channels, an entirely new, simple user interface, and excellent hardware, the latest set-top box from Roku ($100) is the one thing you need if you’re getting your…

            By Big Picture Big Sound on April 05, 2013

            There are a lot of media streamers on the market. Without a doubt, every one of them has perks and provides a little something that your system didn’t previously have. That said, it’s hard to beat the options that are being offered under the tiny…

            By Engadget on April 03, 2013

            The Roku 3 keeps everything that’s made the brand successful and ushers in some welcome improvements, all without boosting the price or ruining the simple setup.

            By SmallNetBuilder on March 26, 2013

            Announced in early March, Roku’s latest media streamer, the Roku3, assumes the top-of-the line title from the Roku 2XS that it replaces. Not only does the Roku 3 break out of the traditional square form factor with a new, more rounded “hockey puck”…

            By TechReviewSource on March 19, 2013

            The newer, faster Roku 3 adds an interface overhaul along with a nifty remote-mounted headphone jack for private listening. It’s the best Roku box…

            By The Gadgeteer on March 14, 2013

            In November 2011, Julie and I reviewed two models of the Roku 2 (see related posts for link). I’ve been using my Roku 2 in my living room since then, and I had an older Roku in my bedroom. The bedroom TV has no cable hookup, so I relied on my Roku…

            By Macworld on March 14, 2013

            With 750-plus content channels and one of the easiest setups for any product, the Roku 3 maintains Roku’s position at the top of the media-streaming heap. It’s not innovative enough to warrant replacing the Roku 2 XS (unless you really want 5GHz…

            By The Verge on March 13, 2013

            The good news is that if you’re not an Apple user or don’t have much need for AirPlay, you only need one box — and that box is the $99 Roku 3. It’s the best, most versatile, and most usable set-top box on the market, and buying it is a no-brainer. It was for me, anyway – mine’s on its way to me as I write this.

            By cnet on March 11, 2013

            The Roku 3 is the best streaming-video box yet, with tons of content sources, lightning-fast performance, and an innovative remote with built-in headphone…

            By GSMNation on March 08, 2013

            The new Roku 3 improves upon the design of the old Roku 2 XS in many different ways. The Roku 2 XS was already brilliant at what it did. The huge content selection that Roku offers is still unmatched and at $99, Roku 3 doesn’t cost an arm and leg either. The device is available from Roku’s online store and Amazon.

            By LaptopMag on March 08, 2013

            With its enhanced interface, vast content selection and private listening feature, the Roku 3 is a very compelling media-streaming…

            By Computerworld on October 29, 2010

            With the deluge of streaming and downloadable video options the Internet has to offer, it’s become obvious that computer and iPod screens can’t hold a candle to the wall-size HD monster in your living room. To plug this gap, a burgeoning market of…

            International Review By cnet.com/es/ on March 12, 2013

            El Roku 3 es el mejor transmisor de video, ya que ofrece numerosas fuentes de contenido, rendimiento de máxima velocidad y un innovador control remoto con entrada para auriculares…

            International Review By gadgets.ndtv.com on March 06, 2013

            The Roku 3 box going on sale Wednesday also includes a more powerful search engine to find movies, TV shows and music more quickly and new menu for perusing the more than 750 online services available through the device. The new model will be sold for…

            Other Products

            Amazon Fire
            Amazon Fire TV
            Roku 3
            Roku 3
            Apple TV
            Apple TV
            Google Chromecast
            Google Chromecast
            Pricing $99 $99 $99 $35
            Form Factor Box Box Box Dongle that sticks into TV
            HDMI Compatibility Yes Yes Yes Yes
            Voice Commands Yes No No No
            Processor Quad-core Dual-core Single-core Single-core
            Memory 2 GB 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB
            Video Apps Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Crackle, Showtime Anywhere, Bloomberg TV, Vimeo HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Crackle, Showtime Anywhere, Vimeo iTunes, Disney Anywhere, HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, YouTube, Bloomberg TV, WatchABC Google Play, HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, YouTube
            Music Apps Vevo, Pandora Vevo, Pandora, Spotify Vevo, Vimeo, iTunes Google Play, Vevo, Pandora, Rdio, Songza
            Sports Apps Watch ESPN, NBA League Pass Watch ESPN, NBA League Pass, MLB.TV, NHL Gamecenter, Major League Soccer Watch ESPN, NBA League Pass, MLB.TV, NHL Gamecenter None
            Number of Games 100+; “thousands” more coming Less than 100 Games via AirPlay None
            Remote Voice search, physical remote (no line of sight needed) Physical remote, iOS app available Physical remote, iOS/Android app available (no line of sight needed) App controlled
            Gaming Controller Yes; $39.99 (sold separately) No No No

            Other Roku Models

            Best streaming value.
            Instant streaming made easy.
            Stunning video with private listening.
            Fully loaded and lightning fast.
            TV compatibility
            Virtually any TV
            Virtually any TV
            Virtually any TV
            HDTVs only*
            1,000+ entertainment channels
            yes
            yes
            yes
            yes
            Built-in wireless
            yes
            yes
            yes
            yes
            One-stop search across multiple top channels
            yes
            yes
            yes
            yes
            Plays up to 720p HD video
            yes
            yes
            yes
            yes
            Plays up to 1080p HD video**
            yes
            yes
            yes
            Channel shortcut buttons
            yes
            yes
            yes
            Remote with headphone jack
            yes
            yes
            Dual-band wireless (Wi-Fi a/b/g/n compatible)
            yes
            yes
            Motion control for games (Angry Birds Space included free)
            yes
            5x faster processor
            yes
            Ethernet, USB & microSD slot
            yes

            * Roku 3 works with HDTVs with HDMI port. HDMI cable not included with Roku players.
            **Availability of 1080p HD video limited by channel provider and speed of broadband connection.

            Q: Why would I want a Roku?
            A: Roku has, by far, the largest number of ‘channels’ vs. any other competing product. If you like exploring content beyond the popular services (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) you should consider a Roku?

            Q: Why would I want a Roku 3?
            A: When compared to previous models, this one has a much faster processor, 5 times faster. The faster processor allows you to quickly navigate the new and much improved user interface but if ‘speed’ is not an issue, the new interface will appear on the older models by April, 2013. This model also adds a ‘private listening’ capability through a provided pair of headphones that plug directly into the remote control. In addition it supports Dual-band wireless for faster streaming when connected to a router that supports the feature and has a USB port.

            Q: When I shouldn’t pick a Roku 3 over other Roku models?
            A: Roku 3 does not support ‘standard’ (non HD) TVs but earlier models do. You should select a ‘lesser’ model such as the Roku LT when price is the issue and/or your HD TV is limited to 720p and ‘speed’ is not an issue.

            Q: What can I play through the USB port?
            A: Video: MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264); Audio: AAC, MP3; Image: JPG, PNG.

            Q: Is the Roku 3 expandable?
            A: Yes. There a MicroSD slot for additional game and channel storage memory.

            Q: Can I use a Roku 3 with any TV lacking an HDMI port?
            A: No.

            Q: What are the best screen resolution and audio supported by Roku 3?
            A: 1080p, 7.1/5.1 surround sound.

            Q: Is the Roku 3 energy efficient?
            A: According to Roku, typical power consumption is 3.5W when streaming HD video.

            Q: How do I connect a Roku 3 to the Internet?
            A: You can do it wither via Wi-Fi or through the wired Ethernet port. Technically speaking: 802.11 dual-band (a/b/g/n compatible) with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 support (wireless) and 10/100 Base-T Ethernet for the wired connection.

            Q: What is not included but I must have to make my Roku 3 work besides a TV and an Internet router?
            A: An HDMI cable.

            Q: Can I control the Roku 3 with a universal remote?
            A: Yes.

            Q: Do I need line of site to control the Roku 3?
            A: No if you use Roku’s own remote, yes if you use a universal remote control.

            Q: Can I play games on the Roku 3?
            A: Yes, it comes with Angry Birds Space preloaded and you may add more games from the store.

            Q: Are the Roku channels free?
            A: Many of them are but Roku also streams ‘premium’ channels for which you will require a separate subscription.

            Q: What are private channels.
            A: These are channels that, for whatever reason, are not listed by the channel store. You can easily make them ‘appear’ on your TV by picking them from one of the sites that lists such channels. See the first comment to this review for the URLs of such sites.

            Q: How much it costs to use a Roku?
            A: Once purchased, it could cost you nothing. Or you may subscribe to one or more premium services.

            Q: Can I have more than one Roku tied to one account?
            A: Yes.

            Q: Can I search for a specific movie or show across all of Roku’s channel?
            A: Yes, you can. Even better, Roku will not only tell you which channel carries it but you will know in advance if it will cost you and how much it will cost to view or ‘rent’ it. You can also search for other related information such as movies featuring one specific actor.

            Q: Can I watch YouTube on the Roku?
            A: Yes, a YouTube channel was launched on December 17, 2013.

            Q: Can I get live news channels on the Roku?
            A: Yes. You may be able to find such channels at the store or as private channels listings but most US ‘mainstream’ news channels only offer a selection of recent on-demand videos. [I have a link to a listing of 'Roku channels that contain at least one live TV feed' on the comments section, the FIRST comment to this review. Be aware that the listing may not be complete, that some of the channels are 'premium' and that some of them may drop live streams.

            Q: Are non-video streams supported?
            A: Yes, radio stations and music streaming channels such as Pandora are supported.

            Make Your Mobile Device Double as a Remote

            With the free Roku app, you can transform your Android™ or iOS device into a powerful Roku control centre. Once downloaded, you can launch or rate a show, replay a scene, see what’s new, browse through the Channel Store, add new channels to your line-up, or stream content from your mobile device. And the best part? The app works with all generations of Roku players.

            Embrace Twonky Beam

            If you’ve had your Roku since before December of 2013, you’ll have noticed that until then, there was no official YouTube application on the Channel Store; and even now, the app is only available on the Roku 3, which is less than ideal. However, once again, if you own an Android or iOS mobile device, you can download an application called Twonky Beam, which will allow you to stream web-based video content over your home wireless network to your TV, much like you would do with Apple’s Airplay. Take that YouTube!

            Stream Local Content with Plex

            If you have a large library of video content stored on your personal computer or laptop and want to stream it to your Roku, you can by installing Plex Media Server software on your computer, and the official Plex application on your Roku. Then, on your computer, you can use Plex to add any video file you want to view on your Roku. Launch the Plex channel on your Roku, and view those videos to your heart’s content.

            Discover the Joy of Indie & B-Movies with Popcornflix.com

            If you’re a fan of indie and B-movies, and better yet, if you’re a fan of free indie and B-movies, Popcornflix.com should be your new best friend. A subsidiary of Screen Media Ventures, Popcornflix.com lets you stream and watch free movies on your Roku, and it’s easy to set up. Simply install the Popcornflix channel from the Channel Store on your Roku, and then browse through the different categories of films available. That’s it!

            Move Channels on Your Home Screen

            If you’ve got a lot of channels on your main home screen and want to organize them by moving them around or grouping them together, you can. From the main menu, select the channel you want to move, and then hit the Option key on your Roku remote (it’s the asterisk * key). That will bring up a submenu, from which you now select Change Channel Position. The channel icon will now be highlighted. Scroll to the location you want to move your channel, and press OK.

            Use a wired connection when possible

            Roku boxes are convenient because they use Ethernet as well as built-in WiFi. While WiFi is super convenient and good enough for most users, a wired Ethernet connection is definitely preferable for any SmartTV, Set Top Box, or video game console used to consume streaming video. This is because there’s less latency, less interference and the influx of bits doesn’t have to buffer as much.

            A wired connection is generally free from possible interference and at times routers give preferences to wired connections. This is specially true if users desire higher quality video.

            If you’re set on going the wireless route or if your Roku player is one of the more affordable models that doesn’t come with Ethernet, then it is preferable to use a wireless-N router as well as add a WiFi range extender if there’s a lot of distance to cover.

            FInd and install hidden and private channels

            The open nature of Roku allows any user to add channels that aren’t included in the Roku Channel Store. A quick search on the Internet will yield a gamut of Roku Private Channels that allow you to easily add these channels to your Roku device using the web interface and your Roku account (which you create once you sign up).

            For an idea of what’s out there, check out this unofficial guide. One thing to consider about these private or hidden channels is that you access them at your own risk so the content here is not at all regulated so just be aware of that.

            Manage video quality settings for each channel

            Since Roku relies on your high-speed Internet provider’s bandwidth, using it a lot could impact your bandwidth cap and cost you extra money. That’s not cool. What is cool is that Roku’s settings allow for choosing the quality of the video you are receiving, which means if you don’t need 1080p HD quality all the time (i.e. a talk show or news) then you can scale down the quality, lower the bandwidth used and avoid getting dinged by your provider.

            Control Roku with your smartphone using an app

            Roku boxes come with neat remote controllers, the Roky 3 one even has an accelerometer and g-sensor for Wii-like games and it is smart enough to include a headphone and headphone jack, just to you can listen wirelessly to your shows without bothering anyone else.

            Roku apps are available for most smartphones and allow users an infinitely easier way to control the device, look for things to watch and run searches. Once you’ve used the smartphone app, it’s not going to be easy to go back to the remote that shipped with the unit.

            Roku can play other media as well

            Roku isn’t all about streaming. Some models have a built-in SDCard slot that allows you to play back videos stored on an external device. You can also use it for slideshows and as an inexpensive way to run presentations.

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