Roku TV Review: Supports Netflix, DirecTV Now, Hulu, Sling TV and More
(Edited and Republished 6.22.17) Most of us know Roku as a small black box that allows you to instantly stream your favorite TV shows and movies to your TV, but most are unaware of how much content is really available, and that there is now a Roku TV, Roku Stick and new Roku boxes available. Not only can you stream tens of thousands of movies and TV shows from services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, DirecTV Now (check out promo below) & Amazon Video On Demand (VOD), but you can also stream sporting events and music from Pandora, iTunes, and MOG.
Roku offers seven types of streaming devices and is widely used by people looking for cost effective alternatives to Cable Television. Their product suite includes a line of streaming players, a streaming stick, and TVs with built in Roku streaming technology.
Roku TV Channels
Netflix Instant Streaming on the Roku offers an impressive library of new, classic and obscure movies and television shows. You can also purchase content from Amazon for more current television shows. To learn more read Amazon Video on Demand. And what recently made the Roku the streaming box to beat, was the inclusion of Hulu Plus and its practically bottomless archive of movies and TV shows.
Sports fans were also taken into consideration with the integration of services like MLB.tv, where you can watch out-of-market games live or on demand, and local games shortly after they have ended. The Roku also offers a UFC channel with live and archived fights. Plus there is the Roku Newscaster, which combines into one offering – several different channels like CNN, NBC, ESPN, Fox, NPR and the BBC.
*** To search for a specific channel, try browsing their massive selection of streaming channels.
Roku TV Technical Requirements
With Wi-Fi and the High Definition playback, the Roku Player is probably the easiest way to stream movies and TV shows directly to your TV. To get the most out of your Roku, all you need is a high-speed Internet connection, a TV and most importantly, the Roku Player.
Your Internet connection must at least be 1.5Mbps, but if you’re a big fan of live sports events or high definition movies, it should be at least 3 or 5Mbps. To test the speed of your connection click here (Visualware). Standard AV cables come with the package but if you have an HDTV, it’s highly recommended that you buy an extra HDMI cable.
Roku Setup: To make sure you are connecting your Roku properly I suggest taking a read though their setup guide as well.
There use to be only 4 versions of Roku on the market; Roku 1, Roku 2, Roku 3, and the Roku Streaming stick. But all that has changed. They all offer 1080p high definition and have built-in wireless and wired connectors.
Let’s take a look at the different Roku models and see what each one has to offer:
Older Product Line
You can still find these used, and they work great! For the penny pinching cord cutter, these are excellent options to consider.
The smallest and most affordable of the Roku streaming boxes, this little guy will set you back $50. Roku 1 offers the full Roku experience without all of the bells and whistles. There’s no headphone jack for your remote, no USB, Ethernet, or microSD slot. It also lacks dual-band wireless, so your signal may suffer a little if you have a slow connection. Roku 1 sports an IR-based remote control; so if you lose your remote you can easily replace it with a universal remote; and the remote comes with shortcuts to Netflix and Amazon Prime.
One of the biggest advantages to Roku 1 is the fact that it can still hook up to older televisions. While most of the older models could hook up to an analog television; some of the newer models are only compatible with “modern” televisions. You will notice that Roku 1 also uses some of the older version of your favorite apps like Netflix. Although it may seem like a disadvantage, it actually runs faster than some of the newer apps.
All in all Roku 1 is great for people that have an old TV, are on a tight budget, or just don’t simply care about all the extra features.
At $70 Roku 2 is more expensive than Roku 1; but it has some extra features. Roku 2 comes with dual-band wireless as well as a headphone jack. Sadly, other than that there really isn’t too much of a difference between Roku 1 and 2. They both play 1080p high definition, they both have analog jacks for older TVs, and they both lack the USB, Ethernet, and microSD slots that Roku 3 has.
Aside from the dual band wireless and headphone jack, the only other difference is that Roku 2 actually runs slower than Roku 1. The controls are just sluggish and not as responsive as you would like; which is perplexing considering that it runs older versions of video apps like Roku 1.
If you don’t want to fork out the extra cash for Roku 3, and you really want a headphone jack, then Roku 2 will suit you fine. If you have simple streaming needs, you might want to look at a different Roku model.
Roku 3 is the most expensive of the Roku models, costing around $100. While twice as expensive as Roku 1, it has a lot of cool features that make up for it. You have all the features of Roku 2 but it is way faster and it uses the most recent versions of your favorite apps.
It also has an Ethernet port if your wireless isn’t fast enough, it has a microSD port for extra memory, and it has an USB port that can send pictures, music, and videos to your TV from a connected device like a smartphone. There are also motion controls built into the remote for playing games, but it’s not fleshed out enough to be a real selling point. Roku 3 takes a play out of Google Chromecast’s playbook and lets your cast video directly from your apps to the TV.
Roku 3 is great for the serious cord-cutter; and the only real disadvantage is its price. If you’re not into all the bells and whistles, you might not want it; but for everyone else it’s the best option out there.
Last but not least is the most recent addition to the Roku family, the Roku 4. This little rhomboid of a device is touted by the company as their best Roku player ever, and there is a lot to back it up. In addition to all of the features you’ve come to expected from the Roku 3, the Roku 4 can now deliver the highest HD resolution available: 4k.
One of my favorite new features is the remote finder. If you lose your remote, you can press a button on top of the Roku 4 and your missing remote will alert you to where it is. You also now have the ability to search across top channels by using keywords like an actor’s name or movie genre. There’s also a feed option where you can follow certain shows and be updated when new episodes are added.
It’s small things like that that makes the Roku 4 an integrated and enjoyable experience. The one complaint I have heard is that the fan within the player is too loud. This is kind of a bummer, and expect Roku to make adjustments soon, so this no longer an issue. The Roku 4 costs $140.
New Roku Product Line
As for which one to purchase, my personal opinion is to buy ahead of the technology, not behind it. What I mean is, yes you can get a player that does not support 4k, for much less. But you also need to ask yourself if you want to buy another player next year, when 4k is much more widely available and deemed the new norm? For me the answer is simple – I went 4k TV and streaming box.
Bringing 4k into the conversation the Roku Premiere is a powerhouse of a streaming device. Not only does it offer the 4K experience, but at under $70 this devices is equipped with a fast quad-core processor and 802.11ac dual-band wireless card – which allows for easy seamless navigation and smooth playback.
Roku Premiere +
To juice things up even a notch higher, Roku has added HDR capabilities to this streaming box. At under $90 this box offers everything the regular Premiere offers, and more. HDR offers a wider range of colors with deeper blacks, brighter whites, and more range of true life colors. To help you find content in HDR, the Roku 4K Spotlight channel provides a listing.
Now for the big daddy of streaming boxes, the Roku Ultra. This box is the top of the line Roku box, coming in at under $110. It offers HD, 4K, and HDR picture quality, along with the quad-core processor and 802.11ac dual-band wireless. Plus you get a lost remote finder, and a voice search remote with a headphones slot for listening when the kids go to bed.
This little guy packs a lot of punch in a small box. Get 1080 HD Streaming for under $30. Hard to beat that deal. Comes with a remote, HDMI cable, power adapter, and micro USB. Weighs only 13 ounces and is 1.4 x 3.3 x 0.7 inches.
Roku Express +
This devices is really useful for anyone looking to turn an older TV into a Smart TV; as it comes with composite cables in case your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port. Priced at under $40, the Express Plus also comes with a remote, HDMI cable, power adapter, and micro USB; and the physical specs are identical to the regular Roku Express.
Roku Streaming Stick
A relative newcomer to the Roku family, the best way to describe the Roku Streaming Stick is value packed. The Roku Streaming Stick will cost you $50, the same price as Roku 1. What makes the Roku streaming stick so cool is that it’s only a little bigger than a USB stick. It fits in the HDMI port of your television; sadly it is incompatible with older televisions.
Like with all the Roku devices, you can cast from your apps directly to your television. Sacrificing speed for size, the streaming stick won’t run as fast as the other Roku models (no 4k). It can be a bit frustrating loading up apps, and the controls can be unresponsive at times. Also, you will have to wait a bit longer when booting up with the streaming stick.
The Roku Streaming Stick has a wifi based remote, so if you lose your remote you won’t be able to simply replace it. However, if you have a smart phone you can download an app that turns your phone into the remote. You can get it for Android here and you can download it for iOS here
May 2016 Update: Roku just released its latest update to its streaming stick; and simply put, it’s the best one yet. Sporting a quad core processor, the new Roku Streaming Stick (3600R) is up to 4x faster than the previous version. Considering the biggest complaint about the old streaming stick was its sluggish performance, that’s a huge improvement.
The new streaming stick also has a “Hotel/Dorm Room” feature, that makes it easier to connect your streaming stick to network that require authentication from an outside source; which is perfect for travelers and students alike.
The best part is that the new Roku Streaming Stick still comes in at a moderately priced $50; so check it out!
You get all your favorite Roku features from the other models as well as a slick new design that allows you to seamlessly switch between your streaming applications, gaming console, and a DVD player. The best part is that it’s a lot cheaper than most televisions on the market. You can get a 50’ 4k Roku TV for only $400 (Amazon Link); which is a ridiculously good deal.
If you’re of the mind to ditch the box altogether and go for a completely integrated experience, then you’ll want to snap up the Roku TV.
Roku Secret Menu
Before we begin, you need to know that this is for advanced Roku Users only, and that these codes can factory reset your Roku player.
What is Roku?
If you don’t mind a little wait, love small things, and are on a tight budget the Roku Streaming Stick is for you.
If you are trying to choose between Roku’s Streaming Stick and Google’s Chromecast read “Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast“.
“15-20 % of Roku owners are canceling their cable or satellite services agreement and are relying solely on a broadband connection to get their television programming,” said company VP Jim Funk in this exclusive interview with Beet.TV.
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