Roku four evaluation: 4K is good, however in any other case it's not an enormous improve

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

It is no shock that the Roku four is a strong set-prime field — Roku has been making them for some time now, in any case. It is also not shocking that the brand new Roku’s search is sensible, that the interface is quick and fluid or that there is a bountiful choice of apps. Actually, there is not a lot that is really shocking, or revolutionary, concerning the Roku four ($one hundred thirty). It is a strong, if considerably unexciting improve, particularly after the Roku three from earlier this yr, which introduced voice search into the combination. Identical to the brand new Hearth TV, Roku is betting that the addition of 4K extremely-excessive-definition video (UHD) is thrilling sufficient by itself. And, whereas it is definitely noteworthy, it is also one thing that may solely attraction to only a handful of shoppers. Principally, should you’re joyful together with your Roku three, or another equal set-prime field, you will not have to rush out and seize this one. Though once you do lastly go 4K, it is a worthy selection.

86
Roku

four

Execs

  • Quick and straightforward to make use of
  • Strong number of 4K content material
  • Vast number of apps

Cons

  • Software program is starting to really feel dated
  • Does not help HDR, making it out of date by subsequent yr

Abstract

The Roku four is strictly what we might anticipate from Roku: a strong media field that performs properly with a number of video providers. However its solely actual profit over the current Roku three is 4K help.

Hardware

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

Whereas Roku’s previous couple of units seemed like excessive-tech hockey pucks, the Roku four is flatter and considerably wider. Nonetheless, the identical primary design parts are there: black plastic, a unusual Roku material tag (truthfully, I am stunned extra tech corporations have not copied this) and an enormous “four” emblem up prime. I used to be fairly stunned once I first opened the Roku four — it isn’t simply vast; it is wider than most different streaming devices. Do not anticipate it to squeeze into the identical tiny nooks as previous Rokus. On the again, there’s an optical audio port, microSD slot and Ethernet jack, alongside the HDMI connector. One notably helpful addition is a button on the highest of the field that locates the distant — a easy, but ingenious function.

Talking of the distant, it is precisely the identical because the refreshed Roku three’s controller. It has gamepad-like directional arrows, a voice search button (extra on that later) and your typical video controls, in addition to buttons on the underside for Netflix, Amazon, Rdio and Sling. The latter are helpful for those who’re truly subscribing to these providers, however for many individuals no less than two of them will possible simply be a waste of area. And sure, Roku continues to be holding the headphone jack (and bundled earbuds) that is gained it so many followers.

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

Underneath the hood, the Roku four is powered by a more moderen quad-core processor. And, for the primary time, it additionally sports activities a tiny fan which you could truly hear whereas it is operating. It isn’t excessively loud, or something, however it’s noticeable once you’re up shut. You’ll be able to thank the additional hardware calls for of 4K video for that.

Software program

Roku OS 7 sits on the coronary heart of the Roku four, which brings extra superior search capabilities, in addition to a feed (and accompanying notifications) to the house display. There’s additionally a brand new function that allows you to hook up with WiFi networks that require further login info, like inns and dorm rooms, by way of your pc, smartphone or pill. And if you have not seemed on the Roku OS recently, it additionally permits you to comply with movies and actors, which sends info on to your feed. That is yet one more function that was added earlier this yr.

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

Once more, when you’ve seen Roku’s choices earlier than, OS 7 is not going to shock you. There’s the identical blue-and-black palette, a ho-hum record-type interface and much and plenty of menus. It is practical, however Roku’s design sensibility clearly wants some upgrading, particularly when Apple and Amazon are stepping it up for their very own units. And contemplating that Samsung and LG have additionally managed to design some luscious TV interfaces, Roku principally has no excuse for being uninteresting.

To coincide with the launch of the Roku four and OS 7, the corporate additionally refreshed its cellular app with a extra trendy design. The app does every little thing it did earlier than — you possibly can seek for content material, management your Roku and store the channel retailer — however it additionally provides the power to view your feed and create 4K screensavers from your personal pictures. Ultimately, you will additionally be capable of add films, actors and administrators to your feed when away from house. The most important advantage of the app: It not seems prefer it was made by an intern years in the past. I am hoping a few of the design upgrades sometime make their means over to Roku’s set-prime OS as nicely.

In use

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

Establishing the Roku four was a breeze, particularly since all of my present apps carried over as quickly as I logged into my Roku account. It might simply be my creativeness, however navigating round its interface feels barely quicker than the primary-gen Roku three in my bed room, though it is definitely not a large enough distinction to improve.

Voice search can also be fairly helpful: Hit the search button on the distant; say a title or actor’s identify; and Roku delivers outcomes. If a specific movie or present is on a number of providers, it’s going to truly randomize the order of outcomes so it does not look like enjoying favorites. I additionally appreciated the power to comply with particular actors and titles, because it made discovering once they have been added to new providers considerably simpler.

Whereas the search was usually quick and correct, there have been undoubtedly situations the place it would not find issues I knew have been streaming on Netflix. And as with most voice search choices, you’ll be able to overlook about making an attempt to dictate bizarre or complicated film names. The Roku four could not even make sense of Darren Aronofsky’s Pi. Nonetheless, voice search beats poking round all the streaming titles by hand. I simply hope that Roku continues to refine it.

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

Streaming 1080p video on the Roku four did not really feel far more totally different in comparison with its predecessor. At this level although, dealing with that type of content material is just about a cakewalk. In relation to greater-decision UHD streams, then again, the Roku four takes a number of seconds to load up a video on my 802.11ac community. Skipping forward additionally required a number of seconds of buffering — keep in mind, 4K information are actually massive! I observed barely higher video high quality on a number of 4K screens, however to be trustworthy, you will not actually see the advantages of 4K until you will have a really giant TV, and/or sit means too shut.

Roku additionally went the additional mile and made extremely-excessive-definition content material fairly straightforward to seek out. There is a choice of apps with 4K content material, together with Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video, proper off of the channel retailer. And there is additionally a highlight channel for 4K content material, which exhibits the newest movies and TV obtainable within the greater-decision format from a number of suppliers. The Roku four may even deal with your personal private library of UHD video, both by way of the Roku Media Participant app or Plex.

General, the Roku four builds on the corporate’s streaming prowess in all the proper methods. It presents probably the most complete number of 4K streaming content material on the market, and it is organized properly sufficient that even mainstream shoppers should not have any hassle discovering issues to observe within the newer format. The large draw back, sadly, is that it does not help HDR (excessive-dynamic vary) video but, since that normal hasn’t been absolutely finalized. Amazon is already hyping up HDR, as a result of it presents visible modifications you possibly can truly see, like higher distinction and shadows, in comparison with the delicate sharpness bump of 4K.

The competitors

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

On the subject of UHD, the Roku four’s foremost competitor is Amazon’s new 4K Hearth TV. Amazon has the worth benefit, as its participant is $one hundred, in comparison with the Roku four at $one hundred thirty. Roku nonetheless has a a lot wider number of apps, and it is also much more unbiased with regards to search outcomes. The Hearth TV will all the time be a not-so-delicate Computer virus for Amazon’s content material library. Should you’ve received a UHD TV, there’s additionally a superb probability you’ve got already received entry to Netflix 4K content material and rental providers.

In case you do not plan on getting a 4K set anytime quickly, then it is also value contemplating the new Apple TV, which additionally has a reasonably respectable voice search providing and integrates higher with iOS units. Apple is simply starting to construct up an app retailer, however the choices there proper now are on the entire higher designed than Roku’s apps. The Apple TV is costlier although, at $149, and it does not help 4K content material but. There’s additionally the revamped Roku three ($one hundred) from earlier this yr to think about, which additionally maxes out at 1080p, however consists of voice search and all the upgrades from Roku OS 7.

Wrap-up

Roku 4 review: 4K is nice, but otherwise it's not a huge upgrade

The Roku four is strictly what we might anticipate from the corporate: a strong media field that performs properly with a number of video providers. However it’s actually solely a worthwhile improve when you’re going all-in with 4K. Should you’re comfortable together with your present 1080p TV set and media field, then sit tight. You may argue that it is value snapping up the Roku four to future-proof your setup, however by subsequent yr, newer requirements like HDR will get ironed out and supported throughout all 4K units and TV units.