By Chris Brass
Is it time for a new Roku? I’ve been a Roku user since the Roku XD but before trying out the Roku Premier my primary Roku was the Roku 2, a third gen product that rolled out after Roku started number based naming. This gave me a good starting point for where they’ve gone with this souped up version.
Once I got the new toy connected to the TV set, my first thought was “wow… this looks sharper”. Just to be sure I connected my Roku 2 to another HDMI port and did some back to back comparisons, which was difficult to say the least, but it does look like that there’s more contrast in the picture and video than the Roku 2. For instance, the star field on my usual theme settingNeubula looks like has more depth than it does on the Roku 2 with some of the stars looking like they’ve been layered on,
rather than just a picture of a star field. Not 3D, just that it appears that the pictures used have more depth than before.
Pixelation at the beginning of a Netflix video when I first begin watching (a problem with my older Roku 2) seems to be gone, or so minimized that it’s nearly non-existent. DVD material that I had put on my Plex Server, especially black and white movies such as the classic Harvey, Philadelphia Story, etc. always had some pixels that were slightly brighter or darker in color that stood out when sitting close to the TV. It still had the same thing, but they seemed, well, less pronounced. If this is what the Roku Premiere is doing with my DVD rips, I can’t wait to see what the Roku models with the HDR combined with HDR-equipped TV’s is capable of doing.
Easy To Find 4K Content
If any channel submitted to Roku has 4K videos it’s also placed in a special category to let those who have 4K get the most out of their Roku plus it comes with a per-installed 4K channel. Because I don’t have the TV that will give me all of what this device has to offer I can’t give you an assessment on that portion but I do plan to upgrade, eventually, and will give an opinion at that
time, but I do feel that I can safely say that it will be a noticeable improvement just from what I experienced so far.
Need for speed?
If the channels loaded faster than before it wasn’t enough to really stand out, but I’ve got a philosophy about that. When the third generation Roku’s came out with the dual core abilities you noticed a quicker load time for the then established Roku channels, but loading time differences between the single core and the dual core Roku’s became more pronounced as the channels got more elaborate. In 2010, Netflix was very similarin set up on your Roku identically to the most basic of the public domain channels or Plex Classic. It wasn’t uncommon for me to log onto my Netflix account on my computer and look for videos to watch because looking for them on Roku was far too laborious just to find the ones that they made available to see. I’ve not logged onto my Netflix account on the computer in over a year now because it’s so easy to find stuff to watch on the Netflix category list or search.
features. Channels like this take a considerable amount of time and resources to load and the introduction of the dual core meant that they could be more intricate. No doubt that Hulu, Amazon and Netflix will soon take advantage of the quad-core capabilities that the new Roku models have made available and we’ll soon see a day when the older dual cores take longer to load and find videos.
Using The Roku Premier with the mobile app
With Roku’s newer models, the phone app allows you to listen to the Roku through your phone, a feature that isn’t supported on the Roku 2 and one I’m beginning to become more and more dependent on. While working around the house my TV is usually set to one of the many news channels that Roku offers so having the ability to listen to it through the phone app means that I can work around home listening to the news but if something grabs my attention I just go to the TV
to see what they are showing. Even with my TV being the monitor to my Plex Server as well as my Desktop computer I can put iTunes or CBSN on my Roku to listen to on my phone allowing me to quickly tune to the Roku when something comes on that I may want to see.
New form factor
One thing that I thought that I would miss about the new models was the old familure shape. Thinner and wider than the older model Roku’s, the old hockey-puck design of the Roku is now gone, but this new device sits nicely under my TV set right under the TV’s own remote control receiver. I know it seems trivial, but the Roku 2 would sit right smack dab in the middle of my TV set, and although not so tall as to get in front of the screen, this new thinner model I can get neatly under the TV set.
All in all I don’t believe that I can say “You need to rush out and get this model right now” like most people did with the Roku 3 a few years back, but I can say that you won’t regret getting this one, especially if you do upgrade to the new 4K TV’s. That may change in a few months as more and more channels take advantage of the quad core capabilities that this model has to offer making their channels more resource hungry.
First I’ll point out the issues that I had, keep in mind that I’m using my dual core Roku 2 as my reference point, that I was disappointed with, most of which I knew prior to doing my review:
Because the Roku premier is not the top model for the company there are a few things missing that may bother some users. I took a look at some of these features.
Lack of USB port
I’m not too overly worried about this feature missing, but when I moved into my apartment and was waiting for my Internet service provider to connect to my new home, it was nice to toss several movies from my Plex Server to give me something to watch while waiting for my internet. For those who want the USB port you can find it on the Premier Plus.
This missing feature had me concerned. My older Roku 2 is wired into my Router directly via an Ethernet cable. I decided to do that over a year ago because I was occasionally running into issues with some long load times. But even with my Roku 2 wired directly into my router I would find that it didn’t hurt to occasionally reboot the Roku to get fewer problems with load times and picture quality.
I honestly expected to do this at least once during my week long use of the Premiere and did not have to even once. In fact, once I connected it to the power outlet it never got turned off.
The remote is Infrared
The Roku Premiere has the infrared (line of sight) remote control which is occasionally a pain in the rear for me because where I placed the device is under the TV, but I also have a knack of putting my wallet and car keys in front of it and many a time I needed to get out of my chair to move said keys or wallet conveniently dropped in front of my Roku ensuring that the invisible beam of light never reached the device to change it Plex or CBSN. It’s aggravating. Out of the few issues that I have with this new Roku, this one is the one that I have the most trouble with. Sure, I know, I use my cell phone app too, but my cell phone does need to recharge and I try and make it a habit to turn off my phone when it’s charging, plus my phone charger is located next to the Roku anyway. In other-words, I’m nit picking and I know it.
Make sure you have a high Quality HDMI cable. When I plugged an older HDMI cord into the back of my new Roku I got the purple screen of death telling me that I was “un-authorized”, but after replacing that cable with a spare one that I had laying around I never had an issue.
Should you upgrade?
Before I had a chance to review this unit I had a Roku 2, this streaming device, which is capable of playing 4K video from Amazon and Netflix, is perhaps the one device that I had considered purchasing just simply to update rather than waiting to replace my Roku due to age. However I was mildly underwhelmed with its speed despite its quad-core processor, but like I said I have a suspicion channel updates will take advantage of the power. I was also mildly overwhelmed with the picture quality on my 1080 TV too, making it, well … Worth it. If only I could get the mount to mount it behind the TV set and use my acquired Roku stick remote to control it. I wouldn’t say that Roku hit a home run but with this model, but I’ll give it an easy stand-up-triple and say that this the model to get when your current one needs to be replaced.