What is Roku? How does Roku Work?

What is Roku?

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Sure you can use Apple's AirPlay and Google's screencasting features to watch Amazon videos on those devices, but the convenience of an actual app is makes for better user experience. It goes out every Thursday and keeps you up to date on information relevant to cord cutters. I've seen these same minuscule differences with most 4K material and source devices. Having a Roku with your cable subscription seems odd because in most cases the cable subscription is just for the access to the networks. Mounted topside you'll also find the lone button, shaped like a miniature version of the Roku remote. The most important of which is the Roku OS software on each Roku box is the same.

Best Media Streamers for 2018

Adornments include the big "4" up top, the trademark purple fabric Roku tag, and the discrete "Roku 4" logo on the front. The bottom is nicely rubberized to minimize slideage. Mounted topside you'll also find the lone button, shaped like a miniature version of the Roku remote. That's appropriate because it's used to operate the remote locator function.

Roku omitted no connection. On the side there's a USB port, and around back you get the best selection of ports on any streamer available today outside the Nvidia Shield: Most other new streamers drop optical digital audio, which is the easiest way to get 5. And Roku has more 5. One advantage over streaming sticks is the presence of an Ethernet port, and in many locations Ethernet will provide a more reliable, higher-bandwidth stream than Wi-Fi something that's especially important for 4K streaming, which generally needs a hefty 15Mbps connection.

Of course, Roku 4 supports the latest Roku also mentions a quad-core processor for faster response times. In my tests menu navigation and other tasks didn't seem to go noticeably faster than the already very zippy Roku 2 or 3, however, and apps like Netflix and YouTube didn't launch any faster. The same goes for other newer streaming boxes: The biggest improvement on the Roku 4 remote is its cool finder function. Press the button on the top of the box and the remote emits an alarm sound -- your choice of whistle, submarine-style sonar or "Ride of the Valkyries," among others -- from wherever it happens to be hiding.

It's a great feature for people who always misplace the clicker, provided you're using the actual Roku remote instead of a universal model. Now if only Roku would sell a tiny accessory speaker I could paste to my Harmony. Otherwise the remote is identical to that of the Roku 3. Like most streaming media device clickers, and unlike the more basic remote found on the Roku 2 , it uses uses Wi-Fi Direct so it doesn't require line-of-sight to operate. You can stash your Roku 4 pretty much anywhere in your system, and point the remote anywhere, and it works fine.

The "return" button on previous Roku remotes -- not to be confused with the much more useful "back" button -- has been replaced by a little magnifying glass that summons the voice search dialog. Otherwise the buttons are basically the same. I like the ability to instantly launch Netflix and Amazon, but I found the buttons for services to which I didn't subscribe namely, Rdio irksome and a rare departure from Roku's content-agnostic ethos.

Another annoyance is the main OK key's unconventional placement better below the four-way cursor, rather than in its midst. Unless you lose your remote all the time, the main reason to spend the extra money on a Roku 4 over cheaper models is to get 4K capability.

As with all external streamers, you'll need to connect it to an HDCP 2. True to form, Roku offers the most apps of any streamer with 4K. It offers a hodgepodge of mostly older movies and other video.

Roku's rep told me they're working to add UltraFlix as well, but couldn't tell me when. If you have a 4K TV, chances are it already has a built-in app or three that offers 4K streaming or even downloads. That app may even support for HDR video. HDR promises even better image quality than 4K, with brighter highlights and expanded color.

Vudu and Netflix will follow suit with their own HDR content later this year. The vast majority of 4K content, of course, isn't in HDR, and of course no Smart TV system is as good as Roku's in terms of update frequency, customization and ease of use.

Roku makes 4K content easier to find than any other platform. Even better, there's a dedicated Roku channel called "4K Spotlight. I was surprised to see a relatively solid selection at press time: Selecting one takes you to the app to play it back. All of the TV shows are original series from Amazon free for Prime members or cartoons from ToonGoggles free, with ads.

And all of the videos are from YouTube free. Unfortunately, Netflix's substantial 4K catalog isn't included among the 4K Spotlight offerings. When I asked why, Roku's rep told me "We encourage all of our content partners to participate, but some are still evaluating the opportunity. I'd like to see some ability to sort the 4K offerings by price, genre or release date, and it would be even better if Roku's excellent search offered a "4K only" filter, either from within Spotlight or globally.

Those are nitpicks though, and likely coming in the future as more 4K content rolls out. So how does 4K look? As I've seen in previous viewing tests, it provided very little improvement in my experience over the best p streams.

Perhaps the easiest way to play your media on your Roku, is to connect it to a Plex media server. Plex is one of the more popular media center solutions for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. This guide shows you how. However, even if your files are not supported AVI videos come to mind , Plex will transcode your media on the fly. That, in essence, is the best part about using Plex: Plex will take care of the details.

Naturally, you'll be hooking your computer up to a better sound station. But what if you're lying in bed, or sitting on the couch? Using the app on your Android device, you can browse various channels. Whenever you find a video, you can press the Play To button in the lower right corner of your screen. This will start playing the video on your Roku.

But PlayTo is not limited to pushing Internet media around. Read More are also spotted including Plex , which was discussed above. Using PlayTo, you can very easily push content from a home media server to your Roku. How do you prefer to show your videos on your Roku? Let us know in the comments section below the article! Your email address will not be published.

However, the url for the "extensive guide to Plex" is ; Plex is perplexing to setup. Cannot seem get the Plex Media Server to run; installs ok, then when you run it, it disappears.

You must add AirStream to this list as well. Do try our app visit airstream. What types of USB sticks and file formats are supported? Does the Roku support both of these file systems? Also will Roku output 5. The Roku 3 has been an awesome buy and I no longer need the services of cable or satellite tv so it paid for itself in less than a month.

This little tiny device has everything and more thats available in streaming TV technology. I did much research before making the purchase which i was still a little uneasy not knowing how well it would work especially since i live in a rural area with weak cell signal and unavailable high-speed internet.

Since i use verizon and have unlimited data plan, i dont have to worry about a set data allowance which i had a 5GB plan using the verizon mi-fi wireless data card. One requirement that i suggest is having an unlimited internet data plan. Since I'm using the Roku 3 as an alternative to satellite my data usage is at least 75 to GB a month.

The best part is that i only pay for what i watch instead of the increasing cable bill for more channels i inever watched. With Hulu I pay 7. Vudu is a pay per episode or movie which you own for life I pay 1. Vuduu has no monthly charge. Movies can be rented or purchased to own at reasonable prices, comparable to purchasing the DVD at the store.

All Vudu content is available in p, p or p. Since the roku is connected via HDMI cable the picture is very clear, I personally almost always choose p standard def which is much clearer than my satellite p was, its also cheaper to stream in compared to or p a dollar difference.

Amazon Instant Video is free for many popular new and classic movies for Prime Members. Just with those 3 streaming channels I can virtually find whatever TV episode or movie I'm looking for. If you have HBO thru a cable service then you can access on-demand all of HBO programming absolutely free by logging in with a valid username and password. Many, many horror, classics and indie movies are available at no charge. Facebook is also available but in a limited format thats more for viewing photos not statuses, another cool feature is the my media app, instantly view photos, video and music from your phone, computer or any mobile device.

Normally you dont get to view your phone or computer photos on your big screen TV, what a difference. If your into music videos, your in luck with Vevo, the app that has hundreds of the most popular and older music videos that you would normally have to view on youtube on your computer. Theres also third party media channels like Plex and Playon that offer many more networks for a small yearly fee.

To view these channels a windows pc or mac must to connected to the same wireless network since they are not official Roku channels. I purchased them thinking I was going to watch them frequently but realize now I would be fine without them. Sometimes you just have to find out the hard way or find the right review thats accurate. I could go on and on about this little gadget thats basically the size of a cell phone called Roku but from my experience so far is that if you are looking for a cable tv replacement or alternative and cheaper TV viewing then go with the Roku 3, since it currently has the latest technology and all the entertainment you could need.

At under bucks you really cant beat it. Although there are streaming devices at half that price including Roku models that are older versions as well as other popular brands like Sony and Vizio which also just came out, you wont go wrong with the Roku 3.

I wanted the all around best one and did my research before purchasing to avoid returning and a headache. Roku setup is very simple and after the initial process setup, theres really nothing else to do but choose your channels and tv shows and movies. It connects to your wifi automatically after the first time. Oh yeah many games too including Angry Birds, Wheel of Fortune and so many more. Trust me on this review, I am a tech junkie and I do a lot of research on the latest technology and gadgets.

I think this is the wave of our TV viewing future. It just makes sense financially and convenience. I haven't tested it, but does anyone know which filesystems are supported by the USB Media Player feature?


The Roku 2 is $ and has a headphone jack in the remote for private listening, and dual-band wireless. It’s compatible with all TV’s, but you don’t get to stream directly from smartphone apps with this one either. Essentially, it costs an extra 30 bucks for a headphone jack on the remote. The Roku 3 is $ and for HDTV’s only. It’s also . Perhaps the easiest way to play your media on your Roku, is to connect it to a Plex media server. Plex is one of the more popular media center solutions for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Plex is one of the more popular media center solutions for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Roku offers vast content accessibility with its inexpensive hardware, making it a fantastic option for upgrading each television in your home. Beyond providing access to gobs of high definition video, the interface is extremely simple to .