The Roku 3 has officially made it into the two-year mark among the greatest set-top streaming boxes we’ve ever tested. Some things have changed over the years, but by and large that the it’s the exact same kit we came to love 24 weeks ago.
As you might expect, the Roku 3 features a number of welcome refinements within the less costly Roku two and entry-level 720p Roku LT.
It provides wired and wireless connectivity and a much faster dual-core Broadcom chipset. In short, it’s the best built Roku player seen to date, rivaling set-top mainstay Amazon Fire TV since the king of the proverbial castle.
It also supplies a remote with an integrated look button and mic, and of course that the much-loved headphone jack for private listening when you require it.
In situ, it seems like little a futuristic pebble sprouting cables.
The distinctive Roku fabric tab is still in evidence and there is a tiny status LED which glows when the device’s on.
While the Roku 3 has integrated dual-band Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n compatible), the wired Ethernet option is always the best choice when it comes to streaming.
Completing the I/O roster is a MicroSD storage expansion slot utilized to increase the capacity of the player (that is apparently limited to 512Mb). Cards might typically be used to save game apps or an overflow of Roku stations. Incidentally, there’s no power-off; the player stays online (consuming less than 3.5w) and updates itself automatically.
If you are new to the platform, you’ll need to open an account before you can get anywhere. This allows easy debiting should you cover to view content but for general usage you won’t be parting with any cash.
It’s a bit of a pain because it compels you to connect to the world wide web to update the firmware before you can also get in the menu. This means if you don’t have an active internet connection you will not be able to use the Roku 3 even for offline jobs.
It’s also a pain which you need to give your credit card details even in case you don’t have any intention of spending money together.
Existing Rokuites upgrading from next generation units can simply authorize the box online and add it to their stock (apparently it’s not unusually for fans to use multiple boxes), and the method requires but a few minutes.
While there is very little to actually be done when it comes to setup, the menu does offer a selection of UI templates. Most are a little dour, no matter how the cartoon blue sky of Daydream make for a sunny enough port.
Hands on: 4K TCL Roku TV Review, and while the native content accessible in the brand’s Channel Store does not match this, the device does a good enough job upscaling to justify optimism. It can not parse 4K flows regrettably, but that leaves Roku room to research UHD in the yet-unannounced Roku 4.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of choosing for the Roku 3 rather than a cheaper model such as the Roku Streaming Stick is your upgraded silicon inside. The very first Roku using a dual core processor, this thing is speedy. Navigating menus is lighting fast while jumping to and from TV channel programs is exceptionally fast. For example, leaping between BBC iPlayer and Netflix requires no time at all.
Roku has made its mission to earn their box as simple to get onto for content providers as possible. Therefore, the platform comprises more than 200 content sources in its Channel Store, with many more accessible as “private channels” which anyone can create at will. Most users will probably stick to the store channels, and use only a handful at that. Nevertheless, this content breadth and versatility is very impressive when compared with Amazon and Apple’s boxes.
As a material platform, Roku provides a good selection of services via its Channel Shop. Here you’ll find some Significant streaming attractions, including Sky’s Today TV platform (Sky being a shareholder in Roku), the omnipresent Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 in the UK, and Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, HBO Today, Google Play Store, Vimeo and DailyMotion at the US.
Cord cutters who live in the US will also have access to Sling TV. Sling created a splash on the Roku 3 by offering a $50 discount to the device to new subscribers who prepay for 3 months of service. Overall the service works really well, and while it doesn’t present the exact same content-to-dollar ratio that Netflix or Amazon Instant present, it’s worth it’s $20 per month price tag.
In addition to this official station store selection, you can also browse a selection of Invitation stations off-piste.
Roku takes the gaming aspect of its player quite seriously.
The amount of content on Roku’s boxes is shockingly broad, but the majority of the choices are either useless (Facebook’s inane implementation) or insignificant (local news stations from the other side of the nation). It is likely that many users will devote the lion’s share of the time in Netflix, Hulu Plus or even Amazon’s programs and never venture too far afield.
However, for those that care, the additional options don’t hurt, and the ability to customize the items and order of your My Channels section means you only ever have to find the stations you would like to view.
Total 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 provides a 3.5millimeter headphone jack for Private Listening. When headphones are inserted, the screen audio mutes. Unfortunately, the provided earbuds are dreadful. Their tapered layout is awkward , but the shrill noise they emit makes for a penalty few would willingly choose to endure.
Total image performance is very good, provided your station source is up to snuff. Using a quick broadband connection, premium services such as Netflix and iPlayer seem crisp and textured.
If the Bluetooth controller doesn’t quite fit the bill, then there is a Roku app for iOS and Android too. Besides fundamental menu controllers, you can use this to scroll through stations, hunt for content and throw compatible music and video files, together jpegs, from your mobile device to the participant, using the integrated Play On Roku attribute. Think of it a must for almost any Roku owner.
Among the biggest flaws of the system, however, is that the internals are severely restricted when piled against the competition. This implies more load times between screens and a few second delays when starting content. It’s not unusable in its present state, but it can get annoying.
Roku Feed and Movies Coming Soon
It’s easy to set up and very helpful once you’ve parsed the 40-or-so films from the Movies Coming Soon section of their home page. Insert a picture for your Roku Feed with the asterisk button and your Roku will keep you current on which services the movie is on and just how much it costs.
The other new addition, voice hunt, is activated on the remote itself or via the downloadable Roku program on iOS and Android devices. Voice search can display pictures, TV shows, actors or directors, before taking you to a screen that shows the cheapest places to locate them. For example, searching “Shawshank Redemption” will bring up the 1994 timeless. Select it with the distant and Roku will display all the places to locate it, including Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu, MGo, Crackle, Cinema Today and Plex, so long as you possess the corresponding program already installed.
Where this Roku singularly fails to impress is just as a media player. When there are actually several websites playing station options, none let the Roku 3 to function as a capable replacement for a dedicated media player, Smart TV or connected Blu-ray deck.
Its native movie codec/container support is far too limited at only MP4 and MKV. While the Roku is MKV friendly, it’s not able to downmix the AC3 audio commonly located on MKV downloads and this usually means you ought to run the participant through an AV receiver simply to decode sound.
While there is no display mirroring functionality (a la Chromecast), there are numerous methods for streaming content from your network or PC to Roku 3, all involving third party apps such as Plex, DropBox or MyMedia. We had differing levels of success with them. Additionally, many of these services replicate channels or content available through other apps on the system.
Roku is the exception among its primary competitors – Amazon Fire TV and Nexus Player – in that it is not subtly selling its own content platform. It’s in Apple’s interest for the to buy content on iTunes, as it is in Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Sony’s interest for you to buy from their services. Not caring about the promotion or success of any given station has liberated Roku to produce a more brand new box, and Roku’s offerings are a few of the most open on the market, boasting over 1,000 possible channels.
But that $100/#100 price tag appears to be punishingly expensive given the lackadaisical approach to document playback and deficiency of UK specific catch-up content. Remember, you can buy Sky’s comparable Roku-made Today TV box for under a tenner (sans Netflix) which offers a lot of the exact same functionality.
Finally, at which the Roku 3 really scores is in its own wonderful usability, be it that the blazing processor speed or the enhanced functionality that the hardware tweaks have bestowed upon it. It is responsive, simple and not beholden to a proprietary content library. Whether you’re trying to find a streaming box that will assist you cut the cord, or fortify your cable subscription, the Roku 3 gets the attributes, build quality and simplicity you’re looking for.
Overall, we rate this latest iteration as the Ideal Roku yet made