back to article Roku 3: Probably the best streaming player on the market ... for now, at least

Ok, so let's get this out the way quickly: this updated Roku 3 is the best streaming player on the market right now. And it will most likely remain the best on the market until the Roku 4 arrives toward the end of the year. And yes, that includes the Apple TV fourth generation that everyone expects to be this 2015's pant- …

  1. TrevorH

    >> Roku has no skin in the game when it comes to content.

    So exactly how much of Roku is owned by Sky these days?

  2. mafoo


    Worth noting there's no amazon prime for roku in the UK.

    1. billse10

      Re: UK

      Thanks for that - was thinking about trying one based on review until saw your comment.

      As far as "t's in Roku's and the companies' best interests and maybe some consumers like it, too – a quick button to a particular outlet. But for us, the fewer buttons the better. It's a commercial compromise we wish didn't exist." goes - i'd say fair enough, but would rather have four programmable buttons that default to those providers, rather than fixed. Better still if they were e-paper, defaulting but also open to change ... then again, what would that put on cost, i guess ....

    2. Afflicted.John

      Re: UK

      A recent Reddit AMA with the ROKU CEO had several comments like this. General consensus was "We need to look into this" but clearly he didn't know about the Now TV issues...which is worrying. I like in hope that we get Prime in the UK.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US or world wide?

    I don't see where it states what countries this gadget works in and looking at their text mode website that the article links to I find it mentions the US a couple of times but nowhere else. From that I assume it is US only - streaming from a media server or SD card does not require an expensive box.

    1. Steve Loughran

      Re: US or world wide?

      Works nicely in the UK, has great iplayer client and can youtube videos too.

      in-house it'll find DLNA servers and stream down the content there, with the Linux ones working perfectly with it. There's a USB port to play content too, or just use it to charge things.

      I have the older model, with the older remote. It's got the headphone socket, just no netflix/amazon buttons. What's not covered is how intuitive this remote is, even in the dark you can use it nicely. Way easier to use than any smart tv I've come across.


      1. it doesn't always boot when powered off -spend time chasing this and you end up concluding it's best to be left on. It drains very little power, but it's still annoying.

      2. The remote is wifi. That avoids having to point the remote near the telly, but it does mean more risk of clashing with your house wifi channel(s).

  4. cyke1

    I wouldn't call it best streaming, as it has almost 0 local support for video files on a network outside some complicated 3rd server software. My old Boxee supports playing just about everything stored on my desktop, MkV,AVI,OGM,MP4, ETC. via Windows file shares. Yet natively roku can't do that without plex or serviio. I own Both.

    1. Recaf

      Roku Media Player

      You don't need Plex or Server IO: just install Roku Media Player to add DLNA/UPNP support, including Windows media sharing.

      1. cyke1

        Re: Roku Media Player

        DLNA requires re-encoding of video to support its spec so its no better then plex/serviio.

        1. jason 7 Silver badge

          Re: Roku Media Player

          So you ripped off your content in the wrong format eh?

          Oh well, beggars cant be choosers I guess.

          1. harry1867

            Re: Roku Media Player

            Some major assumptions in your disrespectful comment. Case in point: over the last 10 years I have ripped my CD collection bought and paid for over the past 35 years to flac, and if I can't play that then the machine is worthless to me.

        2. Steve Loughran

          Re: Roku Media Player

          works well with MiniDLNA; will down-code 5.1 Audio channels to a stereo TV too.

        3. J__M__M

          Re: Roku Media Player

          DLNA requires re-encoding of video to support its spec so its no better then plex/serviio....

          Say what? This Roku might, but the dnla spec most certainly does not.

    2. Vince

      And in my experience, the roku struggles to play video content from serviio or similar.

      I found it will just about play a 2 minute video, but any longer and it suddenly freezes.

    3. localzuk

      It is an internet streaming device. Internet being the key word here. It isn't a local content streaming device - where's the money making opportunities for Roku to add that as a feature?

      Anyway, Plex isn't very complex - install, add videos, add channel to Roku, done.

    4. goldcd


      I've got a (quite old now) WD Live box, which I love to bits.

      Doesn't have the nice integration (cross-market searching etc) that this and other streamers have, but plays back pretty much every format over any type of transport.

      Does support iPlayer and netflix, but have to click through and load up the specific app.

  5. gcarter

    For me, it boils down to your household eco system and subscriptions

    ... we have had roku, chromecast and apple tv and all have their advantages / disadvantages

    In our household we download most of our content (haters gonna hate) and for casual viewing we subscribe to netflix. Furthermore we have a predominant apple eco system in our house with MacBooks, iPod, iPhone and iPad.... apple tv allows for seamless screen casting from all of these devices and is pretty snappy when it comes to netflix streaming. So again for our needs, the apple tv is the obvious choice

    That said, and as the article discusses, our experience with Roku was the best when it came to all out content and apps, but again in our apple eco-system a no go when it comes to seamless casting of on device content to the big tv.

    PS - When are Roku and Kodi (formerly xbmc) gonna get into bed with one another, now that would be a match made in heaven!

  6. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Can it be rooted?

    What about XBMC / Kodi, can this be sideloaded? As to Hardware can it do HVEC at 720p like my MXIII? What about 4k 2160p at all? I guess installing your sundry Android *.apk's are right out the Window again? So what about the small things like 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and, GigE?

    No matter how "nice" this Box might be... It'll never be as nice as my Minix Neo x8-H Plus....

    1. localzuk

      Re: Can it be rooted?

      Yup, and your average consumer wants to do that? No, they don't. They want a box they buy in PC World, that they plug in to their TV and they point a remote at.

  7. Shovel

    l disagree with the title of this article, after my own testing.

    My folks live way out in the countryside, and have to live with an Internet connection based on radio-relay. It has an advertised download speed of 1.5Mb/sec. Speed tests with various online resources indicated that most of the time the maximum speed was 1.1Mb/sec.

    I purchased a Roku 3 in the hopes that it would work, but it buffers constantly. Watching anything other than an old TV show(analog video) is a frustrating experience. Out of curiosity I purchased a first generation Apple TV and applied the XBMC install.

    This ATV hack works much better than a Roku 3. It streams old analog media perfectly, and '720' media only buffers occasionally. I won't discuss the issues of programming because the title is about 'streaming'. A hacked ATV can deliver slower-speed content with much less buffering than a Roku 3. I've had both, and the ATV is just better.

    If El Reg wants to talk about programming and compatibility, then that is an apples-to-oranges discussion. I have (RF)wireless control over my early ATV, and USB in/out. While I did not have Netflix, did manage Amazon Prime video streaming.

    Plus, the XBMC community offers support that's second to none. Anyone tried to contact Roku when there's a problem? All they do is follow their cue cards, and have no brain at all. I've been elevated up the troubleshooting chain twice with a senior technician who only had me repeat what 2 others had puked out. Nothing new.

  8. returnmyjedi

    We've got a Roku 2. It has the natty headphone jack in the remote, but doesn't sport the extra buttons that this model does. It outputs at 1080p and navigation is swift, but its older hardware internals mean it doesn't support the new version of Netflix which for me is a good thing as being recommended Cabin In The Woods because my toddler watched Bambi on the iPad is a little annoying (Bambi is far more hardcore, natch).

    The little box only cost me £40 from Amazon which is more than a Now TV box (but doesn't lock out Netflix) and much cheaper than both Apple's and Amazon's offerings.

  9. doob

    Pissed me off reading this that in the US Amazon *pay* to have a dedicated button on the Roku remote, but won't even provide the Prime channel in the UK.

    1. D@v3

      amazon prime in UK

      if I'm correct (might not be) this is more due to someone else (sky) paying roku uk NOT to include / allow Amazon prime.

      Amazon video used to be available, but i think it stopped around the time that the NowTV (sky catch up) box (a re badged Roku) was released.

  10. gcarter

    I will admit though, out of all the devices / companies on the market offering streaming devices, I have the most respect for Roku....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh dear...roku 3.. not the best by a country mile.

    FireTV with everything the best of all 3 worlds, fast Amazon/Netflix and Kodi, if your a tvaddons fan too your in luck. the Only thing I don't have is HDMI in with overlay nor Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD in their glorious N.X channels, but sh*t happens. With a bit of a google, you can have your cake and eat it, you seriously can't go wrong with a FireTV.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: oh dear...roku 3.. not the best by a country mile.

      I was wondering about this too. It appears the author believes the AppleTV is the only other streamer out there.

  12. thexfile

    Getting much better.

  13. npo4

    Don't buy the Latest Roku 1

    I got one as it had okay reviews, and can play Netflix, iPlayer, Youtube and Plex.

    But upon trying it, the interface is extremely laggy, and it can't even play HD videos on Youtube or iPlayer smoothly, I paid £30 for it, and have no use for it.

    I then bought a Fire TV Stick to replace it, and the interface is really smooth, it plays iPlayer fine, but best of all, you can sideload Kodi onto it, and it plays videos from the web on there really well. (I used a version called SPMC which contains some fixes for the Fire TV too.)

    We also have a Chromecast, which works well for Youtube, and streaming local photos and videos from an Android device, and it works really well when using an app like Videostream (I'm sure other apps work in a similar way) to stream local mp4/mkv files of TV shows/movies from an Android device, and it's my favourite solution to play a downloaded video on the TV.

    (Apparently Videosteam also has a Windows version which lets you cast files to the Chromecast, but I haven't tested it, so I can't comment on it, but it might be worth a try if you don't want to use an Android phone/tablet).

    1. Thecowking

      Re: Don't buy the Latest Roku 1

      I got the fire TV stick too, but my experience was clearly different to yours.

      I used it for half an hour where it failed to stream anything, suffered input lag (especially with voice) and got thoroughly annoyed with the fact that on their app the touch screen is used to emulate a damn D-pad instead of a touch-screen for the TV. *fumes*

      We unplugged it and then went back to the chromecast, which despite apparently having much worse specs, actually lets you watch TV. Of course Amazon won't let you cast amazon prime instant video in the UK still so I don't get that from my renewed Prime sub (meaning I don't watch anything on it, but the free postage and delivery on Sundays is worth it for me now).

      Maybe they've improved it, I can't imagine how it'd be worse than that half hour I tried with it.</rant>

      The sad thing is there's a lot I want to watch on Prime instant video, but Amazon make it extremely hard for me to watch it, so I don't. The stuff isn't compelling enough to make me jump through the hoops they've put in front of me.

  14. J__M__M

    What do you call a remote with one button?

    A dildo.

  15. Uncle Ron

    I'm a Cynic

    Here's a word I hate: Monetize. It was probably invented by some MBA from Wharton or Harvard or one of the other "No Value Add" institutions. It means the wringing out of every dime of revenue and profit from a line of business without having to really do anything new. In other words, you don't add anything real, you just take advantage of whatever competitive advantage it is you find yourself in to the maximum extent until you simply flog yourself out of business.

    I feel Roku may be headed down this path. Roku has 10 Million+ users (read sets of eyeballs) they obtained by creating a terrific product. However, if you read their new "privacy" (read -not- privacy) language you'll see they fully intend to "monetize" those eyeballs to the very maximum extent they can. They probably hired an MBA to advise them along these lines.

    If you are a Roku user, you know they can change your wallpaper at will from RokuCentral. You know, like on Mother's Day or Christmas or any other time they can do this, usually for one day. That could easily be a background ad for the "New Chrysler 300" or whatever other product their new "privacy" policy makes them think is relevant to you. Next will be little pop-up ads inserted right into the middle of your Netflix show. The new high powered engines in the Roku 3 and the newer Roku 4 will give them plenty of horsepower to do this.

    IMHO, the web browsing experience has been completely ruined on most sites the last few years by all the pop-ups and pop-downs and video overlay ads, and all this stuff is eating up the new bandwidth and processor capacity and slowing down the whole show.

    Watch for Roku to make you wait 5 or 10 or 15 seconds to get to your paid-for content by making you watch a 15 second ad and then popping up a little ad in the corner of your movie every 5 or 10 minutes. A Harvard MBA probably came up with this idea.

    BTW, this is -exactly- what I'd do if I ran Roku--but it still stinks on ice.

    1. The Eee 701 Paddock

      Re: I'm a Cynic

      Re the idea of Roku forcing you to watch ads they've inserted - I do hope they don't go down that route, as some of the Roku "channels" stuff quite enough ads into programmes as it stands... yes, All4, I'm looking at you.

      That said: we're pretty content with our Roku Streaming Stick, though given that it occasionally goes unresponsive in the menus for a few seconds (though the vids play fine), we'd probably cough up for the beefier Roku 2 or 3 if we had the spare moolah.

  16. Nifty Bronze badge

    Compulsory firmware updates that break your Roku apps

    Periodically and on powering up the Roku 3 checks and updates it's version.

    This broke BBC iPlayer by putting black bands top & bottom of screen that actually obscure part of the content. Ironically the cheap Now TV lookalike box is not affected!

    There's a thread running in the Roku forum for over a month now - no fix in sight and a deafening silence from Roku themselves.

    Is this the only STB that has compulsory, non defeatable updates?

    1. phil dude

      Re: Compulsory firmware updates that break your Roku apps

      See Sony Playstation kills Linux....


  17. Chris Evans

    List of supported channels/services

    Sorry if I'm being blind but I can't see on the Roku site a list of supported channels!

    Or catch up services, the review mentions iPlayer but I know many boxes miss at least one of the main catch up services such as 4OD, ITVPlayer, Demand 5.

    I presume that unless you want one of the premium services, NetFlix etc there is no monthly charge or need to give anyone your credit card but the review and website are silent on this matter.

    I mainly want catch up for the main four UK broadcasters as my Humax PVR only does iPlayer and sometimes ITV player when it feels like it.

    1. The Eee 701 Paddock

      Re: List of supported channels/services

      Roku has all of the terrestrial UK catch-up services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All4, Demand 5).

      You do need to register an account with Roku and give them a payment method such as PayPal (Apple and Amazon ask for this too, BTW). You can PIN-protect your account to avoid unauthorised app/channel purchases (a small number in the Roku "store" are paid-for). Other channels are "free" in the Roku store, but some are linked to Web video services where you need an account (eg Dramafever, Crunchyroll), and sometimes need to pay for a "Premium" account with the service, to get HD, no ads, etc.

      In short: you don't have to buy anything through the Roku store, and if you're canny, you can avoid it entirely (if you only want the UK TV catch-ups, you're sorted).

      One more suggestion: if you have an iDevice and want to "cast" Web video from sites/services with no Roku channel, check out "Video & TV Cast for Roku" in the Apple App Store (and its matching Roku channel). Seems to work well so far.

      1. Chris Evans

        Re: List of supported channels/services

        Thanks for the info. It does strike me as strange that many companies don't make such basic information readily accessible.

      2. jabuzz

        Re: List of supported channels/services

        But if all you want is the UK catchup services, then a NowTV box is far better value than anything else. They seem to be out of stock of the £10 ones, but you can get one for £20 with a 3 month entertainment pass, and then flog the pass on eBay for a tenner. Best bit is you are getting Mr. Murdock to in effect give you money because Sky are subsidizing the box. Even better you can side load the Plex or Emby (aka mediabrowser) client onto the box.

  18. Nifty Bronze badge

    The Roku has apps for all 4 service - iPlayer, ITV, 4OD, Demand 5.

    But the range of catch up viewing seems restricted on the non-iPlayer ones when compared to their web versions or is it just hard to navigate?

    And as mentioned above, iPlayer is currently half-broken with Roku not responding to requests for a fix.

  19. The Eee 701 Paddock

    Our Roku experience (mostly good)

    We recently jumped from the Amazon video ship to Netflix (TL;DR - Am's choice has gone south in recent months in our view, and they charge extra for many of the video items unless you cough up for Prime Membership), and wanted a NF-capable streamer for our lounge telly.

    On our, ahem, modest budget, it was down to one of the "sticks", and the Roku won by a nose, largely because it can operate via a remote without a phone/tablet/2nd computer. (Yes, the Amazon Fire TV units can do this too, but as we were moving away from Am's service... just go with it, mmm?)

    In short: the Roku Streaming Stick "does the job" for not much outlay - compact, easy to use, and can handle 1080p HD video streams as long as your wireless network can. It shows signs of under-poweredness in the menus - occasional unresponsive moments, and certain channels take 15 seconds or more to load - but video-playing doesn't seem to suffer. if we had the dosh, we'd probably invest in a second Roku (2, or 3 if poss) for the lounge and keep the Stick for the bedroom TV, but for now we're pleased enough.

    One feature the Amazon Fires pack that the Rokus don't (AFAIK): if you're trying to link to a WiFi hotspot that needs a Web-based sign-in, a Fire player supports this interface, but a Roku does not. I understand a WiFi "re-broadcast" solution is needed (eg a laptop, a "travel router", etc.) to get a Roku online in such settings - not holding out much hope of a solution from Roku, but maybe a future beefier player might support this?

  20. Simon Booth

    The ideal Roku experience

    We've got a Roku 3, a Roku LTE and a Now TV. My nephew has several NowTv

    The trick with a Roku is to set up an offline store for DVD-Rips and / or downloaded content via Plex

    Personally ~ I use a networked cheap old laptop as the store - just transfer the content to the cheap box and serve it over Plex locally

    Yeah, if you're in a poorly served Internet are this is harder and NetFlix will be less than ideal

    We live in a City so Internet is good. My housemate, an elderly man, describes his Roku as the best purchase he's ever made as it lets him have all the catchups, NetFlix and the shared Plex all on the one device.

    The NowTV can be sideloaded with Plex but NetFlix, as mentioned above, is excluded from that one.

    Good value boxes that do exactly what's needed especially if you set up a Plex Server

  21. Jim84


    OK I see that the Roku 3 New can do DLNA streaming from a local storage device/NAS by installing the "Roku Media Player App". But why not just have that functionality installed out of the box?

    Also another add on that seems to be fairly obvious to me is some kind of rudimentary social network so that I can have a recommendations stream based on what my friends are watching, or what my friends share or hit the like/love/recommend button on.

  22. Shovel

    Roku lost this customer years ago.

    Roku wouldn't even support their earlier products past a certain point. I purchased an original Roku because I still had analog devices. After I relocated, and shelved the box for a year, I tried to re-connect the Roku. It was futile. CS had me resetting the box, and re-registering it several times, Re-registering would always failed because the server address stored in the box's memory did not match Roku's actual server address., Their was no way to redirect the original Roku. CS couldn't figure out why. None of them would do anything except elevate me another level, and start the whole procedure again. Not even a Senior technician would do anything except read what was on his cue card. I was never ever to get my original Roku to be registered. They had no clue how to redirect the unit, The bottom line was, they either were unable, or unwilling to give me 'support' on how to keep the original Roku on their system. If I wanted to keep using their services I would be forced to buy again. That's bullshit.

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