Tag Archives: Roku

Good News for Roku Fans in UK



Roku’s had a busy news week (or two) and much of it will be of interest to UK Roku fans. It’s particularly serendipitous as we’re stuck inside avoiding the Coronavirus lurgy, so let’s get stuck in with the fun stuff.

First up, the free Roku Channel is now available to UK residents. It’s a free (ad supported) selection of movies and miniseries, with a couple of big(ish) Hollywood movies from a few years back. There’s a good Kids & Family selection with Teletubbies, In the Night Garden, Bob The Builder and Fireman Sam. Inevitably Ryan’s Adventures puts in an appearance too, along with a Minecraft selection. As I mentioned, it’s completely free so there’s nothing to lose in checking it out.

Next, StarzPlay has appeared in the channel list. It’s a subscription channel priced at £4.99 per month, but there is a free week to whet your appetite. Plenty of recognisable films here: The Hunger Games; Veronica Mars; Sex, Lies and Videotape; Terminal. In addition, a strong selection of series such as Heathers, Castle Rock and Leavenworth.

The House of Mouse drops in on Roku with Disney+. There’s not much more to say other than it’s pure, undiluted fun with the biggest names in cinema history – Disney, Star Wars (Lucas Film), Marvel and Pixar. Oh, and National Geographic’s in there too. I think I’m going to pony up for a subscription. (Sadly, Apple TV+ just doesn’t cut it, though the Roku app is beautiful.)

Finally, there’s an OS update coming soon, bouncing it up to 9.3. This brings a selection of enhancements, included improved performance, better voice search, integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Search, and there’s an updated Roku app.

I think the Roku is the best of the streaming sticks, particularly as it’s platform agnostic and not constantly trying to sell stuff. I’ve reviewed all the Rokus currently on the UK market so if you want to see what they’re like, have a look at these videos.

Roku Streaming Stick+

Roku Express and Premiere
(this is quite a long review!)


Sound Made Simpler with Roku TV Ready



Roku have announced Roku TV Ready at CES, a branding and co-operation programme to ensure that consumer electronics from different companies works seamlessly with Roku TVs.

The first partners under the initiative are existing Roku TV implementer TCL North America and all-new Roku partner, Sound United, the parent company to Denon, Polk Audio, Marantz, Definitive Technology and Classé.

Denon soundbars will be the first to feature Roku TV Ready via a software update later in the year, but with Roku TV Ready, it will be much easier for branded soundbars and audio/video receivers to be setup and controlled via the Roku remote.

When connected, the audio equipment and Roku TV will recognise each other and configure themselves correctly, and integrated sound settings will accessible by pressing the star button on the Roku TV remote. No more hunting for the sound remote.

Roku TV Ready features are expected to be delivered to Roku TV models via the Roku operating system in the coming months.


Roku Boosts UK Presence with New Models



UK-based Roku fans will be pleased to hear that the streaming company is launching two new models into the country; the Roku Express and the Roku Premiere. The Express is a refresh of the entry-level model but the Premiere is a brand-new mid-range device offering 4K streaming with HDR. The existing Roku Streaming Stick+ will remain in the product line-up.

This year’s Roku Express is a much softer version of its predecessor and I’d be tempted to say looks a bit like a fig roll – see right. I’m sure the PR people would prefer something like sleek and curvaceous. It’s perfect for your standard HD TV and comes with a simple remote control with popular streaming channel shortcut buttons, an HDMI cable and a power cord.

The mid-range Roku Premiere is a good way to start streaming in HD, 4K Ultra HD or 4K HDR. It actually looks very like the previous generation Express (see left) but nevertheless features a powerful quad-core processor. As before, in the box, there’s the remote control, HDMI cable and a power cord.

I much prefer the Roku interface over other competitive products and in the UK, all the terrestrial broadcasters offer their catch-up services – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5 –  and then you’ve also got Netflix, Spotify, Google Play Movies, NowTV and Amazon Prime Video. Roku’s are ideal if you don’t want to get trapped in a particular ecosystem.

We are delivering more value and improved picture quality across the new 2019 streaming player line up for the United Kingdom. The Roku Premiere delivers 4K HDR for a more immersive TV experience,” said Lloyd Klarke, Director Product Management at Roku. “Whether you are new to streaming or demand more advanced features such as better Wi-Fi, 4K HDR and voice search, we have the right streaming player for everyone.

The 2019 Roku streaming players will be available in the UK from early October from all the usual suspects – Argos, Currys, ASDA, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Amazon and other fine retailers. Pricing is below.

  • Roku Express GB£29.99
  • Roku Premiere: GB£39.99
  • Roku Streaming Stick+: GB£49.99

Don’t forget the UK will be seeing Roku TVs for the first time from Hisense shortly.


Roku TV Comes To Europe



Good news for Roku lovers in Europe – the hardware streaming company is bringing its Roku TV licensing programme across the pond to the continent.

At IFA in Berlin, Roku CEO, Anthony Wood, announced that Hisense is the first European Roku TV partner. The new Hisense Roku TV models will combine Roku’s easy-to-use operating system and thousands of streaming channels with Hisense’s picture and screen technologies to deliver 4K Ultra HD resolution with the enhanced detail and contrast levels of HDR.

TV manufacturers will license Roku TV reference designs and embed Roku OS in their smart TVs, offering a huge range of streaming channels, including Google Play Movies, Amazon Prime, Netflix and catch-up TV  for terrestrial broadcasters. Roku TV was first introduced at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, and today over 100 models are available from more than 10 brands in North America. Roku estimates that in the first half of 2019 more than a third of smart TVs sold in the U.S. were Roku TVs. That’s pretty impressive.

While consumers love Roku TV’s simplicity and advanced features, TV manufacturers benefit from the low cost of manufacturing, a variety of technology options, and support from Roku. The ability to quickly bring to market a leading smart TV experience that is regularly updated by Roku and is packed with entertainment gives TV manufacturers an edge in the competitive TV business,” said Wood. “We are pleased to bring the Roku TV licensing program to Europe and look forward to the first Hisense Roku TVs in market this year.

The new Hisense Roku TV models are expected to be available for purchase in the UK in late autumn in sizes ranging up to 65″. Pricing and other details will be announced by Hisense later this year.


Two New Rokus for UK



After a very long wait, Roku are bringing two new models to the UK market with the Roku Express and Roku Streaming Stick+.

While North America fans have enjoyed new models for over a year, the UK has lagged behind with long-standing Roku 2 and 3 models: owners of 4K TVs have had to look elsewhere for their ultra high definition fix. Fortunately the new Roku Streaming Stick+ supports both 4K and HDR up to 60 f/s.

Taking a quick look over the two models, the Roku Express is the second generation of the model and is perfect for standard HD TVs with HDMI. Connectivity is provided by b/g/n wifi and there’s an IR remote, so you will need line of sight to control the Express.

The new star of the show is the Roku Streaming Stick+, delivering 4K UHD with HDR via 802.11ac dual-band MIMO wifi. The advanced wireless remote allows the stick to be mounted behind the TV, plus there are now buttons to turn the TV on/off and control the volume.

To showcase 4K content, a 4K Spotlight Channel will offer instant access to 4K movies and TV shows from various streaming channels. Both remotes have channel shortcut buttons too.

The Roku Express is one of our most popular streaming players and we are excited to bring it to the UK. It is a great starting point for first time streamers or for people looking to extend the Roku experience to other TVs,” said Chas Smith, general manager of Roku TVs and players. “Consumers will love our new sleek Roku Streaming Stick+ with an innovative advanced wireless receiver that gives up to four times the wireless range and a remote that controls TV volume and power. At £79.99, it makes HD, 4K and HDR streaming simple.

Of course, the free complementary Roku app for iOS and Android provides all the usual Roku features including streaming media from a mobile device to the TV, remote control, voice search and private listening.

Available from 18th October online with retail availability shortly afterwards, the Roku Express costs GB£29.99 whereas the Streaming Stick+ comes in at £79.99. Put one on your Christmas list.


Roku Revamps Range with Express, Premiere and Ultra



ROKU LogoRoku have announced an almost total revamp of their streaming player range with new products filling five of the six slots in their line-up. The new models are the Roku Express, Express+, Premiere, Premiere+ and Ultra, with only the recently updated (April) Roku Streaming Stick keeping its place.

Roku ExpressThe new entry level, the Roku Express, costs only US$29.99 while providing 1080p HD streaming to HDMI-equipped TVs. If you have an older TV and need composite jack and A/V connections, then an extra $10 gets the Roku Express+ (US$39.99) and is exclusively available from Walmart. As you’ll see from the pictures, the Express model has moved away from the square-ish box to a more rectangular style.

Roku Premiere+For hi-def junkies, the Roku Premiere ($79.99) and Premiere+ ($99.99) offer 4K at 60 Hz, with the Premiere+ also supporting HDR and the Premiere+ remote comes with a headphone jack if you want to enjoy your content in private. Obviously a 4K and HDR compatible TV is needed to enjoy all the features of the Premiere streamers.

Roku Ultra RearFinally, the Roku Ultra at $129.99 supports the Dolby Digital Plus decoder with optical out (yay!) voice search and lost remote finder. Uniquely in the range, the Roku Ultra has a USB port for local media playback, though it’s not entirely clear where it’s located on the box.

Only the Ultra and Premiere+ have RF wireless remotes, with the Express, Express+ and Premiere remotes working with IR only. In most respects the remotes seem unchanged from previous Rokus.

The new devices have been announced for USA, Canada and Mexico with availability from early October. Further news for other territories (UK, Ireland, France) is expected soon.


Roku 2 Media Streamer (2015) Review



Roku LogoMedia streamers are hugely in vogue at the moment with products from Roku, Apple, Google and Amazon, and good a few of these are going to appear under the Christmas tree in a few day’s time. Although hard numbers are difficult to come back, it’s generally thought that the market leader by a good way is Roku, with Google, Apple and Amazon following in roughly that order. Once the figures are in for the Thanksgiving and Christmas sales, this could all change. Regardless, on review here is the UK 2015 version of the Roku 2, which now sits in the middle of Roku’s British line-up, between the Streaming Stick and the Roku 3. Let’s take a look.

Roku 2 in Box

In the box, you get the Roku 2, remote control (with batteries) and power supply with four plug adaptors, including UK, US and continental. There’s no HDMI cable.

Roku 2 inside box

As with the previous Roku 2 models, it’s in the “hockey puck” style, though it’s a little bit more rounded than the earlier Roku 2 models. The remote is the usual candy bar, but this model uses IR signal transmission rather than the WiFi and Bluetooth of predecessors. This may be of interest if your Roku normally lives round the back of the TV as you’ll need to bring it into view.

Roku 2 Front

Looking round the 2, there’s the trademark fabric tab on one side, with a USB port on the other. At the back you’ll find HDMI, network and DC power sockets, along with a microSD card slot. In addition to the Ethernet, the Roku 2 has dual band wireless.

Getting started is straightforward. Plug everything into the Roku 2, put the batteries in the remote and sit back on the sofa with the remote. The Roku 2 steps through the setup in a straightforward fashion, though putting in long passwords or WiFi keys can be a bit laborious. Regardless, you can be up and running within minutes.

Roku offers over 1,500 streaming entertainment channels which are great for followers of niche programming, whether travel, sport, kids, health & fitness or faith/religion. However, the vast majority of UK buyers will be interested in the offerings from the main terrestrial broadcasters plus the well known video-on-demand services. Naturally, Roku has them all. BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Sky Now, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play Movies and YouTube. For audio fans, there’s Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, TuneIn and Vevo. Newshounds will like the BBC News and Sky News channels. I could keep going but in summary there’s lots there and no-one will ever be able to say, “There’s nothing on the TV”.

Roku 2 RearOn the other hand if you have your own media, the Roku Media Player will play from USB storage and DLNA servers, and a Plex client can be installed too. I streamed ripped movies from a Buffalo Linkstation and while picture quality can be subject to network speeds, I had no problems at all and enjoyed HD footage without glitches from all the services that offered HD streaming. The Roku 2 has a HD optimised processor and I think it shows. The microSD slot can’t be used for media storage but can be used to boost the internal memory of the Roku 2 for extra channels.

If you’re a real film buff, you’ll be interested in Roku Search and Roku Feed. The former searches through top channels by title, actor or director to find your favourite programming and the Roku Feed automatically updates you when new films become available for streaming (or if the price changes).

The Roku 2’s main user interface is a simple menu driven affair and it’s not nearly as sophisticated as Amazon’s Fire, which combines media from multiple sources. Part of this is because the Roku doesn’t have the integrated cloud-based ecosystem behind it in the style of Amazon or Google, but part is to keep things straightforward and easy to use, much like an ordinary TV. The channels such as Netflix then have their own interface. Frankly, I prefer the channel approach as you know what you are getting, e.g. BBC programming, Netflix’s catalogue, YouTube video. Channel or app sophistication varies hugely. Most are good, especially from the big names like BBC or Netflix, though Spotify’s channel is a bit disappointing.

Roku RemoteThe remote is easy to use with a directional pad falling easily under the thumb. Other buttons function as home, back and menu controls. There are four shortcut buttons for Netflix, YouTube, Rdio and Google Movies, which is great if you use those services, but a waste of space if you don’t. It’s a pity they aren’t more generically labelled, e.g. Films, Music, News, Sport, with a configuration option for each button. Even better would be to print and label your own buttons!

To play media from smartphones and tablets, Roku offers a complementary app (Android, iOS and Windows) which can be used to not only manage and control the Roku 2, but also cast media from the mobile device to the screen. It’s great to show the photos you’ve just taken on the TV.

There’s no doubt there’s strong competition out there for the spot below your TV but the Roku 2 performed well and without issue. Pricewise, the Roku 2 has an RRP of £69.99 but can be found on-line for £10 less which is good value especially at the lower price. Of course, if you don’t need to play from local storage, consider the Roku Streaming Stick which is £20 cheaper (RRP £49.99). Overall, I think the Roku is a good choice if your intention is to “watch TV” without being distracted by unnecessary features. Go on, get one for Christmas.

Thanks to Roku for providing the Roku 2 for review.