Roku 3: Revenge of Set-Top TV

Roku 3 with Headphones

The Roku 3 box is now available. It’s better, faster and has more features than previous models of the device. Will these new features make it more enjoyable for users? We’ll soon see once initial sales figures are available. Should you rush out and buy one? That’s up to you. I’ll tell you what’s new and what’s not and let you make up your own mind about that.

What Is the Roku 3?

In a previous piece I described the original Roku as an excellent small form-factor video streaming projector. Unlike other streaming services, Roku and Roku 3 use your wireless Internet connection (you can also connect it directly to the router via Ethernet cable if you want) to download video from the site’s servers and then displays them by projecting them onto a wall or screen (you provide the wall or screen).

This is handy because you can increase or decrease the size of the displayed video to take advantage of the design of your room and the size of the audience. It’s also cool because you can take it with you from room to room, or even house to house, and you don’t have to have a TV or computer in the same room. It seems that flexibility was a watchword, as they brought these products to market.

Watch Movies As Loud As You Want

Here’s where the new Roku 3 really shines, in my book. I like to watch my movies and feel as if I’m at the movie theater, without the theater price. This means that not only do I like the largest picture and highest resolution possible (This version is capable of full 1080p video resolution), I also like the movie audio to rock my world.

The problem is, I don’t live alone, and I doubt you live alone, either. So, Roku gave the new remote (it’s the same size as its two predecessors), a headphone jack, and, even better, they include a set of the ├╝ber- comfortable in-ear earbuds, allowing you to crank up the sound as loud as you want and not worry about anyone else that might be sleeping or trying to study. Even better, the Roku remote does double-duty as a game controller, which is helpful, because when you don’t want to watch a movie, you can always play the included “Angry Birds Space.”

Many Technological Improvements Under the Hood

Although this model is basically the same size as the older models, Roku made this one quite a bit better. Based upon the published specifications and information that’s been released about it to date, it is faster and has an enhanced user interface.

Roku 3The user interface is what you use to navigate the menus required to browse and select what you want to watch, as well as the various settings menus. Previous incarnations of the user interface gave you a confusing up and down and left to right schema for navigating the menus. This quite often resulted in people having to navigate a number of channel information screens to decide on whether or not to install them.

Now Roku 3 users can navigate through menu screens that are more intuitive, making it easier to find what you want, with channel information much easier to locate. They’ve also created an enhanced grid showing your installed channels. This grid is set out in a three-by-three arrangement of nine tiles. When you highlight a particular tile in the grid, information specific to that channel or app is displayed to the right of the grid.

Other interface improvements include the ability to set a number of channels as favorites. Now you don’t have to scroll through all your installed apps and channels to find your favorite two or three. Additionally, they’ve included a universal search feature that lets you easily find your favorite premium content. This search feature works across multiple installed apps, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Videos, as well as services such as Vudu.

What Else Does It Let You Do?

You can also watch your Time Warner Cable programming content using the new Roku set-top streaming projector box. Roku is working on apps for the other major providers, but nothing definite has been said about that yet.

This version of Roku has over 750 different channels of programming that you can choose from, so everyone from the youngest to the oldest will be able to easily find programming that will entertain them.

The Roku 3 retails at Amazon and the Roku website for $99. Not too bad considering the amount of entertainment this little box can deliver.

I know it sounds pretty cheesy, but this little Roku 3 box lets you watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it. The company’s tagline for this version is “Night owls rejoice.” I’d have to agree.