What is Roku?

Roku TV Review: Supports Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and More

What is RokuMost 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, & Amazon Video On Demand (VOD), but you can also stream sporting events and music from Pandora, iTunes, and MOG.

Roku offers three 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.

Sling TV on Roku

What is Sling TVOne of the most popular streaming services available on Roku is Sling TV. Offering 3 packages to choose from, pricing that starts at $20 a month, no contracts and a 7-day Free  trial – Sling is quickly becoming a household name.

For an in-depth overview, read “What is Sling TV“.

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.

What is Roku

There are currently 4 versions of Roku currently on the market; Roku 1, Roku 2, Roku 3, and the Roku Streaming stick. 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:

Roku 1

What is Roku 1The 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.

Roku 2

What is Roku 2At $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

What is Roku 3Roku 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.

Roku 4

What is Roku 4Last 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.

Roku Streaming Stick

What is Roku StickA 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 Roku 3, 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. 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

New Roku StickMay 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!

Roku TV

Roku TVLast but definitely not least… far from it actually. The Roku TV is smart TV that brings the Roku experience to your television with no cable bill required.

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 only a few know, is that Roku has a secret menu that was specifically built for developers, but that is accessible to anyone with the code list:
Roku Secret Menu 1Roku Secret Menu 2Roku Secret Menu 3

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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    54 thoughts on “What is Roku?”

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Yes you do need a separate Roku for each TV unfortunately. But there is also the Roku Stick – keep in mind. Which may help with your need.

      Before you give up on Antennas – have you tried an outdoor one? I have installed antennas at houses where an indoor one just did not cut it, but an outdoor one like the SKY, worked perfectly. Just wanted to throw that out there.

      As for additional channels, each OTT service will provide a different set of Video and TV content. Not channels exactly, but shows and movies. I suggest making a list of shows you cant live without and checking which services offer those shows. Learn more here: http://www.killthecablebill.com/ott-cable-tv-alternatives/

      Sports Channels – I have also written a number of articles on this topic – as it is very dear to my heart. In short – yes you can keep your sports too. Learn how here: http://www.killthecablebill.com/tag/sports/

      And check back soon as I will be adding soccer, golf and baseball to the list.

      Finally a gaming station works great as well. Does not have all the bells and whistles as a Roku – but still offers a great experience. I used a PS3 for years without any issue. http://www.killthecablebill.com/ps3-media-server-streaming-video-files-from-your-pc/

      Hope that helps! And thanks for reaching out!

    2. Do you need a separate roku player for each TV in the house (I have 3)?
      I assume that I can keep cable for the local stations (reception is extremely poor with over air atennaes) and add roku for all the other stations, is that correct?
      2 other questions:
      1- what about sports channels? NFL & NHL?
      2- a wii and/or xbox will also be able to to be used as well as a lap top as the driver for the roku?

    3. Great question. The Roku Streaming Stick (Roku Ready Version) is Wi-Fi only. If you are working with a hard-lined internet connection only – you want to consider the set top boxes instead of the stick.

    4. No dumb questions here…. Yes two TV's typically mean you need two streaming devices unless you want to watch the same programming on both screens.

    5. I believe you probably only have a coaxial input on that TV. And if that is the case you will need a digital converter box, or something similar. Additionally – i hate to say it, but you may want to look into just getting a newer (used) TV. After you buy the equipment it will cost to get your old one working – you will be half way towards buying a used TV on craigslist with an HDMI input. HDMI makes life a lot easier… Just a thought. Hope that helps!

    6. Great article Dave. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Roku by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

    7. Hi Kimberly – I am assuming you mean that you have a Smart TV. If so, then you should look at what Apps it supports. Unlike many Smart TV's, Roku is working tirelessly to integrate as many new apps as possible. But if you are satisfied with the apps your TV offers, than NO – there is probably not a really good reason to also buy a Roku.

    8. Hi Kimberly – I am assuming you mean that you have a Smart TV. If so, then you should look at what Apps it supports. Unlike many Smart TV's, Roku is working tirelessly to integrate as many new apps as possible. But if you are satisfied with the apps your TV offers, than NO – there is probably not a really good reason to also buy a Roku.

    9. If our TV is already wifi, does Roku offer an additional advantage?

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