Roku 3: Is It a Good Buy?

Online streaming of video and music is the future of how entertainment will come into our homes. In many ways the future is already here, thanks to Netflix apps and streaming boxes like Apple TV. There’s also Roku, which gives you a lot of streaming options if you already have a lot of streaming accounts. Instead of booting up your Netflix app and then streaming it through your Chromecast, Roku puts all of your streaming apps into an easily accessible menu location and then all you’ve basically got to do is press play.

Roku 1

The Roku 3 offers you the chance to have a remote mounted headphone jack for private listening to your favorite shows, movies, or music as well. At just under $100, is the Roku 3 the best value out there right now?

The Good: Better Processing Power

If you’ve used some of the previous generations of Roku boxes, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how responsive the Roku 3 happens to be. The better processing power lets you have a virtually lag-free experience with this online streaming box, giving you a fast way to load up your preferred streaming app. The menu shifting is fast and the loading speed for an app is comparable to virtually any device.

There’s also an intuitive, integrated cross-channel search option that is very nice to have. It makes finding the exact item you want a simple and easy process! Just plug your search in and you’ll be ready to stream in no time. The menu is in grid form now [finally!] and the Roku Store is integrated into the menu options so you don’t have to transition between menus to make a purchase.

Menu Screen

It also comes with Angry Birds Space in case you have some time to kill. You control the game through the motion remote.

The Bad: Pricing and Design

With the exception of the faster processing speed and the headphone jack in the Roku’s remote, you’re paying 33% more for the Roku 3 than other Roku devices for the same services. If you can handle having a little extra lag time with your menu interactions, you’ll be able to save some coin by going with a previous generation of the device or even the Roku Streaming Stick.

The Roku 3 is also a very lightweight box. Extremely lightweight, in fact, at just 5 ounces. It supports 1080p through the HDMI connection, but if you use a heavy cord or don’t have the box mounted, then you may find a broken Roku 3 on your floor one afternoon. There’s a USB port on the side of the box as well, adding to the difficulties of the design if you have both ports utilized.

The Ugly: Integration

Roku 3 comes with a lot of channels – more than even Apple TV. What it doesn’t do, however, is integrate the channels into the intuitive search. This means you’ve got to spend A LOT of time wading through channels sometimes to get where you need to be. You can have networked file playback through this box as well, but the faster processor doesn’t help a lot here. It’s awfully slow when compared to other makes and models, making full integration a continuing problem with the Roku 3.

Does the Roku 3 have a lot of good things going for it? Absolutely! It’s faster menu system and strong app loading times give it some advantages, though it may not be worth the increase in price to get them. If, however, you’re looking for networked file playback options first and foremost, you’ll want to look elsewhere for your streaming needs.

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Graeme Sandlin
A theologian of the odd. I love all things tech, especially if there's a sci-fi element to it. You'll find something special I've created every day... and not just on the internet.