The Roku 3 has been available Stateside for some time now, the little black box that could has only just made its way across the pond. For a penny shy of £100, this tiny media streamer aims to solve your web TV woes once and for all, providing a one stop shop for whatever you want to watch, be it movies, top TV, live sport or even new music. Is it worth the price of admission however when the Roku 2 family rings up so much less at the till? We plugged one in to find out.
The Roku 3’s curves are new, but it’s just as small as other members of the roku family, and the black colouring means it’s even more subtle tucked away under your TV. It’s quiet as ever, and uses thirty times less power than some consoles, so you can leave it on around the clock, ready and waiting to go. It’s faster though, with a UI that whizzes around and loads up quickly.
Roku hasn’t fixed what was never broken to begin with fortunately. It’s still painless to set up and can be bossed around with an iPhone or Android smartphone app. When it comes to content, you’re beyond spoiled for choice. Netflix, Demand Five, Now TV so you can watch live football, it’s all on there, even Spotify for Premium members, which is great news for those whose best speakers are attached to their telly. It all looks great, and if you want to play your own media, just pop in a USB stick or play it straight from your smartphone.
The killer new feature however - one of those ‘How did nobody think of this before?’ moments - is the private listening option. There’s a 3.5mm audio jack on the side of the remote: plug some headphones in and you can listen along wirelessly, bypassing your TV speakers entirely. It only works with what you can find on Roku, of course, not other sources, but it’s an incredibly useful feature to have nonetheless, and a real reason to upgrade to the Roku 3.
It’s hard to pick flaws in the Roku. Its USB playback app won’t open every video format there is (it doesn’t support commonly used .AVI files, for instance, and doesn’t support subtitles on .MKV containers), it doesn’t work with Apple’s AirPlay streaming standard, and it’s lacking a few services such as YouTube and Lovefilm. But if you have a computer on your network, you can bypass almost all of these issues with the Plex app, which piggy backs off of it to stream anything to your telly.
Other than that, there’s just the question of price. At £99.99, it’s not the cheapest option out there: the £10 Now TV Box, for instance, is based off the Roku 2, and only really lacks Netflix, USB support and the Roku 3’s remote control headphones. And if you’ve got a PS3 or Xbox 360 already, you can stream almost all the same content already (albeit with a very noisy fan in the background). For everyone else though, the great sweep of options available on the Roku 3 more than justify its markup.