Media streamer review: Roku 4

The Roku 4 is the media streamer to get if all you want to do is to watch TV and movies.

Unlike the Apple TV or Nvidia Shield, the Roku 4 is not for gaming, even for casual titles. Unless, that is, you fancy playing Tetris, Snake and puzzle games on your TV.

Another caveat: the Roku 4 is about as good as a paperweight if you do not subscribe to a VPN service. Most of the apps available for the Roku are geographically locked to the US and a VPN is required to get the most out of it.

That said, with a VPN, the Roku is probably the most mature media streamer in this round-up with more TV-optimised apps than any of its competitors. This is probably because the Roku platform has been around longer than its rivals.

However, the downside is that the Roku's menu-heavy user interface is not as sleek as Apple's TV OS or Google's Android TV. In fact, the Roku's companion mobile app (available for iOS, Android and Windows 8 phones) looks more modern. The app is also very handy for entering text using its virtual keyboard.

Setting up the Roku starts by linking the device to a Web page. This lets you continue the set-up process via a browser, which is extremely helpful because entering user names, passwords and payment details is horrible using a TV remote.

The remote itself has dedicated buttons for popular apps such as Amazon and Netflix. And if you happen to misplace it, you can easily locate the remote by pressing a button on the Roku media streamer that makes the remote emit a loud sound.

A microphone on the remote picks up your voice for the Roku's voice search feature. This search returns results from multiple services. But the cool thing is that you can look for your favourite actors and follow them, making it easier to know when their next movie is available on these services. But the Roku seems less accurate in recognising my voice searches, compared to Android TV.

The major selling point of the Roku 4 is its support for 4K content. In fact, this is the major difference between the Roku 4 and the previous model.

Like the Nvidia Shield, the Roku can support 4K video streaming for Netflix. Roku has also made it convenient for users by listing 4K content from multiple service providers in a dedicated 4K channel. The media streamer can also play 4K content from a connected USB device or microSD card.

Roku does not state the amount of internal storage in the device, though online reports have pegged it at a miserly 256MB. Thankfully, you can add more storage via the microSD card slot (up to 128GB).

Like the Nvidia Shield, the Roku 4 is not available in Singapore, so you probably have to buy it online.

• Roku 3 owners will have few reasons to upgrade. But the Roku remains one of the best media streamers you can buy because of its huge library of streaming services.

PRICE: US$130 (S$186)
INTERFACES: Ethernet, USB 2.0, HDMI 2.0, microSD slot,optical audio output
WIRELESS: Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2, Bluetooth 4.1
WEIGHT: 408g



This article was first published on Jan 27, 2016.
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