Roku 3 Streaming Device Review

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What the heck is a Roku and why do I need one? Read on to find out.

• Technology: How-To • Technology: Review • Technology: Video

What is Roiku 3?
The Roku 3 (affiliate link) is an Internet connected media streaming device for your TV. It's a super simple way to allow your TV to stream videos from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and many other sources.

Those "sources" are called channels, much like you'd have channels on your TV or cable / satellite box. Roku claims to have over 2000 of these channels in the USA but many will offer paid content or some lame free content.

For example, buying a Roku (affiliate link) won't get you free access to Netflix, you'll still need a paid Netflix account. The same applies to Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and so on. But there are some free offerings from channels like PBS, National Geographic, TED Talks, and so on. If you're like most, you're buying this for Netflix but it's nice to know there are many content options that come with it. You can even go the pay-per-view movie route through Roku.

How Does Roku 3 Compare To Roku 2 or 1?
I won't go into the details of the various versions of Roku, you're much better off looking at that on the Roku site here.

I will say that the price difference between them is so small that the Roku 3 (affiliate link) is the best option. Why? Simple, it's the fastest one. When I say fast, I'm talking about how responsive the unit is to respond when you push buttons on the remote. They did upgrade the Roku 2 so it is supposed to be faster but my last generation Roku 2 is horribly slow. My Roku 3 is super responsive.

The Roku 3 also adds a remote control with headphones (ear buds included) as well as voice search. Are these useful? Not for me.

Setting up a Roku couldn't be easier. You'll need to buy an HDMI cable, get a cheaper one like this (affiliate link) and don't waste money on those $50 cables. Connect the power cord, turn it on.

You can use it over your wifi connection but I'd suggest running a network cable to it instead (affiliate link). Cabled network is far more reliable than wifi. It couldn't be much simpler, but would be nice if they included an HDMI cable for you.

Daily Use
I've been using Roku for years now and really enjoy it. I'm a cable cutter so we only stream on our TVs, no cable or satellite here. I love how easy it is to use. When I have to go and use a so called "smart TV" without Roku it's painful. The Roku interface is so streamlined and easy to use it can't be beat.

It has some games you can play as well, like Angry Birds, but using the remote (like you would with a Nintendo Wii remote) isn't as fun as it sounds. Kids will enjoy this for a bit but the fad wears off fast.

You can also download a Roku app for your smart phone. It's interesting and it works, but mostly unnecessary.

Roku 3 isn't perfect, but it's close. I do get occasional hangups with it that force me to pull the power and reboot it. I'd say that happens a few times each year so nothing terrible.

My bigger issue is with Netflix on the Roku. While Netflix generally works great on Roku, there are some oddities. For example, when watching items with several episodes / seasons it tends to forget where I left off. If I watched Season 3, Episode 5 of M*A*S*H last night it should know that Season 3, Episode 6 is what I want tonight. It gets it right about 75% of the time, the other 25% it grabs the episode I completed. This only happens on Roku, and it happens on all of my Roku's. Doesn't happen on Xbox Netflix, smart phones, or even built in Netflix apps on my Samsung or Sharp TVs. Only Roku and it's done this for years now. Odd.

Bottom line, the Roku 3 is a great way to stream shows to your TV. Even with it's few flaws it's an excellent device and one I highly recommend. If you're in the market, go grab one from Amazon here (affiliate link). They're usually around $85 with free Prime shipping, often $10 or so less for a refurbished model.