Review: Updated: Roku 3

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Update: Want something a bit smaller than the Roku 3? Check out its little brother, the USB stick-sized Roku Streaming Stick that just recently saw a hardware refresh for 2016.

Changes include the addition of a quad-core processor and an 802.11n Wi-Fi antenna capable of streaming data at 600Mbps. The smaller version of the Stick is available now should you decide to choose that over a full-size streaming box.

Original review below…

The Roku 3 has officially made it to the two-year mark as one of the greatest set-top streaming boxes we have ever tested. Some things have changed over the years, but by and large the it’s the same kit we came to love 24 months ago.

As you might expect, the Roku 3 features a number of welcome refinements over the cheaper Roku 2 and entry-level 720p Roku LT.

It offers wired and wireless connectivity and a much faster dual-core Broadcom chipset. In short, it’s the best built Roku player seen to date, rivaling set-top mainstay Amazon Fire TV as the king of the proverbial castle.

It also offers a remote with a built-in search button and mic, not to mention the much-loved headphone jack for private listening when you need it.

This new player is still a glossy black puck, although with slightly less girth, at 90mm across. In situ, it looks like little a futuristic pebble sprouting cables.

The distinctive Roku fabric tab is still in evidence and there’s a tiny status LED which glows when the unit’s on.

Roku 3

While the Roku 3 has integrated dual-band Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n compatible), the wired Ethernet option is invariably the best choice when it comes to streaming. The unit sports an HDMI output and USB for local media playback.

Completing the I/O roster is a MicroSD storage expansion slot used to increase the capacity of the player (which is apparently limited to 512Mb). Cards might typically be used to store game apps or an overflow of Roku channels. Incidentally, there’s no power-off; the player stays online (consuming less than 3.5w) and updates itself automatically.

Roku 3

If you’re new to the platform, you’ll need to open an account before you can get anywhere. This allows easy debiting should you pay to view content but for general use you won’t be parting with any cash.

It’s a bit of a pain because it forces you to connect to the internet to update the firmware before you can even get into the menu. This means if you don’t have an active internet connection you will not be able to use the Roku 3 even for offline tasks.

It’s also a pain that you have to give your credit card details even if you don’t have any intention of spending money with them.

Existing Rokuites upgrading from second generation units can simply authorize the box online and add it to their inventory (apparently it’s not unusually for fans to employ multiple boxes), and the process takes but a few minutes.