back to article Why are we disappointed with the best streaming media box on the market?

If you are going to buying a streaming media box – and you really should if you want to watch TV shows or movies on a big screen – then you should buy a Roku. It really is as simple as that. Apple fanbois will, of course, point to the latest Apple TV with its little touchpad. Googlers will swear by Chromecast. And Jeff Bezos …

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  1. Mage Silver badge

    just get a Roku

    Or dedicate a suitable laptop running a suitable OS and a long HDMI cable (or HDMI Wireless link). Total flexibility, easy to update codes, can store all your own media, no walled garden.

    Assuming it does 50Hz AND 60Hz refresh. I'm still using an old PC as its graphics card does 50fps and 60fps and decent de-interlacing. Also takes 2 x PCI DVB-S2 satellite tuners and a USB DVB-T stick so that FTA TV can be recorded without the pesky encryption on Sony TV or Humax satellite set box.

  2. Pan_Handle

    Lots of hate

    Lots of hate for those of us who just want a usable platform to watch iPlayer, Netflix, PlayStation Video and Amazon, and don't have an enormous archive of illegally downloaded media to play (cue flames but just saying there are a lot of us who just want to stream). I have a Pi 3 running OSMC with a couple of DVB tuners which can get iPlayer but not Netflix or Amazon video or Sony stuff.

    The new Roku streaming stick+ has just been released in the UK. Would be interesting to review that as it has a wifi signal booster built into the USB cable which is technically vaguely interesting and it's apparently nippy too.

    http://www.trustedreviews.com/reviews/roku-streaming-stick-plus

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Lots of hate

      Kodi 18 will have Netflix support. OSMC and LibreElec have betas and people have managed to get it to work.

      1. Pan_Handle

        Re: Lots of hate

        I bought Roku Streaming Stick+. It's very quick, and works as advertised. Because it works so well, I take the points in the article about wishing it would take it to the next level.

        Comparing it to an enthusiast platform like Openelec makes no sense. Roku is a consumer device.

        The boosted wifi is awesome by the way - n coverage in the corner of my house.

  3. imanidiot Silver badge

    Voice control

    NO. ABSOLUTELY NO! NEVER, EVER getting into my house. Why the *expletives deleted* do people feel the need to voluntarily bug their own homes?

    1. Joe Harrison Silver badge

      Re: Voice control

      Also there's a bug where it stops recognising your voice, about halfway down the second glass.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Voice control

      Sci-Fi, that's why.

      Having a room respond to "Lights!" has been part of Sci-Fi for a very long time. Star Trek and the like popularized voice-activated technology in people's minds. Only thing is, for voice-activated tech to work, you need an always-receptive mic.

  4. Craigie

    nah

    I'll stick with my £30 fire tv stick, which has netflix, prime video, iplayer and youtube on it, oh and kodi if I somehow run out of things to watch.

  5. Flywheel Silver badge

    I'm ok with my Roku box, and the remote control with audio is great, but I wish they'd make those buttons programmable.

  6. TonyJ Silver badge

    Not sure how this compares to a Fire TV but on mine I have NetFlix as well as the usual suspects of BBC iPlayer etc.

    I did even pop a version of Kodi on it at one point.

    It does voice search.

    It can handle pretty much any Android app (there is a great little app for Android phones called Apps2Fire that basically copies any app from my S7 onto the Fire).

    It's quick and intuitive and way before Sky got in on the act with their so-called fluid viewing, you could stop watching on the box downstairs, fire up the app on the Smart TV upstairs and pick up where you left off.

    Also right now in the UK the new generation version that supports 4K is less than £70.

    So I'd be hard pressed to accept the Roku box is "the best" although of course, your own personal tastes may vary and other boxes are available :)

  7. Mike Perrett

    Nice content, but what about the sound?

    I was really pleased to get my Roku 3 and have easy access to Netflix, NowTV, Amazon Prime and so forth... But the thing I really miss about the ASUS Media Streamer that my Roku replaced is the Digital Audio out port that plugged directly into my Dolby Digital/Pro Logic Stereo Receiver.

    Now I just have to put up with really poor sound from what would otherwise be an excellent media streamer.

    1. ddevonb

      Re: Nice content, but what about the sound?

      Their are HDMI to optical adaptors that will give you the digital sound if you can't get it directly through HDMI.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    KISS

    My only criteria was to be able to access and control all of my media without having to get up from the sofa and faff about with multiple boxes or inputs. I ended up with a Panasonic TV with Firefox OS on.

    I now have Sky, Netflix, Amazon, Local DLNA (Tversity), Youtube (for the kids) and PS3 all on the home screen of the TV.

    I actually quite like Firefox OS and was gutted to find out it was already defunct after buying the TV. It does struggle with the odd streaming video from Tversity but the PS3 always handles it, now where's the damn controller..

  9. tiggity Silver badge

    PVR

    I have a dumb TV.

    I have a PVR which I use with it to record stuff ( PVR accepts TV aerial, & has ethernet cable) - however it also comes with Netflix & a whole lot of other subscription stuff (I dont use netflix or similar so irrelevant to me), plus all the UK TV channel "players" via Freeview play such as iPlayer, UKTV player, itvplayer etc, etc for streaming TV that was on earlier and you missed.

    Roku style functionality, & same limitations of no control over apps as a proprietary Roku box, but it also records telly (a key thing for me as hardly ever watch live telly, but good to record the few things I like for when TV watching leisure activity makes sense e.g. when weather so foul I want to stay indoors instead of going for a hike outdoors!), and at similar price to roku so fail to see roku attraction as, if I only want streaming, I can stream to telly with old PC, any random android device running kodi etc. (PVR can be accessed by android device running kodi so can watch recorded PVR content on different TV as DNLA compatible, or watch it on computer etc.)

  10. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    But it also means that Roku does not have access to the content you select. Once you head into one of its apps – Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, HBO, whatever – it goes blind. And it is going to be a hard sell to persuade companies to hand over that enormously valuable data on user selections for a vague sense of improved customer experience for someone else's product.

    This is why streaming is so frustrating. I want a box that has access to all the catalogues so that when I decide I'd like to watch Blade Runner again before going to the cinema to see the new one the box can tell me which subscription(s) I can get it on. Do the streaming companies not understand the concept of sell through? If I find the movie I want is on a service I don't have I might just open my wallet.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      It's called a trade war. The content providers are willing to bleed a little now to try to control the field down the line. Until there's a winner or a truce, it's going to stay No Man's Land.

  11. blcollier

    My Roku 3 *was* great, but...

    I would struggle to recommend a Roku to anyone else ever again.

    The "smart" WiFi-Direct remote for my model basically doesn't work any more; every now and then it loses connection and no amount of fixes/troubleshooting will get it to connect again. I either have to stick with the smartphone app remote or factory reset the box to get the remote back.

    Apps (sorry, "channels") are looking very tired these days. Most app developers seem to implement the same SDK with little effort at customising it or providing a decent user experience (see Netflix for an example of how to do it right).

    Spotify support is simply dire. The Spotify app is utterly horrendous: it doesn't even support playlists any more - you literally cannot browse or play your own playlists - let alone anything useful like Spotify Connect. Spotify themselves don't want to know because the Roku Spotify app is third-party; they have no plans to make their own or "in-house" the existing one.

    Don't get me wrong, the boxes do what they do pretty well... if you ignore the ragged edges.

  12. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    missing the point much?

    FTA: "But that channel is also available on older Roku boxes – you don't need to buy the Ultra to get it.

    Such was the disappointment at finding nothing really new..."

    The massive point you overlook is that Roku is passing upgraded capabilities to existing/older boxen. I haven't played much with "the Roku channel" yet but I did note its arrival (and a new/revised UI) on my 2 year old Roku 3. As an owner of their products I really appreciate that the company keeps existing users in mind, which further cements my intention to move up to a Roku 4 or whatever model is current when I get round to upgrading to a 4k TV.

  13. stu 4

    4k

    Having just bought a 75" 4k LG thing last week I can chip in here (and also savvy with rokus, android boxes, kodi, yada yada).

    1. the LG has a 150ms sound lag unless using built in speaker - LAG - so adding delay on the amp won't fix it. across all content. how the flying fuck that got through QA I have no idea... so basically using the TV for anything other than a monitor is a waste of time... luckily thats my main use case..

    2. I use it via a mac mini - and kodi. kodi lets me view H264 4k content fine, but the mac mini hasn't the oomph for H265 4k... and of course netflix, amazon won't display higher than 1080p via safari, and even then you won't get HDR or DD5.1 which is kinda shitty.

    The LG does play H265 stuff, VP9, etc. It plays 4k netflix HDR, etc, etc - all good except for the 150ms sound lag which makes it all for nothing unless you want to switch you watch it all with the shite sound out the built in speakers.... its the sort of thing you wish you could bash some engineers heads together at LG over.

    So - alternatives for H265 4k or netflix 4k+DD ? well, a cheap 30 quid android box would do the H265 4k and DD ok - but the problem is that only a few 'authorised' devices are allowed to access netflix 4k streams - apple tv, LG and other big tv companies, and roku, etc.

    None of the chinese android boxes are allowed - so your limited to 1080p max streams on them.

    what a pain in the arse. why something has to be as complicated I don't know. It's like they want people to pirate stuff.

    1. NonSSL-Login

      Re: 4k

      The DRM forcing downgrading of quality on 'unauthorised boxen' is criminal IMO. Saying android box's cannot have 4k Netflix for no genuine reason certainly does force people to piracy if they want the higher quality content.

      A few android box's can stream 4K Netflix though, such as the cheap Xiaomi Mi Box.

      The Nvidia shield is not cheap but has 4k Netflix as well as the Wetek 2.

      My own cheap box needed some modified firmware to enable just 4k Youtube video. That is how bad the DRM stuff is now and the amount of control they want to keep on box'es that can watch media.

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    It's funny

    Here we have more TV options than ever before and yet, I care less and less each year about what is on the telly from any source.

  15. Desgrippes

    What about the NVIDIA Shield TV? That is a decent streamer (and more)...

    1. blcollier

      That's what I'd recommend to people looking for a 4K HDR streaming box.

  16. Patrician

    The reviewer left out the best streaming media box; the Nvidia Shield TV. Does everything the Roku does but without a "skinned" Android; except for a few apps it's pretty much pure Android TV, is more powerful than the Roku and comes with a built-in Plex server.

  17. rbarrie

    I agree with the writer that something like

    "Or if the Roku could remember where you left off. Or if it knew you were a San Francisco Giants fan and popped up a message noting that the game will start in 20 minutes with a simple click through to live coverage."

    would be really cool. But, would we still be talking about US$99 device?

  18. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    The fact is that while we will get 8K screens in future, unless you are sitting one foot away from it you won't notice. And once a channel opens and a movie starts within a few seconds, there isn't much more you can do.

    Some of us don't even have 4K, and won't for quite a number of years. My brother used his TV for 25 years, it still works even now (only upgraded when a tenant left their plasma because they didn't have room for it in their new apartment). Our own flat-panel is already 9-years old (had to get a new one when the old one melted in a house fire) and will probably last *another* 9 before we replace it (it's a straightforward "dumb" TV, the two HDMI ports will likely be adequate for a long time).

    All I care about is whether I can watch Crunchyroll, DVDs and transferred videos on it. Oh yes, and attach the last-generation game consoles.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Don't be so sure. Credits to milo an HDMI 3.0 port will hit in a few years with a new, incompatible port design.

  19. ddevonb

    Roku does do live TV on Plex channel.

    Roku has no need to add the live TV function since the Plex channel on Roku already offers that. The Plex server also has a DVR and guide of live over the air programming.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Roku does do live TV on Plex channel.

      Can Plex do all this WITHOUT hitting the network?

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