UPDATE: November 20, 2015
Wow, these are coming fast and furious. Roku 4 is now here, It's more expensive but it's probably worth it because it adds lots of new capabilities: 4K Ultra HD support, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, even a feature to locate a lost remote.
UPDATE: April 6, 2015
Please be aware that Roku released a new Roku 3 model that adds voice search among other things so make sure you are getting the 'latest and greatest' when you place your order. I was able to get the new one from Roku's own site but I'm sure Amazon will have them soon.
What follows is my 2013 review. This is where the NEW model is listed: New Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) With Voice Search
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.
I will try to keep this section as objective (factual) as possible.
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?
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?
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?
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.
The YouTube channel became available for the US, Canada and Ireland in December 2013.
on March 8, 2013
Let me first say that I have been a Roku user for a number of years now, and own a Roku 1 XD, XDS, and a Roku 2 XS. I have also owned and used in the past the Logitech Review using GoogleTV, the last two non-Google TV Sony boxes, and two generations of the WD TV Live streamers. After owning and using all those, the Roku is the only one that has a place in my livingroom, and here's why...
Without boring everyone on the specs of the R's, let me start by telling about my experience setting it up.
Once unpacked one simply plugs the power adapter into the wall and an HDMI cable into the TV and the Roku, that's it. The unit begins booting up then asks you to select whether you want to use a wireless or wired network connection. I selected wireless and it then shows a list of the networks it detected. Once you choose your network you input the password for your network and in a few seconds it connects right away.
Finally it displays an activation code which you are to use to activate and attach the Roku to your online Roku account. For some seeking out a computer that may or may not be near the TV might be a pain, but I simply opened Safari on my iPhone and added the code to my account while sitting in front of the TV.
Once the code is entered, as part of the attaching process you are prompted to add payment info just in case you want to buy a channel or game in the future. You can not bypass this but IT'S OK. Enter it in and finish the account set up. Once you do you can simply choose to delete the payment info and it's erased from the Roku servers.
Once the account is made and successfully linked, the Roku automatically downloads the channels from your account (if you are attaching it to an existing account) or just quickly downloads the few selected during the account creation process, including "Angry Birds Space".
That's it, its that easy to get it set and ready to stream. Of course with some premium channels you will either need to log in to your account from the Roku (Netflix) or similarly link the box to your online account using a computer, smartphone, or tablet browser (Amazon Instant Video).
I have found that the set up is incredibly easy over the numerous boxes I've used over the last few years and always recommend a Roku to especially those less adept at setting up electronics/computers/networking items.
The interface of the Roku units has always been a sore point.. When it started out with just Netflix and then just a few channels, the horizontal row of channel icons was fine, but now with HUNDREDS of channels it was sorely needing a refresh. The interface alone was one of the biggest reasons I was always trying different streaming boxes..
I'm so pleased to see the new grid-style interface on the R3. Not only is it beautifully rendered, but it is very, very fast to navigate and to find whatever it is you want in your channel list. Very modern-looking and functional.
One huge thing I notice over the older units in the interface is that besides it being "pretty", even the channels load much faster than previous units thanks to a new processor.
The universal search function is great too, allowing you to search for movies, shows, and even actors across the major providers.
The USB port--
USB functionality is a great add-on for the top tier Roku. The Roku units are first and foremost internet streamers, but the convenience of plugging in a thumb drive and being able to play some of my personal movie collection is great. Video format is rather limited, but again this is an add-on feature not a main selling point. Because I'm an iTunes user, I rip all my movies/shows as H.264 MP4 files because thy are iPhone/iPad compatible, and just so happen they are compatible with Roku as well. Very nice.
This is where Roku is just second to none, and why I choose to use it over all the others. Besides the big players like Netflix, Vudu, etc. Roku has such a wealth of programming that I actually hate it. I hate the fact I'm not independently wealthy and have to work for a living, and consequently don't have enough time in the day to watch everything on there I want to. You may very well feel the same way, but not to worry.. Unlike broadcast TV, everything on Roku is on-demand, meaning its there when you want it, not when its being broadcast.
Now sure, there's no YouTube. That might or might not be coming so if you get one, just assume you won't have it. Cute little kitty videos are fun to watch on the TV, but there's tons more you can watch on other channels. I love the fact I can get live streaming news from the BBC or CNN International, or watch cheesy, badly dubbed Kung fu movies, or B-movie horror and sci-fi all night long for free from my Roku if I want lol. The Roku's available programming really is like a buffet, its all you can eat and there's something for everybody.
The remote ---
The remote is very comfortable in the hands and acts as a motion-controlled controller for gaming. It it also isn't infared like a traditional remote so that means it doesn't have to be pointed right at the TV in order to work. The private listening mode worked really nicely when I tried it and I can imagine many uses for it.
Overall the Roku 3 is a great upgrade from the previous Roku 2, mostly because of the new UI (which will be coming to the roku 2 units in a month or two), the faster processor, and the wireless private listening mode. If you already have an R2 XS, I don't honestly think its worth upgrading since its biggest noticeable feature (the UI) will come in time.
For some just now dipping their toes in the world of internet streaming, I personally would get this Roku 3 hands-down over any other competing player on the market. Its so easy to use and that's why not only is it what I use but what my elderly parents use too. The best thing about them is they keep getting better.
I wrote a scathingly negative one-star review (see my other Amazon reviews) of the Roku 2 XS when it first became available here on Amazon.com in August 2011.
My final comment after returning the, in my opinion, not ready for prime time Roku 2 XS was something to the effect that I would intentionally be waiting for Roku 3 before ever purchasing another Roku.
Well Roku 3 is finally here and boy oh boy am I ever glad to have waited!
Initial setup of this extremely compact streaming device is truly a breeze and takes just a few minutes.
All of the annoying issues of interference with other devices (sound bar, digital picture frame, Internet radio, etc.) in my living room - in which absolutely nothing has changed since August 2011 when I took the Roku 2 XS for an extremely disappointing spin - have been completely resolved in this new incarnation of the Roku product line.
Internet connection problems are no more even with the very same wireless router and modem that I had back in 2011: The Roku 3 connects quickly and easily to my private/secure WiFi network and streaming of the available channels (a truly overwhelming selection with hundreds of free channels and others at nominal monthly cost) is fast and smooth just like a conventional TV program not originating via the Internet. The audio signal is loud and crystal clear. As of 05/21/2013, I have an approximately 50 Mbps broadband download speed available, but 20 Mbps also has worked fine in the past.
To avoid disappointment before purchasing any Roku model be sure to do your research concerning available programming/channels beforehand. Check the Roku website on the Internet to see what is and what is not available as far as channel selection is concerned, as well as what is absolutely free and which programming is associated with a clearly specified recurring monthly fee.
Two sites on the Internet - Roku Guide and Roku Channel Database - also can provide extremely useful information on Roku programming, especially the lowdown on free private channels (such as BBC World News and others) and the needed codes to add them to your Roku device. As of 12/30/2013, I have 123 absolutely free channels installed on my Roku 3 and this includes YouTube which has just recently been added to the impressive lineup.
Especially if you are news junkie, you will be able to get much more than your needed fix and possibly be at serious risk of overdosing from all the English language (and many foreign language) newscasts available from the USA and diverse international sources (UK, Japan, China, Australia, Canada, Russia, the entire EU - most notably Germany and France, Israel, South Africa and many others).
I have read several reviews posted here on Amazon giving the Roku 3 a single star, because the purchaser's incorrect and unrealistic expectations were not met, namely being able to see everything live on all broadcast channels just like he/she could with cable/dish television but for free. Get real! Obviously these individuals did not properly research what this device does and does not do before purchasing it. They are the ones who have earned a one star rating, not the Roku 3!
The remote control provided is simple to use and responds quickly when appropriate buttons indicating one's selections are actuated and it need not be pointed at the Roku 3.
I haven't yet had occasion to use the provided earphones or try out the memory expansion capability with a microSD card, but I really don't expect any problems here.
Overall, this is a very impressive example of technical virtuosity. The device is well worth the price of approximately $100.00 which for many people represents the monthly cost of cable/dish television. It may sound good to have potential access to 200-300 channels, but in reality you're probably really only interested in regularly watching a small percentage (10 percent?) of what you're being forced to pay for in those inconvenient channel packages. With Roku 3 and other streaming devices channel selection is always a la carte.
If you're a really smart consumer what you'll do is purchase one of these newly available game-changing Roku 3 streaming devices, pair it with a small and nifty indoor antenna like the Mohu Leaf or the Terk HDTVa Antenna Pro (see my reviews here on Amazon) to also receive TV channels the old fashioned and free way via the airwaves and then cut the cable company/dish cord for good.
I have done this and have been cable-free since August 2011 and am loving it! You too can liberate yourself from cable company/dish slavery and save the cost of a brand new HDTV every year (about $1200.00 annually). Go ahead, cut the cord and finally set yourself free!
Note that if you do decide to pursue a cable-free, dish-free TV lifestyle, don't skimp on the broadband connection that you will need to ensure smooth streaming with minimal buffering; this is especially important with a WiFi connection. Sufficient bandwidth is essential for the Roku 3 to provide an enjoyable TV viewing experience; it can't work miracles without it.
on November 3, 2013
Roku 3 is an audio/video streaming device for your TV and A/V system. It lets you (a) play online audio/video streaming content, (b) play your local media content from USB storage or home network, and (c) play a few casual games. All Roku-brand devices are market leaders at the moment as they support most of the major content providers, such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, Redbox, Blockbuster, Pandora, etc.
Roku requires a broadband Internet connection of at least 3 Mbps if you want to watch high definition video, or 1.5 Mbps for standard definition video. If you are unsure about your speed, go to Youtube or any online video site and watch some HD videos. If the quality is good, Roku's streaming quality should be too. Note that video quality still depends on individual content providers.
Roku 3 is a little black box that is small and light. Roku 3 actually weighs more than older models, so it doesn't fall off your furniture so easily. With an optional ten-dollar mount, you can mount the Roku box to the back of your TV.
Roku 3 only has one audio/video output available: HDMI. There are no composite (as in older Roku devices), component, Toslink, S/PDIF, nor RCA outputs at all, so those with legacy TV and A/V systems can't use it. Roku 3 also has an ethernet port for wired network connection, and supports dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n for wireless network access.
Roku 3's default video and audio settings are 720p and stereo. Be sure to change them to 1080p and surround if that's what you need.
Roku 3 is remote-controllable via both Wi-fi and infrared. With Wi-fi, you can control it with the included Wi-fi remote or an iOS device. With infrared, you can control it with a universal remote such as Logitech Harmony One.
Roku 3 also has a microSD card slot and a USB port, which let you use additional storage for content and system settings.
Note that Roku is not exactly a substitute of cable TV because a lot of content can still only be seen on cable, notably live TV: live major sports programs and live broadcast of TV series.
Roku does have streaming of Time Warner live TV (for 300 channels), but you need a Time Warner cable subscription and a Time Warner Internet plan. Stream quality is pretty good. I'm able to watch live sports program in smooth video. But unfortunately there is no surround sound in any programs.
Roku also has limited streaming of live local TV. Without cable, the only way to get live local TV would be to use an antenna.
Most of what Roku offers is archived content, or "on-demand" content. There are hundreds of providers, which Roku calls "channels", that stream select archived programs that you can watch at any time. A wide variety of content is available: movies, TV shows, news magazines, webcasts, food, religion, fitness, technology, etc. A nice selection of international content from around the world is also available. Go to Roku's website and browse its channel store to see all it offers. New channels are added frequently.
There are channels for browsing your cloud media content as well. If you have photo albums on Picasa, Flickr, Dropbox, Shutterfly, etc., you can browse your photos with the Roku.
There are free channels as well as ones that require monthly subscriptions. Wikipedia has a list of free channels offered by Roku. Some channels require payment simply for GETTING that channel. E.g. the Dropbox channel costs 10 bucks.
Roku does not support iTunes or iCloud content because Apple doesn't allow Roku to compete with its own Apple TV device. But Roku does offer a free iOS app that lets you send video, music, and photos from your iOS device to your TV.
One of the big complaints from Roku users was that there was no Youtube channel. In December 2013, a Youtube channel was finally added, but only for the Roku 3 player. You can search, like, dislike, subscribe, turn on subtitles, and flag. You can also sign in to your account, but you cannot comment, nor can you create playlists. You can also send Youtube videos wirelessly from your iOS and Android devices to your Roku.
One of the headaches of viewing on-demand content is that content COULD EXPIRE (no longer be available) without much notice. When and how often content expires are often controlled by copyright holders of the content, who are not obliged to disclose much details to the public. From my observations, for instance, movies on Netflix are available for 2-3 years, or more. Extremely unfortunate circumstances could cause massive expirations. Netflix recently made headlines when it had to expire 1800 shows due to the requests from major studios like Warner Bros and others. Warner later started its own streaming service, the subscription-based Warner Archive Instant, which was recently added as a Roku channel. The losers are the consumers, who have to pay for yet another service to get content.
One important note about expired content is that, if you purchase and own an item, you are able to play it FOREVER, even if it expires later on.
Another headache is the design of individual channels. Functionality, user-friendliness, bugginess, and even streaming quality can vary widely among the channels.
For instance, some channels let you turn on closed captioning, but some don't. Some offer surround sound, and some don't. Some have great video quality, while some have long load times. Some have slick user interface, and some have primitive UI. In short, you are at the mercy of the channel providers (not Roku) as to how good a viewing experience you will get. This is akin to the Apple app store where the quality of every app is different. Roku's Channel Store shows star ratings from viewers, but no detailed info on their quality. There are websites such as RokuGuide dot com that review Roku channels, so look them up. At the end of this review, I will review some of the Roku channels I've used and their qualities.
For those who are not technically inclined, Roku may cause additional headache for requiring you to sign up for many of the channels, which leads to a whole lot of user ID and passwords you need to keep track of.
Viewing UltraViolet content is especially cumbersome: you need an UV account; you need an account from a content provider like Vudu or Flixster; and you need to link both accounts together. It may involve entering a redeem code on UV's website as well.
Besides streaming online content, the Roku device is also a media player for playing your personal local content from an external USB storage or home network. But it supports only a few media formats: MKV (H.264), MP4 (H.264), AAC, MP3, JPG, PNG. For that reason, I have rarely used Roku to play local content.
As I mentioned earlier, you can, however, use the Roku iOS app to send video, music, or photos from your iOS device to your TV. It interrupts whatever is on the screen and replaces it with your content. This is similar to the Airplay feature of Apple TV. The downside is that iOS devices also have limited media support, just like Roku. So if you have media that your iOS device can't play, neither can Roku.
Roku 3 is also a gaming console. Its remote has a motion sensor that works like a Wii controller and allows you to control on-screen movements. Roku 3 comes with "Angry Birds in Space" that showcases nicely the remote's ability. 63 other games are available in the channel store currently. Some are free, most are paid, and some can be trialed for free. All are in the casual game variety. Nowadays, it seems that all gadgets have to do two things at the minimum: stream video, and play games. Will your refrigerator and washing machine be doing the same soon?
And now, my reviews of a few Roku channels:
One of the big complaints from Roku users was that there was no YOUTUBE channel. In December 2013, a Youtube channel was finally added, but only for the Roku 3 player. You can search, like, dislike, subscribe, turn on subtitles for, and flag videos. You can also sign in to your account, but you cannot comment. You can also send Youtube videos wirelessly from your iOS and Android devices to your Roku.
NETFLIX INSTANT costs $8 a month and offers what many believe to be the largest selection of programs. It offers 1080p picture in "Super HD" (fancy way of saying higher bit rate) and also 3D streaming for select titles. If your Internet speed is high enough (at least 5-10 Mbps as required by Netflix), then you will get the best picture and sound quality currently offered by any streaming service. For surround audio, Netflix uses Dolby Digital Plus, a higher bit-rate and better-sounding version of old-fashioned Dolby Digital. Note that older TV sets and audio systems may not be able to process Dolby Digital Plus so check your manuals. As I mentioned earlier, content could expire without warning. The only place to see expiration dates is the Netflix website; Roku's Netflix channel does not show it. Regarding 3D streaming, only compatible TVs are supported. But I'm able to view it on a PC with Nvidia 3D Vision setup.
VUDU is an a-la-carte instant video service. There is no monthly fee, but you pay two to five dollar to rent a video for 24 hours, or pay ten dollar or more to own it. TV series episodes are for purchase only at about 3 dollar each. So VUDU is not for those who watch a lot of TV. It also offers 1080p picture and Dolby Digital Plus audio in "HDX" format (VUDU's version of high bit rate), which requires 5 Mbps, so it is similar to Netflix's quality. VUDU also offers a lot of 1080p movies that are not yet on Blu-ray. Other services offer them too, but VUDU seems to have more of them, including older, less mainstream films that are less likely to come out on Blu-ray, such as "Baby Doll", "Blow-up", "Wait until Dark", Alfred Hitchcock's silent films "The Ring" and "Manxman", and many others. Go to VUDU dot com to see what is offered.
AMAZON INSTANT has an unattractive pricing. Not only you have to pay upfront 79 dollar for one year of "prime membership", but you also have to pay ADDITIONAL 2-5 dollar to rent certain content. Some content can't even be rented and has to be bought. A lot of content can be rent for free with prime membership, however. My experience has been that half of the time I run into something that costs extra rental fee. Without prime membership, Amazon does offer a-la-carte pricing for certain content. Also, Amazon does not yet offer 1080p streaming - only 720p and 480p for now.
HULU offers a lot of free content, but sadly, Roku only includes the subscription-based Hulu Plus, which costs 8 dollar a month. Hulu has a lot of content not found on Netflix or VUDU, such as movies from the Criterion Collection. Like Amazon, Hulu also doesn't offer 1080p picture, only 720p and 480p.
TIME WARNER CABLE TV (TWC TV) lets you view live cable TV from Time Warner on Roku, but you need at least Standard TV subscription plan and Internet plan from Time Warner. Disappointingly, there is no program guide, no surround sound, no Time Warner On-Demand, and no closed captioning. The live TV stream has an almost ONE-MINUTE DELAY from live broadcast. There are also a web version and iOS app version of TWC TV, and they do have program guide, TW On-Demand, and closed captioning. TWC TV offers 300 channels, but only if you view it on your home network. Out of home, you can only view TEN channels. Those "anywhere, anytime" commercials from Time Warner are slightly misleading, since you cannot watch ANY CHANNEL anywhere anytime.
PLEX provides additional streaming channels that are not offered by Roku, such as channels for viewing TV episodes of ABC, NBC, CBS, and A&E programs. There is a hassle factor: you need to install the Plex server software on a PC or Mac in the same network as your Roku device. Plex can stream content from your PC or Mac (such as iTunes video and music) to your TV as well. It also lets you "queue" Youtube clips so you can watch them on Roku, but the queuing has to be done on a PC or Mac.
POPCORNFLIX represents the low end of what Roku can offer. It shows hundreds of free but lesser known movies with blurry, and often choppy picture. You also have to view commercials. Go to Popcornflix dot com to sample their offerings.
PICASA lets you use Roku to view your photo albums on Picasa (online photo service from Google). Opening the channel always give me a "API" error message. Picture quality is blurry. This channel is not developed by Google or Roku, but by someone named Chris Hoffman. I've tried to contact him but to no avail.
The FLICKR channel lets you view your Flickr photo albums on Roku. Sadly, if a photo is wider than 16:9, the aspect ratio of the TV screen, the photo is cropped on the left and right to fill the screen. This channel is not made by Yahoo (which owns Flickr), but by Chris Hoffman, also.
The COUCHY TV channel is also developed by Mr. Hoffman, and sadly, it has a problem too. This channel lets you view Dropbox photo and stream Dropbox video on your Roku. But for some reason, photos are shown at a much reduced size, and there is no way to enlarge. Video streaming is quite good, however. Mr. Hoffman, where are you?
REVISION3 is a free online video website and Roku channel that offers many independent web programs on technology and entertainment, such as "Tekzilla" and "HD Nation". The program content is excellent, but unfortunately, the Roku channel is poorly designed. It doesn't remember the show you have watched, and you always have to scroll through a long list of shows to see what you want.
So, in short, to use the Roku:
(1) It helps that you are technologically inclined.
(2) Expect mostly on-demand content and not a lot of live TV content, and thus Roku doesn't necessarily replace cable TV or antenna TV.
(3) Expect to sign up for a lot of services, and pay for some.
(4) Expect some Roku channels to be better designed and/or more functional than others.
on April 5, 2013
OK, I am a certified Roku fan, prefer it to Apple, and mind you, between 2010 and now, I've bought 8 (eight) Rokus from amazon, and 1 from Roku directly, making it a total of 9. Yes, 4 of them were as gifts for friends. I've got the whole series, Roku HD, Roku XS, XDS, etc., and a unit each in three rooms. I am disclosing this just to make my point, my disappointment.
Until now, never had any problem with the others, they all worked well in the three different dwellings in different locations I lived in, easily connected to my home network.
I bought this latest unit because of the built-in ear-plug port, Which did not disappoint me, it works just fine. Super idea.
My problem is the remote's finicky connectivity. The unit, as had the other units, worked well right out of the box, connected like a breeze, and no problems for the first two weeks. And then the remote lost touch with the base. OK, I disconnected HDMI and power cables for a few minutes, re-connected, still cannot get the base unit to embrace :-) the remote. Checked the network, it's fine, so Internet is not problem. Live chat took too long to respond, I tried using my other remotes. 2 XS remote not compatible, but XD connected OK.
Next day I tried live chat on their site again, spent about 20 mins waiting, nice person came on, worked with me, taught me that I had not pressed the small connection button in the remote long enough, the button is accessible when you remove the battery house cover, and it's a small button, not easy to press it correctly with fingertip, need a longer nail or a pencil, anyhow, advice worked and reconnected with the base. No explanation why we lost connection though.
But so far so good.
One more week passes and we lose connection again. This time it takes way too many attempts within 48 hours to get the base and the unit to reconnect. Thank God for the older remote!
This time I did not even try to contact tech support. Felt so frustrated that I wanted to return the whole kit and kaboodle. Alas, yesterday was 1 month since I bought this from amazon, and i might be too late to return it.
On the other hand, I do like that it has the head phone port in the remote, you can listen to your movie without bothering anyone else, in my case, a terminally ill hubby who needs his snooze.
But there are other gadgets that you can buy if headphones are what you want.
In my opinion, this latest Roku needed more work before it was thrown out into the market.
My saving grace is that out of all the previous Rokus I bought, one of the remotes is compatible, but then again, as I said, using the older remote beats the purpose of having bought this one. Older remote does not have the earphone port...
So I rate it a 3 because of its finicky remote unit.
on July 15, 2013
First Impressions of first Roku3:
Took exactly 20 minutes to set up, including the following steps:
-- plug in AC adapter (wall wart, takes two or more spots on a power strip)
-- hook up to our HDTV with hdmi cable (cable is not included)
-- configure wi-fi (you'll need your wi-fi password) and wait briefly for it to self-test local network and internet connectivity
-- wait couple minutes for firmware update to download
-- follow onscreen instructions for device setup via ROKU website using code given on TV screen in big letters
-- go online to create a ROKU account, which *requires* full name, address, phone #, credit card #, and CV code from back of cc
-- creating an optional purchase PIN (which insures you or someone else won't accidentally incur charges to your credit card)
-- Voila! Ready to watch content! Entire setup was straightforward, easy.
To access specific channels such as Vimeo, Plex, Amazon etc you have to go online and punch in a five or six character code to initiate access to your accounts...takes about 2 minutes per account. It correctly showed my Vimeo watchlist, and correctly showed which episodes of Amazon Prime TV shows we'd already watched. Sweet. Initial buffering of TV shows was MUCH faster than using our Vizio's built-in "internet TV" Amazon app. It also correctly showed (with illustrated icons that look like a DVD cover) all the TV series we've been watching over the past several months, so I didn't have to re-look them up via search. Sweet again!
Speaking of search: When comparing reviews of media streaming boxes, I was concerned that the ROKU remote didn't have a qwerty keyboard like some others do...but in reality it only takes two to four characters to bring up the desired show in the search list that pops up, so I can now see why a qwerty keyboard isn't needed, and in fact would just make the remote clunkier.
I signed up for Plex (plexapp.com) which allows you to sling videos from the web to a viewing list on the ROKU. It worked with YouTube, and even on some other off the beaten path sites as well. You find content via the internet, then tell Plex (via bookmarklet) to save it to a watchlist to view whenever you want on the ROKU. It took about 2 to 5 seconds per selection to save to the queue. I can see how this will open up virtually unlimited new possibilities for non-traditional content to watch. No more watching crap during the summer programming doldrums because we're down to the dregs on TiVo. (We don't have cable, but do have TiVo for over-the-air recording of digital network content.)
Love the instant replay button (similar to TiVo's), which rewinds 7 seconds per click. Great for deciphering mumbly dialog. It also has an option for closed captioning (which is not necessarily available on all shows, but a nice option). Haven't yet tried the earbuds that plug into the remote for private screening, but they did ship with it in the box, and were one of the features that nudged me toward choosing the ROKU over other boxes.
The description says the ROKU 3 is capable of 1080p but ours was factory set at 720p. I discovered this by chance while exploring "settings" and manually changed it to 1080p. Our Vizio 58" HDTV has a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio with 2560 x 1080p resolution; the ROKU performed flawlessly while streaming 21:9 content from Vimeo at full cinematic resolution (although I'm not sure I could tell the difference between 720p vs 1080p just by casual viewing...will have to look for a resolution test online somewhere?).
There's a long list of free channels from a wide range of genres, several of which I added to our channel lineup. I removed Netflix and others that we don't have subscriptions to (can add back anytime). We already have Amazon Prime, so now with all the new free channels I can't imagine needing any more content since we only watch TV 1-1/2 to 2 hours per day.
So my first impressions are enthusiastically positive! Fast & intuitive user interface, intuitive & uncluttered remote, fast buffering, no stutters. Light years better functionality/performance compared to using the apps that came with our "internet TV"! Already seems money well spent. Would definitely recommend!
DAY 3 UPDATE: Some channels/apps don't "predict" what you're trying to type in the search box...so the lack of a qwerty keyboard was bugging me more (Vimeo for example). So I downloaded a free Roku app for my iPod, which turns it into a Roku remote with full qwerty keyboard. One glitch: the delete/backspace function does NOT work from the iPod, so if I hit a wrong letter I have to grab the Roku remote to backspace.
Many of the "channels" are simply advertising, or come-ons, or bait & switches. Many of the fitness channels say "free" but after they get you to go to their website you learn that "free" only applies to the first week, or month, after which you must pay for a subscription. Some channels have only two or three podcast-like selections. Some channels are self serving, such as a book publisher whose channel consists of book reviews. Some channels have commercials, such as a 50-minute indie movie I scoped out which started with a 30 second ad; fast forward was disabled during the commercial of course, all I could do was mute my sound system and wait. But it said that was the only ad that would play, so I guess I could live with that. There was a paid "ad free" option for 99 cents...but by the time you messed around with paying, the ad would be over anyway. But it's hasta la vista to Crackle -- reMOVE channel -- because they INTERRUPT content with ads! TiVo and Amazon Prime have me spoiled I guess...haven't had to watch commercials for years.
After an hour or more of sifting through all the available channels, I was left feeling mildly annoyed by the typical non-transparency of come-ons, where they give you the impression it's free until the last possible minute, which wastes my time! I think Roku should require channels to be more forthcoming about fees in the initial description. Some channels do so, but not all.
I finally made it all the way through the 700+ "channels," of which I chose 40 to put in "My Channels."
On the positive side, many of the channels are completely legit and worthwhile and I very much look forward to watching them...it just takes some wading through &%$# to get to them.
Still a very solid 5 stars IMHO!
DAY 4 UPDATE: Well, sorry to say, but the bloom is definitely off the rose as far as the hundreds of "free" channels go. In fact, I'd give the overall channel selection zero stars. Lots of flash, little substance. Upon closer examination, I axed several more channels from "My Channels" today...I'm down to only a couple dozen left, of which only a handful are golden.
I'm still at 5 stars overall for the Roku 3 due to it's speed and intuitive user interface for streaming...plus the instant replay button, the Plex app queueing web videos (including YouTube) to our HDTV, much faster loading and nearly flawless streaming, a good Vimeo app, and faster/slicker access to Amazon Prime content.
SIX WEEK UPDATE: Even the PBS channel interrupts programs with un-skippable commercials! (Yes I realize there has to be revenue from *somewhere.*) Still lovin' the Roku 3 overall though, use it every evening. Have had to unplug base unit a couple of times to get it "unstuck," so be sure to mount it in a reasonably accessible location. TiVo is nipping at Roku's heels by partnering with more web-based content providers (especially for video podcasts), but Roku still beats TiVo for Amazon viewing because so far only paid Amazon content can be downloaded to TiVo, not free Prime content. Used and appreciated Roku 3's headphone-jack-in-the-remote feature during a recent infestation of visitors into our home.
NOVEMBER 2013 UPDATE: Just bought a SECOND Roku 3, rationalizing that having Roku in exercise room will pacify me into riding elliptical trainer longer and more often ;-) Location for second Roku is farther from router, and at first it was buffering 30 seconds to give me 10 seconds of video...unwatchable. So I tried Roku's online LiveChat support, and was pleasantly surprised that they were able to solve the problem! The key seemed to be updating the software, which can be done from a "secret screen" accessed like this:
<Using the Roku remote, press the HOME button 5 times, FORWARD button 3 times then REVERSE button 2 times.>
Choose the Update option. I didn't have to reload channels or anything, it just gave me snappier performance, and sped things up enough that even my farthest away Roku works great now (opposite end of house from router, about 60 feet).
LiveChat worked very well -- gave me time in between messages to go fiddle and test without pressure of someone waiting on a phone line. They said phone support is free for 90 days from purchase, LiveChat is free forever...another positive about Roku. I'm impressed!
on April 9, 2014
I have had this Roku 3 for a while now and wanted to evaluate if it would be a suitable replacement for paying too much for DIRECTV. This unit is like an extensive Hybrid of services that I can already get from my HDTV and Bluray player. There are a lot of choices though many of them are things I have never heard of before, and I am not very interested in the Albanian National Soccer team. Beyond some of the common choices like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus and YouTube, many of the channels offered aren't free or don't carry all of the programming that you would normally find from the same channel on the satellite.
I ended up making a list of the channels that I watch the most on satellite and then made decisions on whether they were worth having at the cost of a DIRECTV subscription versus not getting virtually all of them and substituting other things that are available either free or by subscription through Roku. The conclusion ends up being a question of how much I liked the channels I wouldn't be getting anymore if I cut the satellite. Whether a Roku is a suitable substitute for paying for cable or satellite is subjective, but do be clear that there will be things that you won't be getting if you only have the Roku and for many that's perfectly fine.
As a basketball nut, I subscribe to the NBA Ticket every year and watch lots of games. You can get the NBA League Pass and watch it on your PC or TV through your Roku. What I have found is that even though I have the Roku set up at 1080P with surround sound set, the picture appears to be coming through at about only 720P. That wouldn't have been so bad if it was 5 or 6 years ago, but if you have a high quality 1080P TV then you will notice the difference. I have it hooked up to a gigabit switch and it isn't stuttering or having problems keeping up, it just simply isn't as good of a picture. It isn't terrible, but it isn't as good as when I watch the DIRECTV game on the HD broadcast. I can switch between the satellite and the Roku 3 and when the same game comes up on the DIRECTV HD broadcast, it is noticeably better. The difference in resolution with an HD movie on the Roku isn't as noticeable as it is with watching an NBA basketball game.
A couple of things are bothersome with the Roku and they are the rather short warranty of 90 days and that the unit runs quite warm, almost hot and there aren't any vents and the unit doesn't shut off when you aren't using it. I have resorted to just unplugging it when I am not using it, as I am not feeling like anything that runs this warm will have a long life expectancy, perhaps that's why only a 90 day warranty?
I am on the fence with this device as it is versatile and can be used both wired or wireless, and it can easily provide plenty of programming for less than most folks are paying now for their cable or satellite, but there will be tradeoffs and these are things to consider. The picture is generally pretty good but it does have its shortcomings especially with sports in HD. It only cost a hundred bucks and if you don't want to pay for a bunch of add on subscriptions then the cost of operation can be quite low each month. If you don't want to leave a credit card on file with Roku, you'll need to call them or can go on their site and chat with one of their CSR's and go through the whole registration process, and they'll need to tweak a few things for you since everything on Roku's web site is set up on the assumption that there will be credit card associated with your account and device. Not impossible to get it registered without the card, but also not trivial.
At this point I still haven't got a conclusive answer as to whether I will dump the satellite and go with this, though this decision is partly because of the stations I do watch regularly on the satellite that won't be available anymore. The sports broadcasts are not as good as the crystal clear reception I get through the satellite, but then again I would be saving money by tossing the satellite. Lastly, if I do keep the Roku 3 then the first thing that I am going to do on day 91 when the warranty is up will be to pull the case apart and drill a number of ventilation holes to help this device breathe and extend its life as this should never have been made without ventilation slots from the manufacturer, unless of course they're counting on frequent repeat sales.
** 5/18/14 Update **
I think my fears about the heat issue caught up with this one as it started doing multiple resets at two months old and because I bought this at a warehouse store with a 90 day return policy I was able to return it rather than having to try and deal with Roku. They now had this years model (4200X) and it was 85 bucks so I decided to give it one more try. After registering it (49 minute wait to chat with an online CSR because I don't have a credit card on file) the unit downloaded the latest update and then set up all of the channels that I had in my account and it was all there again. It would appear that even though this is still called a Roku 3, the manufacturer may have made some updates under the hood as this unit is faster and doesn't run nearly as warm as the previous one.
They still haven't put ventilation slots on this which would be a good idea as it may not be as warm as the first one, but it isn't cool either. The new unit is only a week old and so far so good, but it is disturbing that the first unit lasted only 2 months, and if I hadn't gotten it at a warehouse club then I would have been stuck going through Roku RMA and paying to return it only to get a "refurbished" unit back without even a 90 day warranty on it. It seems that I am far from being alone with regard to having durability issues with a Roku, and for that reason alone, if this one isn't long lived, then it will be the last one I will ever buy, and if the new Amazon Fire HD had more channels available and wasn't quite so "Amazon-centric" then I may have skipped giving Roku another shot. In this day and age electronics shouldn't be failing, they should simply be replaced because there is something better. Even though most everything is made in China, these may not be made by one of the better manufacturers.
on June 15, 2013
I think some that are complaining about channel selection being worthless are unsure how to make the most out of your Roku.
Not only do you have Netflix, Hulu Plus and Vudu for movie rentals...but Roku is DLNA. Which means if you install a media server on your computer it will stream it to the Roku. The Plex app is on Roku and is free, however Playon is a great choice. I actually run both at once. Playon is a yearly fee. When they have a sale like now it is only 24.99 a year, or you can get a lifetime licence for 49.99 and never pay again. Which any way you look at it is far cheaper than cable. They also have a Playlater service which records shows for you so you can watch later. There are many plugins that come with it... ABC, NBC, CBS, History, Discovery, Spike, Lifetime, CW, MTV, VH1, Animal Planet, Fox, etc practically all the cable networks are there that post their shows episodes online for public viewing which Playon makes available. If you don't pay for Hulu Plus you can still watch free Hulu through Playon as well.
Many don't know about it so thought I would let you all know there is alot you can do with Roku outside of Roku channels.:)
on March 19, 2013
There are plenty of glowing reviews here about this item already. I don't usually write reviews, but I wanted to say that this thing is really great. The installation is incredibly simple, and there is a huge selection of movies, videos and music. If you want local channels, you only need to add an HDMI switcher and a digital antenna and you are set to go. A lot of the movies are subscription or pay per view, but that is okay, I already had Amazon Prime ($79 per year), and it is great to be able to watch those movies on the TV instead of the tablet, Kindle, or computer. If you are a regular consumer of a lot of the cable network stuff, you may miss those. Personally, I was tired of paying a huge (over $100) monthly cable bill for over two hundred channels when I only watched perhaps six on a regular basis. Now, I only need broadband (half the cost I was paying for both). Do what I did....get the Roku, but keep your cable for a month or so and see how you like it. A HDMI switch is inexpensive and it will allow you to switch from
Roku to cable and back easily.
on March 6, 2013
The Roku 3 is an awesome upgrade from my previous Roku 2. (and from my previous Apple TV)
First of all, it is very easy and quick to set up.
The Roku 3's user interface is just awesome, and much snappier than the pervious one.
It's much easier to navigate the channels with the new user interface. They also added a centralized search where you can search for titles or actors across all channels and they then show which channels offer that content.
This is really an AWESOME and very useful feature!
Besides the improved UI, I really love the new remote control, which contains a head-set jack and volume controls.
When you plug-in a head-set, the audio on the Roku's HDMI interface is automatically muted, and re-routed to the head-sets. This is awesome when watching movies at night when your loved-ones are asleep, and might be equally useful when you ask your kids to use the head-set, so you don't have to listen to Dora the Explorer all day long..
I should add that the audio-quality on the headsets is truly HiFi - it blew me away!
Roku offers TONS of channels on the Roku! No comparison to the very limited number of channels on the Apple TV.
I think Roku says they have +700 channels now.
Some of my favourite channels are:
- Amazon (some movies included with Amazon Prime!!)
- Vudu (amazing video quality!)
- Netflix (their selection really gets worse every day)
- TimeWarner channel
- HBO Go
- Smithsonian Channel
- great music channels, like: Pandora Radio, Amazon Cloud Player, SomaFM, ...
- tons of science & tech channels, like: TED Talks, CNet, NASA, ...
- tons of food channels
- tons of domestic and international news channel, like CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Euronews, Tagesschau, Deutsche Welle, and many more!
- lots of international channels
- many more..
Do a web-search to find the complete list of all available Roku private channels, and check out the VideoBuzz channel!
One almost hidden feature of the Roku3 is that it has a USB3 port on the side -- that means that you can plug in a USB-flash drive or a USB disk, and play content you own from there! USB Media Formats: Video: MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264) Audio: AAC, MP3, Image: JPG, PNG.
One small thing to look out: make sure to switch your video to 1080p in the settings menu, it starts with 720p resolution.
My home-theater setup consists of an Optoma 1080p projector, with the Roku3 connected to it, and a 133" screen.
The video quality is just amazing!! I lOVE my new Roku 3!
Compared to the Roku2, there is no audio-out jack on the back of the Roku3 - this was not a big issue for me, because I have an inexpensive HDMI Switcher which provides audio-out: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003L14WB8/
Last not least: how does the Roku3's price of $99 stack up against the competition? With the Roku3 you get more channel choices than what you get with the Apple TV.
If you compare it to "smart" TVs, like Samsung and others, these manufacturers charge exorbitant amounts for their "smart" TV features, compared to their regular TV models -- you'd pay several hundred dollars more, and you would end up with less -- and you'd be waving your hands at your TV.
So if you compare the Roku3 to "smart" TVs, the Roku3 is an obvious choice because of it's low cost, more channels, and the much sleeker user interface.
All in all, I think this product is a BIG step up from the previous Roku 2 and far ahead of the Apple TV, which I have not used since I switched to Roku.
If you own an Apple TV, or already own a pervious Roku model, I'd definitely recommend to upgrade to the Roku 3!
If you are in the market for a new TV, then go for the non-smart version, and add a Roku3!
You won't regret it! It's awesome!
It puzzles me that some people have left bad reviews for the Roku3. Some comments where related to streaming quality, which sounds more like they have only a very basic internet connection. If you want to stream HDTV video over the internet, make sure that you have an adequate / high-end internet connection (don't try to save money on that). Another comment was the 90-day warranty. Sure, that's true, but I don't think it's an issue given that the Roku3 does not contain any moving parts -- chances of it breaking are very very very slim. I had my previous Roku for years and it still works like a charm.
last not least, one comment was that you have to provide a credit card to connect to the Roku channel store. That's just the same with a lot of other services, and devices, e.g. the Apple TV. It's really no surprise, as there are some Roku channels which can be purchased. Does any of that make the Roku3 a bad device? Absolutely no! It is the best device in it's class, and I find it just awesome to use.