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How Does Roku Work
Ok, so basically the Roku is a small unit that connects to your home network and allows you to access tons of different content from one place. How does Roku work? If you’ve heard of Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, etc, then you are already somewhat familiar with what it is that the Roku does. Now, I hesitated to make the jump to this type of device because I thought that my TV could handle all of this stuff. I was halfway correct because my smart TV did offer Netflix, but it had NO capability to add additional apps. Plus, I didn’t care for the way I could access apps through the TV, and it annoyed me more often than not. If you feel like you’re in the same boat, then a Roku may be for you!
Sounds good, but is it hard to use?
Something to point out from the jump: THIS THING IS NOT HARD TO USE. Are you someone that gets intimidated by electronics, gadgets, or anything new? Please don’t freak out. It’s not that serious I promise. If you can plug in a toaster, you’re 90% of the way there on this one! My 6-year-old little girls are FULLY capable of navigating through the menus and getting to the shows they want to watch!
Think about it like this: a typical scenario places your Roku in the family room connected to your home router and your main TV. You access your Roku by switching your TV’s input to the Roku and then the device’s remote will take over from there. You will search for content, browse channels, and customize your home screen however you want once you’ve gotten the service set up.
Once you’ve loaded up the Roku box, you’ll have access to lots of channels or apps. However you want to think about them. These include premium (subscription only) channels like Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime TV, HBO Go, etc. There are also free options like Pandora, PBS kids, Crackle, etc. These are ALL in one place, and I haven’t looked for a channel yet that I couldn’t find.
How else can I find what I’m looking for?
There’s also an option to search for content, like a specific movie, and the Roku will let you know what channels are serving it up and how much it will cost you. How does Roku work best with search? Use your voice to search through the remote (much handier than you think – it’s much slower to tap out a long title with arrow keys!). Most of the major networks have their own channels with their own content, but most people will probably use the Roku to access their various streaming services all in one place. That’s what I’m doing.
So, how does the Roku 3 stack up?
My Review of the Roku 3
The Roku 3 has been around for a little while now, but at the time of its release, many considered it the new gold standard of streaming devices. It’s small, super simple to connect and use, and it’s actually really affordable. It can fit anywhere in your home theater setup, it can connect wirelessly if you need it to, you can search for content that you’re looking for (with your voice!), and once everything is set up, I promise it JUST WORKS.
For those of you that have never considered this kind of thing before or for anyone that feels that intimidation factor I’ll promise again that it’s a very painless process. How does Roku work this out for you? The Roku 3 allows you to connect to all of your various streaming channels all in ONE PLACE and really helps bridge the gap between streaming services and the “just turn the TV on and go” simplicity of a cable subscription. This is a good thing for this device as well as the “cord cutting” movement as a whole.
Connectivity – How Does Roku Work with Your Devices
So, how do you hook the darn thing up? Well, you really only need a couple of options here, and the unit provides all of them. Below you will see the outlets for power, ethernet, HDMI, and a microSD card.
On the back of the unit, you will see the outlets for power, ethernet, HDMI, and a micro SD card.
To connect to your home internet, you can choose the WIRED or WIRELESS option.
- Wired – Physically connecting a cable from the unit to your home router. In an increasingly wireless world, most people don’t consider this option, but it’s the faster and more reliable choice in most cases. If this fits with your personal setup (the unit is close enough to the router), then I recommend this option (ethernet cable not included, however).
- Wireless – This is the less messy of the options. Once you power the unit on it will search for your home wireless network and ask you for the password to connect. Done.
You’ll also use an HDMI cable to connect the Roku 3 to your TV. There is a USB option to connect to another device, but for TV streaming there really isn’t another option and frankly, now-a-days you really don’t want to settle for anything less than HDMI quality. The cable isn’t included in the package, but you can pick one up just about anywhere. If you have Amazon Prime, there are tons of options.
As I’ve mentioned already, there are TONS of channels available through the Roku 3. I personally use Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime TV, Sling TV, Pandora, Crackle, and the GoPro channel. That’s about .2% of the options. Rather than try to do their catalog justice I’ll just let you explore it on your own. Click the channel picture below to check out what they offer.
One caveat – I think that most people will be best off if they are using the Roku to stream from premium subscription networks because they will offer the most consistent quality and usability. With that being said, I’ve definitely sunk more time than I’ll admit browsing around the channels and checking out whatever caught my eye. That’s how I discovered the GoPro channel. I’m not into extreme sports, but the videos are breathtaking and extremely entertaining. I would never have known about it without the Roku 3.
Performance – How Does Roku Work in the Real World
For the non-tech geeks
The Roku 3 still has enough spunk to get the job done fast. If you have a good internet connection (I would say 12Mbit is the minimum these days – I run 70+) and you have everything set up correctly, I am confident that you will enjoy your experience as much as I have. Over the past several years I have never watched a lot of TV, but I love to watch some shows with my wife, and the fact that we can get to what we want easily and keep track of our progress in different series is AWESOME. It streams in 1080p – this is the “Full HD” resolution, and everything looks great once you get it going for a few seconds.
For the tech geeks
Before you interpret this tagline as offensive, please know that I am definitely in this second category and I embrace it! Under the hood the Roku 3 features:
- Dual-core Broadcom processor – first Roku to offer a dual-core system and the menu/interface speed is great!
- 512MB Ram
- Max Resolution 1080p – Some TVs now have max resolutions above this, but they will always “scale down” fine to this. If you are looking for a higher resolution, you’ll need to check out the Roku 4
- Connectivity: 2.4GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB
- micro SD slot
File Support and Options
The Roku 3 does a lot of things well, but file support is one category that you won’t find a lot of support in. When I say file support what I mean is what types of files does this player support if you wanted to say play a movie that you have downloaded on your computer. The device is limited to MP4 and MKV but often struggles with the MKV audio.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then the good news is that you probably will never have to worry about these features anyway because you are using this device to stream shows through the apps. Some of you, however, may be looking for a more robust “media player” type of device. If that is you then you’ll probably want to look at some different devices.
Where Can I Buy it?
How Does Roku Work to You Save Money?
My Roku 3 is an integral part of how I cut my cable provider and saved a bunch of money in the process. If you’re interested in learning about how and why I decided to cut the cord then check out my post about how I saved $985.80 a year cutting cable.
The cable companies have had a monopoly on content for decades, but their grip on it is starting to slip as more and more people become aware of the fact that they don’t HAVE to keep subscribing to the same “channel mega package” that they have been. Are you even watching those channels? I know I wasn’t and I haven’t had any regrets about making the switch. The chances are good that you won’t either!