On first look at the latest version of the Roku 3 you might be tempted to say “Move on…nothing to see here…it looks pretty much like every Roku made in the last dozen years.Other than a slightly different number 3 on the top, the new Roku 3 is a signature Roku, a 3.5-inch-square puck of a device, with rounded corners and the usual purple fabric Roku tag sticking out of the left side. The back of the player offers HDMI, Ethernet, and power ports, plus a microSD card slot and a Reset button. A USB port is on the right side of the device.
Now the previous model is still a pretty good streaming box offering nearly all of the key online streaming services out there — including such must-haves as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Watch ESPN, HBO Go and even Sling TV (Not all are available in Canada)— But the Roku boxes are nearly two years old and in this fast moving world Roku needed something new to avoid the perception of falling behind. However, the company obviously didn’t want to fiddle with a formula that got it to the top of the heap: simplicity, great search, and lots of apps.
So what was Roku to do..well, the 2015 version of the Roku 3 is faster than the old model but the rest of the changes are in the Wi/Fi Direct remote. WiFi Direct means you can hide the Roku box in your entertainment centre and not have to worry about line of sight for infra-red remotes, The big addition is Voice Search. I found it worked well and displayed results very quickly. This is a really cool feature as it searches across a bunch of streaming channels…but not broadcast TV.
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I do have some gripes about the new remote..I think the four dedicated content buttons are OK especially if you are using lots of channels that take up more than one screen but, I find it just as easy to use the screen icons. Worst of all Roku has moved the OK button to below the arrow cluster instead of the universal standard of in the centre of the arrow cluster.
A cool new addition is Roku Feed. If you want to watch a new movie that’s not yet available to stream on a Roku channel — for example, a film in theaters today — you can “follow” it by adding it to your feed. You can check the feed for updates and you’ll receive a notification for when the movie is available to stream, and how much it costs. If the price or availability changes, you’ll be notified again.
The availability of content for the Roku seems almost unlimited..all the stalwarts are there but customized channels allow for the viewing of material for the most exotic of tastes. This has always been a big Roku strongpoint and it somehow keeps on finding new content to add.
No question this is the best streaming box out there although apple users will likely prefer the Apple TV. But for everyone else Roku is the way to go and the Roku 3 is the top of the line and nicely priced at $110.
If, however you plan to buy a new 4K TV I would hold off a bit on buying a new streaming box because Roku has just launched the Roku 4 in the US and it seems to be a bit faster, offers speedier WiFi and is 4K compatible as opposed to 1080p for the other Roku models. It will however be more expensive perhaps as high as $169 in Canada.