When I was younger and still living with my parents, and even after I moved out and joined the Military, I typically used a computer to play all of my media. In the early days it was DVD media, then SD MPEG/AVIs, then BluRay, and now HD MKVs/etc. Until I moved into an apartment with friends during college I had never required a way to present media to a common area. Through some clever redirects of PlayOn and DLNA magic I was able to use my PS3 to act as a media center, but while this was satisfactory it was in no way ideal. The consideration to build a standalone Media PC was always there, but money was tight, so we made do!
Fast-forward a few years; I’ve purchased a house and now more than ever need to solve the same problem! I’ve owned several media set-top boxes. In order, the Apple TV 2 (Jailbroken), an Apple TV 3 (couldn’t Jailbreak), a Netgear NeoTV 550 (got it on a sale), a Raspberry Pi (running RasPlex), and an OUYA (video streaming is not its strong suit). Most recently, I’ve purchased a Roku 3. Here is the review!
Dual Band Wifi (a/b/g/n) with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security support
720p and 1080p Video Output
7.1 and 5.1 Surround via HDMI cable
MicroSD expansion slot
USB slot (Media formats include: MP4/MKV (H.264))
I use a Logitech Harmony Universal Remote to control my home theater environment. It is one of the smartest purchases I’ve ever made, and easily controls my A/V receiver, projector, AppleTV (for what it’s worth), Xbox 360, etc… It can control the Roku 3 as well; however, I may not want it to… Below is a picture of the remote that ships with the Roku 3.
Size-wise, the Roku 3’s remote is only slightly smaller than a standard Nintendo Wii controller. It sports a D-Pad button layout with typical Play/Pause and Forward/Backwards buttons. Additionally, standard select and menu navigation buttons are present. When turned horizontally the remote becomes similar to an NES controller by adding the ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons. To aid it’s gaming functionality the remote includes a motion control feature (yay! Angry Birds). Furthermore, the Roku 3’s remote has an attached headphone jack, and volume control buttons for headphones. Because the remote uses ‘Wifi Direct’ technology instead of standard IR, the remote does not need line of site, has an increased range, and supports more data throughput for audio. Audio quality when using headphones is extremely nice; however, there is a small amount of lag. It doesn’t make for an unwatchable experience, but you’ll notice it if you really look and listen hard enough.
I’m a pretty big fan of the Roku interface. I never jumped on board the XBMC train, and the Roku 3’s interface is a welcome change from the AppleTV menus that I’ve grown bored of. The Broadcom chip on the Roku 3 make the interface very responsive.
The Roku manages content via ‘Channels.’ Users are able to install channels from an internet browser, iOS/Android device, or the Roku 3 itself. The lack of a YouTube channel is potentially the only negative aspect of the Roku 3. There are workarounds (PlayOn/Twonky), but my primary goal for getting the Roku 3 was to deliver local HD and freemium content to my home theater system. In this regard, the Roku 3 is perfection!
With 750+ channels, including PLEX, Revision3, Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, TED, VUDU, HBO GO, Disney, FOX Now, PBS, Redbox, Spotify, NFL Gamecenter, MLB.TV, UFC TV, Twit, and MIT OpenCourseware, I am thoroughly pleased!
I will link this to the PLEX Review when I finish it. PLEX on the Roku 3 is fantastic!
So, should you buy it? If you have an AppleTV and have significantly invested in iTunes content, then it may be a good idea to stick with the AppleTV. If you are considering building a Media PC for the purposes of watching content and playing HD games on your home theater, then you may want to just do that… But, if you want to stream PLEX and a ton of other channels, don’t mind having your PLEX server running elsewhere, and want a fantastic experience that works, then this is the device for you!
I have yet to find a real problem with the Roku 3. It does what it advertised, and it does it quick!