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Review! How to Choose a Roku Player, Roku Overview & Roku Ultra


hey everybody gets Lawnside but in every year or so I’d like to take a look at what Roku is up to as a streaming platform these are great and very affordable devices for your television that allow you to stream just about every major streaming service and they’ve got a lot of free stuff that you can get on these boxes as well and what we’re going to be doing today is looking at the differences between the different streaming boxes that roku sells we’re gonna take a look at what you can get on a Roku once you plug it into your TV and we’ll also look at some of the differentiating features of their top-end device which is the Roku ultra here so lot to explore for this year’s lineup now I do want to let you know in the interest of full disclosure that Roku did send to us this device free of charge for this review and overview however all the opinions you’re about to hear are my own nobody is paying for this review nor is anyone reviewed or approved what you’re about to see before it was uploaded so let’s get into it now and see what’s going on this year with Roku so let’s take a look at the different player options you have from Roku currently on the market they’ve simplified the product line a bit which is really good because they had too many different choices before at the entry point is the Roku Express and this is a 1080p

device designed for your basic run-of-the-mill 1080p television set it works over Wi-Fi there’s no wired networking option with it so I would recommend having a decent Wi-Fi signal near the area where you’ll be setting this up in front of your television again no frills but you get all of the same stuff that we’ll be looking at on some of the higher-end devices as we work our way through the overview here so if you’d have if you have a basic TV there’s nothing wrong with the Roku Express definitely worth taking a look at still available I believe is something called the Roku Express plus and if you’ve got an old CRT television that device will work with your old tube TV which might be really useful to get a little bit more life out of a television you’re not using all that much anymore we covered that about a year or two ago really nice product for people that just have a tube TV and are happy with it you can bring in all of your Smart TV functionality through an express plus for I think just 10 or 15 bucks more and that one might be worth looking at for older televisions the next step up is the Roku premiere right now it’s on sale for the same price as the Express so you may just want to get it because it is kind of future-proof to some degree the big difference with the premiere is that it supports 4k TVs and HDR so that’s a great entry price for a 4k player but again just like the Express it’s relying on Wi-Fi and if you don’t have a good Wi-Fi signal near your television you’ll probably run into issues trying to stream some of the higher-end 4k services so the premiere is great for the price but just make sure you’ve got a good Wi-Fi signal near the television otherwise you might get a little

frustrated with it if you are iffy on the Wi-Fi or want to make use of the faster AC wireless connections that most modern routers have the streaming stick plus here is probably the one to look at and we also reviewed this one a little while back and what I like about it is that it’s a little faster than the entry-level models it also has a better Wi-Fi connection due to the fact that it’s got a separate antenna which is built into the power cable here and it also supports again the faster AC standard which I you think will give you a better 4k performance in the end so if you are looking at the premiere or the stick plus here for 4k I think the stick Plus is the better buy even though it costs a little bit extra I think you’ll have better performance with it overall and at the high end you have the Roku ultra which is the device that we have here on the desk and this offers a number of features not found on some of the other ones my favorite feature by far is the private listening option through the remote if you plug in a pair of headphones to the headphone jack here it will disable audio to your television and put everything through the headphones this is very useful if you want to watch something late at night without disturbing a partner that works really well for that the remote control is powered by double-a batteries so you’ll probably be replacing the batteries in the remote a little more frequently if you are using that feature but it’s a really killer feature on this device and what’s nice about it is that there’s no pairing like you would have to do with Bluetooth headphones once you plug stuff in it disables the audio on the TV when you’re done you pull the headphones back out and it’s back to normal again everything syncs up properly it really works

exceptionally well I don’t believe the Roku’s support bluetooth headphones so if you are looking for a private audio this is the way to go one alternative though to using private audio on the device is to use the Roku app the app that they’ve got will actually allow you to pump audio through your phone and that works really well on the Roku devices that don’t have the headphone jack built-in but again it’s just so much easier just to plug a pair of headphones in and just get it to work and that’s one of the things that I really like about it the ultra also has a remote control finder so if you push this button down here it will ping the remote until you push the button to stop it so if you are frequently losing remote controls that of course will be a very useful feature there now the ultra also has two configurable buttons and what these can do is repeat a voice command that’s what we’re gonna do here real quick is call up the nasa channel and we’ll have it load up and there we go we’ve got nasa loading from that voice command now if i hold down this button here one of the two user configurable buttons what we’ll get is a tone and that will now key that voice search to the button here for the future so if i jump back out here and hit to again what it’s going to do is load up nasa from this button so if there’s a channel that you want to have that’s not one of these four here at the bottom you can configure one of these two buttons to do it but you have to do it with a voice command then that command will be repeated every time you push the button again the ultra also has support for USB and micro SD cards the micro SD card slot is in the back here underneath the HDMI cable it can use that for storing additional roku channels which are the roku equivalent of apps but you can also store your own media on those memory sticks and SD cards to be able to play that media locally through the device and again that’s a feature

unique to the ultra another unique feature of the ultra is that it has not gigabit but if net it’s 100 megabit Ethernet and that of course will deliver a more reliable connection to some of the higher-end streaming services you might be using like Apple TV plus or Netflix or prime video and if you’re doing a lot of 4k streaming the best way to experience it is with a direct hard wired network connection so if you’re setting this up in your TV and you’ve got your router near there I would just run that Ethernet cable in vs.

Using Wi-Fi but the ultra here does have AC wireless onboard as well so it is kind of the top end device it’s a little faster than some of the other ones and something that I think if you are using it on your main television you might want to consider this just to have all these neat features that come along with it now the ultra along with the premiere and the stick plus support 4k TVs and HD are they don’t though even at the Ultra level support Dolby vision which is another HDR technology that is popping up in most of the competing TV boxes that are out there I suspect we’ll probably see a Dolby vision compatible device probably within the next year or two just given that the market is all adopting Dolby vision in their own boxes but you will get Dolby Atmos audio on here for apps that support it and Atmos is also supported on the lower-cost devices like the premiere and the stick plus now in addition to these four boxes that are available everywhere there’s also retailer exclusives Walmart has an Express Plus that is different than the Express Plus that you can hook up to your old tube TV the Walmart version has a voice remote that’s lacking in the Express that you would get from other retailers so that’s one little difference there Best Buy has a streaming stick plus Edition that offers private listening on its remote control which again is lacking on the regular streaming stick plus and then Walmart also has another unique device called the Ultra LT and that is pretty much the same thing as what we’ve got here but the differences are is that it does not have the USB port it does though have the micro SD card slot and they don’t give you as nice a pair of headphones in the box as what you get with the regular Ultra but you will save about 20 bucks by going

down the LT route at Walmart with your Roku ultra and in addition to the players you can now get a Roku smart sound bar that integrates a Roku player with a sound bar we’re going to be taking a look at this in a separate review coming up in the next week or two so be on the lookout for that and then Roku is also now integrated into televisions from a bunch of different manufacturers and what we’re going to do next is take a look at what you can do on a Roku and everything you’re about to see on this ultra is largely available on all of the other devices that have Roku built in as well so let’s see what the Roku is all about and how it might differ itself from other streaming boxes on the market so here is the home screen of my Roku device and one of the things that I’ve always liked about Roku is that they support almost all of the streaming service providers that are out there there’s very few things that are not on roku yet on other platforms there’s always going to be something that’s missing most of the time I will say Amazon has been catching up they finally got an official YouTube app and they support the YouTube TV cable service but for a long time Roku was the best choice because they just had everything and I think if you are getting frustrated with the fact that your older Smart TV is not getting new services like Apple TV you will likely get those services if you have a Roku attached and you won’t find yourself having different dongles hanging off your television because one thing supports one service and the other one supports the other generally Roku’s tend to be pretty Universal and they are Universal because Roku doesn’t run its own subscription or pay TV service so they’re not directing or favoring their own content over that of another provider so they’re less of a threat to some of the other folks out there Roku does run their own free streaming channel called the roku channel which is really nice but again they’re not charging for that so I think a lot of these

providers are just not seeing Roku as a threat and therefore are more likely to put their apps on the service what’s cool about the Apple TV app is that not only does it work with their streaming service but all of the iTunes movie and TV content that you’ve purchased in the past so you can boot it up load up those old TV shows you bought those will all be here just like they would on a regular Apple TV device but it doesn’t support iTunes music so any music stuff that you purchased through Apple is not yet here but all the video content is and one of the other things that’s great about Roku is their universal search so if I hold down the microphone button here and ask for Star Trek The Next Generation we will get every place where Star Trek The Next Generation is available without favoring one over the other so if I jump into this menu option here I’ve got the ability to watch it for a buck ninety-nine and up or through a subscription service it’ll first give me all of the subscription services that have Star Trek available and then it will also give me some options as to where I can buy it as well but if I wanted to watch on my Netflix subscription I just hit the button here it loads up Netflix and it will start playing the episode for me and I am often running and that’s one of the things that I’ve always liked about Roku is that it doesn’t direct me to one provider over the other on Amazon if I ask for this show and Amazon Prime has it that’s what I get first I have to jump around a little bit to get over to Netflix here it’s my choice and I like that a lot and another thing Roku does very well is direct you at free stuff so if you go over to their featured free section they’re always updating this with curated ideas for things that you can watch without having to pay for anything this is one area where you might see them promote the roku channel a little more than some of the other services there but even here we have an HBO show for free on the roku channel but right next to it is something from competitor to be who’s got some content available to NBC is represented here The CW

you’ve just got a lot of stuff here that you can pull up for free on a bunch of different free service providers most of this will be advertiser supported so you’ll see ads running at different times throughout the movie or TV show but it’s stuff that you can watch for free without having to spend anything more beyond the cost of entry here with the Roku device and I think that’s pretty cool now one thing you won’t have on a Roku is games or other fancy kinds of apps there is nothing but video and audio streaming available to you on this platform but again you’ve got a lot of the services out there that you might want to gain access to so I think it’s really good for general streaming really good for folks that have an older Smart TV that’s not being supported any longer a dumb TV that’s got nothing on it you can even hook one of these things up to a CRT television if you get that streaming plus with the RCA cables we talked about a couple of years ago a lot of options here and you can really get at that content that you’re paying for very easily and I think it’s a really good choice if you are looking for a streaming box or a new television which has Roku built in one thing that’s missing though is Dolby vision we’re seeing that on most of the competing devices out this year be nice to see it added especially to the high-end ultra but otherwise it’s still pretty complete and I think providing what most consumers are looking for if you are and hold a home theater enthusiast that’s looking to do some really high-end video and audio these devices are not well suited for that I think the Nvidia shield is still a very solid offering for the high end of the market but I think for a lot of folks who just want to stream content

the Roku’s universal compatibility and ease of use is still very relevant in 2019 and 2020 and it’s still very affordable and that’s why they are still leading the market as well so I’m pretty happy with Roku we’ll have a look at their sound bar coming up in a couple of days or maybe next week so stay on the lookout for that and let me know what you think down in the comments below and so next time this is Lian Simon thanks for watching this channel is brought to you by the lon TV supporters including gold-level supporters the four guys with quarters podcasts Chris Allegretto Tom Albrecht Brian Parker in Cali an Kumar if you want to help the channel you can by contributing as little as a dollar a month head over to LAN TV slash support to learn more and don’t forget to subscribe

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