What Is Roku? It’s Working, Features & Know How’s!


    What’s is Roku?

    We all have that moment when the cable or dish TV network stops responding ‘due to bad weather’. Our wifi is still up and running though (unless your city/town has a blackout).

    What if we could stream our favourite shows, videos, and music, via the internet, direct onto our TV sets?

    That’s exactly what Roku does! Roku is a media streaming device, which when connected to your TV set lets you watch uninterrupted streaming of your favourite shows and music (along with many other features).

    Roku is a device, which contains installed apps like HBO, HULU, Netflix, Amazon and others for viewing your favourite content. In the marketplace, differing in the features and performance, are six Roku devices. All though have the ability to access the same channels.

    What Is Roku? It’s Working, Features & Know How’s!

    These six Roku devices have a few common features, which are:

    • All Roku devices have the ability to stream 4K or HDR videos on your TV sets.
    • The remote for Roku contains shortcut buttons to some of the popular channels, though the buttons may vary depending on the model.
    • Each one of the six Roku devices can search multiple content providers.
    • The ability to cast personal media through your phone over to your TV set or access your mobile device as a remote controller for Roku.
    • Also with the app, you can carry your Roku along with you on your travels and access the wifi in hotels. (Talk about never missing your personalized channel list.)

    What Are Roku TV Sets?

    Well, some TV sets have an inbuilt Roku operating system. This lets you access the same channels you would if you had a Roku device. So, from the user interface to the channels, everything is same without the hassle of an additional remote. Yes, you guessed it right, it’s much more expensive than a Roku device, but is that not obvious?

    Now, that we have listed the common features among the various Roku devices, let’s see how each of them are unique in their own way.

    Also See: Roku Screen Mirroring Guide

    Roku has its own PDF comparison chart (click this link) for the specifications and differences of each model from the other.

    Let’s check for ourselves, the six Roku models, their pricing and other significantly differentiating features.

    Roku Express/Express+

    (Price: $29.99/39.99)

    • There is one really special quality about the Express+ model. It takes your old TV set(not smart) and turns it into a smart device, as it has A/V ports.
    • The usual thing being, these being the lowest priced models on offer from Roku, they are slower and lack the advanced features of their successive models. Yes, they do work with HD TV sets. (Gosh!)
    • Also, the major difference between Express and Express+ model is the A/V port, which also makes it preferable over Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast. (Talk about old being gold for the folks.)

    Note: If you are having any difficulty in buying the Express + model over Amazon, please click this link.

    Roku Streaming Stick

    (Price: $49.99)

    • While the other Roku models are boxes, this Roku model is very much like a portable USB stick and must be plugged in to HDMI port of your TV set.
    • Reduce the size of Roku premier to a stick and remove the features of additional USB, Ethernet and micro SD ports along with 4K support, and you have Roku Streaming Stick.
    • It’s  point anywhere remote comes without a headphone jack port, though it does not have the problem of clinging to the line of sight.

    Roku Premier

    (Price: $79.99)

    The following are Roku Premier’ benefits over the mentioned predecessors:

    • Finally! A Roku device which supports 4K streaming (over HDMI TV sets)
    • Roku Premier comes armed with 802.11ac dual band wireless connectivity and has a quad core processor. (Performance getting better, eh?)
    • Roku Premier comes with Night Listening Mode. Though stuck with line of sight remote controller this feature makes explosive sounds feeble and whispers louder. (Ya, I know, much better experience for night movie time.)
    • Coming with a micro SD slot, Roku Premier lets you store additional apps when you run out of storage space.
    • This model from Roku comes with a screen mirroring feature to access screen of your compatible mobile or PC device, over on to your TV sets.

    Roku Premier +

    (Price: $99.99)

    Benefits over the mentioned predecessor are:

    • Roku Premier+ also supports HDR and comes with a port for Ethernet.
    • Roku with this model has upgraded its remote controller, removing the line of sight issue and adding a slot for headphone jacks.

    Roku Ultra

    (Price: $129.99)

    Benefits of Roku Ultra over the mentioned predecessors:

    • Roku Ultra is the top of the line model from the stables of Roku, supporting both 4K and HDR. (Needless to say, your TV set must be able to stream them as well.)
    • You can connect your Roku Ultra with your Home theatre system with its Optical out Audio port.
    • The enhanced remote supports voice search and also comes with gaming controls.
    • The best feature for remote is Roku Ultra’s remote finder option. (Now, everyone has to agree to this cool feature.)

    What Can Roku Do?

    Roku has a decent list of channels to choose from, to stream your favourite videos. The list of channels is compelling, as it huge compared to other media streaming devices. (Remember all models of Roku can stream the same channels as well.)

    Note: Needless to say though, as we mentioned in the blog on Apple TV, if the service provider is charging for the subscription, you have to pay!

    • Listening to music is now easy as Roku offers Amazon music, Pandora, Spotify among other music streaming channels.
    • Among the slurry of apps over Roku’s store are popular apps (channels) like Facebook, TEDtalks, PBS along with other personal media serving, weather info, social media, shopping apps.
    • With its mirroring screen feature, Roku lets you cast apps from your mobile, tablet or PC device onto you TV sets.

    Note: Roku had in between removed its mirroring screen feature for reasons know best to them. Though in the November 2017 update, the screen mirroring feature is back in.

    What’s Not To Love About Roku?

    • iTunes access is restricted, as we all know about the policies of Apple. Though you can still access private channel, iTunes podcasts, and also mirroring feature is a big time help here.
    • Voice search capabilities without a voice assistant is very boring and demeaning to Roku’ smartness.
    • In comparison to Roku’ competitors, Apple TV and Amazon Firestick, Roku does not have a full fledged gaming console. It decreases the gaming options and takes the shine off it’s gaming experience.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How Does Roku Work?

    • Connect your Roku device to your TV set with an HDMI cable (A/V in case of old TV sets and Roku Express+)
    • After connecting, Roku should be connected to the Internet via wireless or Ethernet depending on the Roku model and your home network.
    • After the connection to internet is complete, you can download apps (channels) to your roku device, just like you download apps to your smart phone.

    How To Add Channels To Roku?

    Adding channels to roku is a fairly simple.

    • Go to the home screen, then slide down the menu bar.
    • Click on ‘Streaming Channels’, then click Ok on the remote. This will take you the list of available channels (both free and paid). For list of top channels on Roku, click this link and for top free channels, click this link.
    • Note: As per September 6th, 2017 update, Roku introduce its free movies and TV channel called ‘the Roku Channel’.

    What Is Roku OS & What Are Its features?

    Like every device, the set interface over the screen is basically what Roku OS is. While unlike the availability of all channels across all Roku models, the features of Roku OS are not the same for all ( some differences here and there).

    What make Roku a Streaming beast, are mentioned features of Roku OS:

    • Cross-Platform Search

    The cross-platform search feature makes the life of people like us a haven. It saves us the hassle of searching for a specific ‘title’ across 20 different channels. It also informs us on the type of access we have for the channel’ subscription and if we need to rent or buy the rights to watch.

    As of now, this feature is available on all Roku models and supports HULU, HBO, CBS All Access, Amazon Video, Acorn TV and FOX NOW among many others.

    • Voice Search

    This feature, as we already mentioned, comes only with Roku Ultra. Also, this feature does not have the support of any voice assistant like Siri for Apple TV.

    Having mentioned the above, the performance of this feature is on par with the best. (Who wants a virtual assistant anyway, speaking to you time and again?)

    Though, you need to be right on about the ‘title’ you would want to search.

    • Roku My Feed

    For this feed to act, you simply need to follow your favourite show. When you have followed your show, you don’t need to worry about checking each and every time of a new episode is out or being aired. Roku’ My Feed automatically updates you when a new episode is available.

    • The Roku App

    Now, this is a feature which makes the life of all you folks out there a living haven, by sparing you the hassle of those remote key searches. This app is available on Play Store and iTunes. It lets you control your Roku device, with all the features of Roku’ operating system, in complete power within the smartphones in your palms.

    Why Is Roku Better Than Smart TV?

    Now, many people keep asking, why is there a need for a device like Roku in this era, when we have smart TV sets? The below reasons would help you get some sense of it.

    • Roku has a universal list of channels, that your smart TV set does not.
    • Buying a Roku device is far much inexpensive compared to buying a smart TV set.
    • The Roku user interface, as you have just read about in the previous section, is far more superior and smarter compared to a smart TV set.

    Why Is Roku Better Than Cable TV?

    The answer to this is pretty simple, you have access to a lot more and never again have to skim through channels on your cable TV. (Subscriptions can be bought over Roku as well.)

    Is Internet Necessary For Roku To Stream?

    Yes, Internet is completely necessary for Roku to operate. You can use the ‘internet only plan’ provided by your cable operate. (That saves a load of those green papers.)

    What Are The Benefits Of Roku With Cable TV?

    Every cable TV service provider is available online. So, if you are looking to continue your cable service as well, you can use the credentials to log in to that channel over Roku.

    The only issue in this case would be why pay for the chunk when you only use one of the many.

    What Are The Benefits Of Roku, Combined With DVR & Antenna?

    • DVR (Air or OTA) lets you record your favourite shows(2nd most favourite, maybe) while you are streaming other content.
    • With the antenna, the picture quality receiving is far superior.
    • While the DVR records the signals received by the antenna, Roku let’s you play these and turn your device into an on demand, smart and active search beast. Also, you do not need to pay for your cable anymore.

    For any more information you might need on Roku, feel free to leave us a comment about it.


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