The Roku 3 or the 4200X has launched, the latest Roku box in their line of popular media players. The smaller and sleeker Roku 3 is a direct replacement for the Roku 2 XS, one of our favorite streaming devices. I like the Roku because its comprehensive line-up of streaming services in 1080P and surround sound as well as its unified search. Consensus among on-line reviews is that the Roku 3 is a solid incremental upgrade over the Roku 2 XS.
The hardware is biggest change with the Roku 3. Its new processor, the dual-core A9, has five times the processing power of the Roku 2. Dan Rayburn from the Streaming Media blog gives some great background on it. In addition, Dan reports there’s also more on-board memory so the Roku can buffer more making less susceptible to network disruptions. Other hardware improvements include dual-band wireless and a headphone jack on the Roku remote. Roku even includes a set of purple ear buds. Unlike previous Roku models, the Roku 3 only supports HDMI. Walt Mossberg reports that AirPlay-like functionality called Miracast will come to the Roku 3 later this thanks to its upgraded hardware.
The Roku 3 is sporting a new user interface to help users navigate the hundreds of channels available. Better yet, the new interface is fast. A video demonstrating the new interface is below. The 3×3 grid is reminiscent of the interface on the Netgear streamers (which have a 5×3 grid). It appears the new UI also comes with several themes to chose from. According to Roku’s website, the new UI is coming to the Roku 2 line in May. It will be interesting to see how it performs on the Roku 2 hardware. As much as I like it, I hope it doesn’t throw my mother for a loop who uses her Roku LT to watch one channel!
Folks were hoping that the Roku 3 would launch with an official YouTube channel. Sorry but no signs of YouTube. No one seems to have firm information on this. Dan Rayburn speculates that the Roku 3′s new hardware will bring a YouTube channel soon as it can handle YouTube’s HTML interface. However, Cnet has the “impression” that we won’t see YouTube anytime soon due to non-technical issues.
In my current living room set up, the Roku 2 XS and the Apple TV 3 are my two go to streaming devices. Since my Roku 2 XS is wired with ethernet, dual band wireless doesn’t buy me anything. The headphone upgrade is cool but I can achieve it other ways in my set up (the headphone out on my Onkyo receiver). Given the new UI is coming to the Roku 2 that doesn’t leave much besides a snappier interface and the potential for future upgrades that take advantage of the new processor. To conclude, I’ll probably pass on the Roku 3 for now but I will recommend it to new Roku customers so they can future proof.