Roku 3 review: The best streaming box you can buy, period!
I don't mind telling you I have three Roku boxes in my house.
That's not me being boastful; it's me revealing how much I love
The new $99.99 Roku 3 takes the place of the Roku 2 XS as the
high-end model in the line, and it's without a doubt the company's
best box yet. But questions remain: Is it worth the extra cash, and
does it beat the Apple TV at its own media-streaming game?
For the uninitiated, a Roku box plugs into one of your TV's
HDMI ports, then serves up nearly every video and audio service
known to man: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Netflix,
Pandora, Slacker, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Vudu, and literally
hundreds of others.
An Apple TV does much the same thing, with two key advantages:
It lets you stream content (photos, music, games, etc.) straight
from your iPhone or iPad, and it has a YouTube channel--something
Roku continues to lack. (There is, thankfully, a third-party workaround
, but it requires some
However, Roku offers a lot
more channels (Apple TV
doesn't support Amazon, Vudu, or any music services to speak of),
and the Roku 3 has a few new features that push it ahead of the
First and foremost, a marriage-saver: the Roku 3's remote has
a headphone jack, thus allowing late-night TV watchers to listen
without disturbing their spouses. It even comes with a pair of
matching earbuds. Needless to say, this would also come in very
handy for folks who are hard of hearing: They can enjoy shows and
movies without running the TV speakers at full blast.
Because that remote operates via Bluetooth, it doesn't require
a direct line of sight to the box--meaning you can tuck the latter
behind your TV or into some other inconspicuous spot. Plus, it's a
motion-sensing remote that lets you play a handful of games on your
TV, most notably Angry Birds Space (which is included).
The Roku 3 also includes a faster processor than its
predecessors, meaning menus and services load more quickly. And a
new interface makes for much easier navigation, though it's worth
noting that Roku 2 boxes will get that same interface via a
software update due next month.
Another perk: dual-band Wi-Fi, which should translate to
faster, more reliable streaming over wireless networks. You can
also plug an Ethernet cable into the Roku 3; it's the only model to
offer that option.
The Roku 2 XS was already a great product, and the Roku 3 is
even better. Indeed, I'll go so far as to say it's the best media
streamer you can buy, and the headphone-friendly remote makes it
worth the extra few bucks over the next-in-line Roku 2 XD.
The Apple TV remains a good choice for those heavily invested
in the Apple ecosystem (iPhones, iPads, iTunes, etc.), but for
everyone else, nothing beats the Roku 3.Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC
World and Wired.