Here comes a review that was long awaited and long over-due. The Roku 3 streaming media player is one of the heaviest competing devices on the market when it comes to streaming players. What it packs inside is more than just versatility and selection, but hardware that leads to speed (which the competition lacks).
There are so many streaming players on the market made by a vast selection of companies to choose from like Netgear, Apple, Western Digital and Sony. All of these companies trying to give you the option of adding smarts to a non-smart TV (TVs that don’t come with apps and content streaming). Some of these devices have selection, some of them have a responsive hardware and some a user-friendly interface. In most cases, the one thing they don’t have is “all of the above”. This is where the Roku boxes come into play, the Roku 3 being the more responsive of them all.
Falling into second place would be Apple TV, the closest thing in our opinion that comes to the Roku when it comes to external devices. Apple TV has speed to it, and it comes with selection. The Roku 3 however has a bigger selection and proves to be more flexible. Apple probably plans on competing a little harder against the Roku in the future, but at the moment, the Roku still wins. I am sure there will still be those hardcore Apple fanboys (and girls) out there that will swear by the Apple logo, but the Roku sells itself (not cult following or fancy logo needed).
On board the Roku 3 is a fast processor that allows it to zip through menus and applications pretty quickly. This helps it out significantly since it has an endless supply of content to browse through. From TV to movies to music to much more, it comes packed with one of the largest app markets on a streaming device. All of your favorite apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, YouTube, MLB.TV, PBS and so much more.
Music streaming apps like Pandora are all there, as well as theme specific content (ie, anime, cartoons, live comedy, documentaries, etc). It also comes with games and the ability to download more, that you can use the remote as a motion controller for.
From the moment you boot into the Roku, you have a user-friendly screen with easy selection of all of your favorite apps, starting with a Google Chrome-like thumbnail selection to the right. The store is quickly accessible and thanks to the hardware inside, your bounce around the screens pretty quickly. You can either spends half your day scrolling through content or jump straight to what you are looking for. The Roku has a little something for everyone (most cases, a lot of something).
The Roku 3 has a great look to it. Externally, it is smooth and shiny, easy on the eyes (allowing it to be placed just about anywhere) and very small in size. In fact, it is so small, it easily tucks behind TVs that are mounted on the wall with minimal intrusion and zero footprint visually. It’s the size of a 3.5″ floppy disk (remember those?) or drink coaster and only 1″ thick. There are easy to find mounts specifically for the Roku 3 to attach it to the back of a TV.
The bottom side of the player has a nice rubber padding to prevent it from sliding around. On the backside, you will find your power input, ethernet, microSD slot and HDMI. You only need to have power and HDMI in use since the unit has built-in WiFi. Finally, on the side you will find a USB port that can be used to connect other external devices such as thumbdrives with images, video or music on it.
A really nice feature of the Roku 3 is the remote. It connects to the Roku box via a direct WiFi connection give you extended range and data transfer. The last part is useful as it sports a headphone jack where you can plug in any pair of headphones (it even comes with a pair of earbuds) and listen to whatever you watching somewhat wirelessly (you are only limited by the range of the remote). There is a volume rocker on the side of the remote and plugging in headphones will cause your TV volume to mute automatically.
The remote can also be used to play games on the Roku. The Roku comes with Angry Birds to begin with and the remote support motion control so that you can wave it around and not just limit yourself to buttons (it’s like a “mini-Wi”).
There is also an app that allows you to control the Roku and browse around the content with using your smartphone. You can also stream your phones screen to the Roku depending on the device you are using. Roku recently updated their software so that it now works with various mobile devices and Windows 8.1 laptops/tablets. More information about this can be found in our story here.
Overall, the Roku 3 has left a very solid impression and has offered hours of entertainment to those of us that have been passing it around to test it out. It is both reliable and content-packed. We didn’t spend too much time on the games since we’d rather use a console for that, but beyond that, the Roku proves to be a great device that fetched itself a 9 out of 10 rating from us. If your TV doesn’t already have apps built-in, then the Roku 3 would be a perfect option for you.
802.11 dual-band (a/b/g/n compatible) with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 support 10/100 Base-T Ethernet
Digital over HDMI (7.1 and 5.1 surround pass through)
microSD card slot for additional game and channel storage
Roku 3 enhanced remote with headphone jack and motion-control (uses Wi-Fi Direct)
Streaming player includes IR receiver (compatible with various universal remotes)
Less than 3.5W (typical) when streaming HD video
12V – 1A power adapter
USB Media Formats
Video: MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264)
Audio: AAC, MP3
Image: JPG, PNG
3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches
What You Need
In general, the faster your Internet connection, the better the video quality. For the best viewing results, we recommend a minimum of 1.5 Mbps for standard definition and 3.0 Mbps for HD content.
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.