Roku 3: Worth the upgrade?

Roku 3 with Headphones 1024x597

I’ve had the Roku 2 XD since its release last year and have generally enjoyed it. My only complaint: Not sure if it’s due to the user interface, CPU, or remote, but sometimes it felt really laggy. Click, lag… display. Click, lag…. display. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, when I learned the Roku 3 had been released (thanks, zatznotfunny!), I was curious. Here’s how Roku is marketing the Roku 3 and my point-by-point observations:

Screenshot 3 10 13 11 54 AM

  • So much fun: I mainly use my Roku box to watch Netflix, Amazon streaming, and TED talks, so of course it’s fun! For me, this goes without saying ;-)
  • Amazing interface: The Roku user interface has been updated and is now easier to use (especially if you use a lot of channels). Instead of a film-strip like interface, it’s now a grid.Ui
  • Powerful remote: The Roku 3 remote includes a headphone port to allow private listening. Also, instead of using bluetooth connectivity to control the roku box (as previous roku models have), the Roku 3 remote uses WiFi Direct to eliminate Bluetooth coexistence issues
  • Awesome app: I confess, I haven’t used the smartphone app yet. I hereby relinquish my geek cred ;-)
  • Serious performance: As noted above, I’ve always loved Roku (and have owned each generation released), but had in the past found it laggy during navigation and starting video playback. Now: WHOA, lagginess is no longer a problem with the Roku 3! I’m so pleased by the faster performance. 
  • Totally simple: Yep, Roku boxes are wonderfully simple to set up. Unlike some tech that is cool once finally set-up but can be a nightmare getting there, no such issues with Roku. For that reason, I think Roku boxes are the perfect gift.

Other observations:

  • You won’t be able to just plug it into your older Roku box’s AC adapter: The box itself requires a different power adapter (higher voltage and shaped differently than that used by previous models).
  • It’s heavier: This is a good thing. Now, the cables hooked to the back of the box no longer weight it down — my Roku 2 HD was normally suspended in air (unintentionally) because it was so light and the cables only weighed down the back.
  • Great theme selection: I’m normally not keen on themes included in tech gadgets. However, the new interface offers a selection of very attractive themes that really do add to the Roku menu experience. 

The great theme selection seems to be server driven — you select the theme and within a few seconds it displays on your box. Why do I think it’s server-driven? Well, I initially selected the lovely Daydream theme. Then, yesterday, I decided to check out the other themes — they are all indeed very nice. The only problem is when I tried to re-select Daydream from the theme list (after using the Decaf theme), the following error message displayed:

Roku error

Having become quite fond of the Daydream theme (which is somewhat Paperland-esque), I even did a factory reset on the Roku 3 to try to re-select the Daydream theme. Nope, still got the error above. I contacted Roku chat support, and the very helpful Roku support rep confirmed that he wasn’t able to select the Daydream theme, either. Clearly, this is a non-critical early adopter issue — I submitted a problem ticket and am hopeful Roku will have the lovely Daydream theme available again soon. 

Edited 3/11/2013: My Roku technical support experience was excellent. The tech folks I chatted with were very helpful and the theme issue was resolved this morning.

So, is the Roku 3 worth the upgrade?

Yes. The faster performance offered by the Roku 3 makes it a better box than its predecessors.

One caveat: If you’re happy with a previous Roku box and are just interested in the new user interface, just be patient — apparently the new UI will be rolled out to older boxes soon.

If any questions about the Roku 3, feel free to leave a comment.

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2 responses to “Roku 3: Worth the upgrade?

  1. reassert your geekiness and tell me about this smart phone app, please.

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