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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
__________________________________________________________

MY EXPERIENCE

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.

_______________________________________________________________

THE FAQ

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?
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.
_______________________________________________________________

NOTE:

The YouTube channel became available for the US, Canada and Ireland in December 2013.
5,203 helpful votes
5,204 helpful votes
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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--

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.

Programming----

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.
2,815 helpful votes
2,816 helpful votes
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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.
2,254 helpful votes
2,255 helpful votes
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on October 2, 2013
I am slowly cutting away from cable and this has been a great start. Has a good variety of channels and programming. Was very easy to set up. I can use the remote that came with the system, our the Android app that I downloaded onto my tablet. If you don't need 500 channels on cable this is the way to go. If fact there is so much programming on it, just like cable you won't be able to watch it all either. Some channels are free, some are subscription based like Netflix and Hulu plus. A nice piece of technology.
14 helpful votes
15 helpful votes
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See my review of the Amazon Fire TV - I just returned it after 2 weeks for a full refund. The Roku 3 beats Fire easily, not even close.

Roku ease of use - user friendly *STAR Worthy // Fire - yikes the menus and categories are not conducive to User Friendliness - not logically ordered. Roku is an independent company not attached to Amazon or NEtflix - they just want us to have the best experience - AMAZON wants you to spend money buying their movies

Roku does a full menu genera separation of all Prime movies Awesome *STAR Worthy // Amazon Fire intentionally makes it challenging to see the Prime movies in any logical order and does not include more than 1 or 2 or none at all in the genera separated lists. Wow so, so Greedy - shame on you Amazon. We love Amazon - I even bought my Roku via Amazon Prime :0) but your obvious Greed shows in how you set-up the Fire to function.

Roku does not have a 500 gig hard drive Yaa! that means there is nothing to crash, fill-up or need refreshing or Clearing of Casch or Clearing of Data. Major Big *STAR for that.

// Amazon Fire TV has a hard drive, you have to Download every channel, every App, every game into the hard drive. That means it also has Data and Casch that will fill-up and SLOW your TV down and eventually Stop it from working altogether - to Fix go to Settings > Apps > Amazon Video> Clear Data >clear > Clear Casch> clear> Account> sysc >Enter. OMG Are You Kidding every time it slows down you will need to do that - Every Time

Roku Streams Fast and clean with no glitches or bugs - they are third generation Very Big *STAR //Amazon streams fast and clean too - when its working - 1st generation with bugs and glitches still not worked out - yikes!
Roku searches a movie then shows you every Movie service that has that movie & the price, Wow, you choose where you'd like to watch and Go, that is an awesome Big *STAR //Amazon can't do that.

Roku & Amazon Fire have Apps & Games
Roku has a Motion Sensing interactive remote with wrist strap for interactive games - nothing else to buy, Kudos Big *STAR //Fire - you have to buy a gaming remote - greedy greedy greedy

Roku - one search engine finds movie in all services - Amazon has a microphone ONLY finds movie if you know it in Amazon -Boo greedy again! Roku comes with earbuds to plug into the remote automatically Mutes TV when plugged in. WOW BIg *STAR //Fire can't do that!

Roku - 1,000s of Other Channels *STAR //Amazon Fire? a dozen or 2 - weak very weak

Roku "my Watchlist" Separates TV watch list from Movie Watch list, Nice! *STAR //Fire TV everything is collected in one big list - yikes what a freaking mess.

Roku - includes a USB port in the WiFi box Nice! *STAR note* many TVs now have a USB port - but not easily accessible in the back of the TV now you can easily plug into the Roku box and view whatever is on you USB - Movies, Music Images Very Cool **STAR

There's more to list but You get the point - Amazon is getting greedy, they released the Fire too soon, everyone who is happy now will get bugged soon enough, and discover why their TV box should not try to mimic a computer hard drive - all the same reasons computers bug out, crash, get viruses, become tired and old needing replacement every year or two Yikes! NOt to mention all the blemishes listed above.

I now have the Original Roku in the Kitchen (was in the living room for a few years), Roku 2 in the Bedroom (1.5 years) and this new Roku 3 in the Living room (new - replaced the returned Fire) everyone is giving us perfect service, never a reason to call Customer Service.

btw - that earbud remote - people spend a $100.00 or more getting a wireless headphone set-up. Included for free with Roku, And the roku remote is radio-wave not infrared so you can walk to the kitchen/bathroom and still have the sound playing, and decide to pause if your gone too long - radio waves do not need to "see" the TV like infrared does.JUST another STAR for Roku where Fire can't even compete.
4 helpful votes
5 helpful votes
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UPDATE: They seemed to have over-corrected with the 4K-ready Roku 4 with the addition of a fan that sometimes drowns out the audio. The Roku 3 - with modifications - might be the best available. I also own a Roku Streaming Stick (3600R) (updated version) for travel. The streaming stick is the equivalent to the Roku 3 in features (though with the "Stick" private listening requires your phone and a Roku app vs built into the remote on the Roku 3)

I've owned 2 Roku 2 XS's (single core) and this Roku 3 (dual core), the 3600R (latest 2016) streaming stick. Done burn-in and OS debugging on the Roku "2"s for the company I work for.

The Roku 3 unit with Broadcom 11130 processor runs hotter than it should. Broadcom makes it hard to find specs for this processor on their website (instead, 11140 info is available).

ROKU's CALCULATED INDUSTRIAL DESIGN
For the Roku 3 itself, it seems there was a POORLY calculated design decision - perhaps based on aesthetics - not to offer much ventilation in this unit too - heat gets trapped => problems.

RANDOM FAILURES
That bad industrial design decision means eventually, you'll likely have some heat-related failures; the system will freeze often, reboot often, and eventually wear out prematurely due to heat. My Roku 3 (brand new) started freezing on me, rebooting randomly, etc..

You see, with modern stream switching and bandwidth detection, your Roku might start playing 480p, switch up to 720p or 1080p and back down.. Hit the wrong stream that makes the Roku work hard (CPU decoding vs hardware decoding) and you get heat, then a freezing situation or a random reboot.

What I mean is the heat-related failures are not a LINEAR thing (fails exactly 30 minutes into a movie, every time).. it depends on the random behavior of your network and the streamed content...

WHAT TO DO? RETAIL ELECTRONICS MACGUYVER / KUNG-FU
If you really like Roku (the idea of being more open vs FireTV, etc) and you want to continue to use something 'out-of-the-box', then do some googling, buy a Torx T6 tool, undo some screws, pop the top cover off and Dremel or drill a dozen or more 1/8" or larger holes in the upper cover (for heat to escape). Snap and screw it all back together.

Then use your Roku 3 as it should have been built, and have a nice life.

2700 AMAZON 1-STAR REVIEWS for ROKU 3 - BELIEVE ME - ROKU KNOWS
It seemed easier to just bite the bullet and work around the heat issue by drilling (vs living with a temperamental Roku and going through endless RMAs and frustration). Having to fiddle with retail electronics sucks, but it only took 15 minutes from disassembly to fixed ; problem solved. For an $80 product, it wasn't worth it for me to play "MR. consumer advocate" when thousands had already done so. Or, hoping Roku comes out with a Roku 3.5 "fix" (zero chance of that since the enclosure is most of the problem). Also, the Roku 4 is already out.

RESULTS
Since drilling the holes, we leave the Roku on all the time, and haven't had a heat-related issue since - not one reboot or freeze... Yes the drilled vent holes will probably allow some dust inside the ROKU; but, I'll probably upgrade in a year or two anyway to the "4" or whatever new model there is.

In the meantime, I'll have 2-3 years of Roku 3 enjoyment for $80. The Roku 3 feature set is worth the upgrade from Roku 2 and worth this drilling holes workaround to get the flexibility of using the earphone jack in the remote (to listen to TV/Roku privately)

Some people go a step further and glue $10 computer fans to the top (while also modifying the cover more severely), but I choose to do the minimum - drilling holes.

The Roku 4 (with quad-core) is hopefully not the same Broadcom family chip and use an SoC with circuitry that can decode/handle most video streams in dedicated hardware without delegating it into the CPU (software video decoding) and thereby creating an indoor heat source.
2 helpful votes
3 helpful votes
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on January 31, 2015
I love this device! I can watch endless movies old and new, from the many, many channel choices.
Besides movies, there is much more. I love Pandora, Crackle, etc.
Everything I use is totally free.
Rarely does it quit working, but if it does, I just unplug the box and it resets quickly at the same place it quit working.
Don't follow all the complicated advice from others in forums, etc, to reset it such as "unplugging the modem, unplugging the cable, unplugging your wireless connection, waiting, replugging etc".
You should be able to only unplug one tiny cord leading into the black ROKU box and replug it. Simple! (At least that is what works for me)
I have saved at least $150 a month and don't even miss cable TV now.
The clarity, sound and quality of streaming is excellent.
I have not had any problems or slowing down the streaming movies and I only have basic internet speed.
(Don't be fooled with your ISP telling you that you need Turbo speed. It's just a ploy to have you pay more.)
I only wish I had bought this years ago. I would have saved enough to buy a few rooms of furniture and pay for a divorce!
3 helpful votes
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on April 12, 2015
The Roku 3 is a really nice box, and although some people have had some issues with it interfering with their wireless broadband, I have to say that we haven't had that problem at all. (For the curious, we use an old D-Link DIR-655 router, which is positioned around forty feet from both the Roku and several other devices. None of the videos have dropped off in quality, and our network tests in the living room show the same numbers that they did before the Roku was introduced.)

What we have instead is lovely, high-quality streaming video in the living room, including a number of channels (such as DramaFever) that don't provide apps for the PS3 or WiiU that we could stream otherwise. In the case of DramaFever, this is great for us, as we're both fans of Korean drama and variety shows, so it's nice to be able to watch it without having to hook the TV up as a monitor.

There's one thing that's worth noting here, though, and it's not directly to do with Roku. The quality of the experience you get can vary with the channel that you use, as each channel's browsing and playback functionality is unique, and seemingly programmed by the channel. The Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon channels are clearly better engineered than the DramaFever channel, for example, and their bandwidth and consistency is better too. But this isn't Roku's doing -- most of the channels are excellent, and the Roku's streaming is superb, matching the PC and PS3 in every case where we've been able to directly compare the two. And although DramaFever's channel has more problems than the others, the playback is still generally excellent.

All in all, it's been a great purchase -- all we need now is for HBO to add their Live channel to the Roku!

(One comment worth mentioning, if you happen to have a DIR-655 router yourself, or have similar issues -- we had one issue where the DramaFever channel locked up, and when we disconnected the Roku to reset it, after restarting, it wouldn't connect back onto our network correctly. The error code reported was 014, and after reading around, I found that this was to do with the Roku being unable to Ping the router. I had to go into the router's settings, and then enable the WAN ping (but only for the IP address that I'd reserved for the router -- nothing else seems to need it). And since then, we've had no problems.)
1 helpful vote
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on December 23, 2014
Roku currently makes the best internet streaming device out there, I believe. I just upgraded from a Roku 1 to a new Roku 3, and the price was well worth the upgrade, for many reasons: (1) A faster, more powerful processor means faster streaming and downloading, (2) an improved interface makes it quick and easy to find channels (or apps) that you're looking for, and (3) there is even the cool function of being able to plug headphones into the Roku remote to listen quietly to the TV while your spouse or partner is asleep; (4) There are some channels, such as the new official Roku YouTube channel that will not work with the older Roku units (such as the original Roku 1.) (5) As always, the Roku is totally silent, making no noise. (6) PLUS: A nice surprise that I discovered: I didn't even have to re-program my Logitech Harmony 650 universal remote controls when I upgraded to the new Roku 3! (Apparently, Roku uses the same remote control codes each time that releases a new model. (7) An important thing that I like a lot about the Roku is that it has more channels and is more maturely-developed than any of the other streamers (and, be aware that many of the best Roku channels are the so-called "private" Roku channels, which you cannot find in the Roku store, but only by Googling "list of private Roku channels".) And many Roku channels are free, and most of those that are paid are very inexpensive. (8) And setting up a Roku has always been so quick and easy that even a grandmother could do it. My only concern about Roku streamers is that they tend to stay rather warm (almost hot), even though they supposedly only use about the same amount of energy as a nightlight. So, I have always make little "stilts" (or "feet") to raise my Roku units up a little higher to allow for better air circulation and cooling from below. (For the new Roku 3, I made these stilts out of a thick piece of cork board, and I cut the cork into 2 stilts that were 1 inch high and 2 & 1/2 inches wide. I wrapped some black electrical tape around the sides of the cork stilts to make them look better so they would blend in with the color of the Roku. Then I attached these cork stilts to the bottom of the Roku using some double-sided tape.) Another thing that I really like about the Roku 3 is that you can plug an external USB hard drive into it to play MP4 movies, plus music, and more. My favorite Roku USB player app is called Play USB (which has more functions than the Roku USB Player, which you will find in the Roku store.) Play USB will let you repeat (continuously play) all videos in a folder, repeat one video over and over, or play a video just once. HOWEVER, for some reason, (unlike with the old Roku 1), if you have thumbnail JPGs in any folders on the connected USB hard drive, they will cause the Play USB app to crash every time that you try to open one of these folders. So, I had to delete all of these thumbnails (that I had in there from when I used the drive with my old Roku 1) from my video folders. Which is okay, because the thumbnails have never worked with any USB player app on any Roku that I have ever owned anyway. But, in conclusion, I would highly recommend the new Roku 3.
2 helpful votes
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on July 15, 2013
First Impressions of first Roku3:

Took exactly 20 minutes to set up, including the following steps:
-- unboxing
-- 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!
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70 helpful votes
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