Is it time for a new Roku? I’ve been a Roku user since the Roku XD but before trying out the Roku Premier my primary Roku was the Roku 2, a third gen product that rolled out after Roku started number based naming. This gave me a good starting point for where they’ve gone with this souped up version.
Roku is rolling out a new version of its mobile app that more closely mirrors its physical controller. The app, which will be available for IOS and Android, looks like a digital version of the physical controller sold with all Roku products. Like the previous version of the app, the new one will allow users to access features like voice control, keyboard, launch channels through the app and play their own media. Other features include the ability to browse suggested TV shows and movies directly through the app.
The Roku mobile app has always been a popular way for users to add features to even the most basic Roku products. Many models do not feature the private listening option or voice search options. Plus sometimes it is just so handy when you can’t find the actual remote.
One unadvertised benefits of the app is actually that it does not require line of site. This is very helpful for users who wish to keep a Roku unit out of view. While some Roku models will work perfectly behind a television others require users to be able to point the remote at the unit. But because the mobile app uses a wifi connection to communicate with the Roku this is not an issue.
Las Vegas, Nevada (CES). – Jan. 3, 2017 – Roku can count their branded TV’s a success. The branded TVs which launched to great fanfare two years ago pushes Roku Powered Smart TV’s (which integrate the Roku platform directly into a TV) as an easy option for those looking for a plethora of apps without adding boxes and dongles. Just like with their set top boxes part of the success comes from volume. As of Dec. 2016, there were 100 Roku TV models available in the North American market including in Mexico. Roku TVs accounted for 13 percent of all U.S. smart TV sales translating into one out of eight smart TV purchases in the U.S. HD and 4K Roku TV models come from manufactures including Hisense, Hitachi, Insignia, Sharp and TCL.
I’ve been using Roku products and watching the streaming world march towards 4k and HDR for years so when I heard that the 4th generation models were coming out I half expected to see the Roku 1 done away with and the budget minded entry level Roku be limited to the Stick, but I was pleased to see the Roku Express models coming out as not only a budget minded Roku, but even dropping the price point below the $50 mark into the $30 territory. So getting my hands on an Express and Express+ model I decided to do a side by side comparison to see if there was any significant difference between the two budget models, which of course there wasn’t.
What’s the difference Between the Express and Express+ Both models are exactly the same in every detail save one. With the Express+ you have the ability to connect to the TV using RCA inputs (the red white and yellow cables) which you can do on the 4×3 square T.V.’s of the past, plus you can set your display to be at 480 (DVD quality) even in the HDMI mode. Although it costs you about $5 to have that feature, it’s well worth it in my opinion which I’ll explain later.
Power Options Both Can be powered by USB Having the ability to get power using the USB port is a home run in my opinion due to the device shutting down when the TV is off as well as cable management. Users also have the option to plug in the power via an outlet adapter.
Mounting Equipment included
The Express and + can be mounted on your TV, much like a Nintendo Wii bar with Sticky tape.
Although I’ve not used the sticky tape, as a rule I have never had good luck with those so don’t really care for it much but if it does work for you it would mean mounting the little device someplace where it can get the IR signal. Unlike some other Roku models, these two require line of site with your remote. If you would prefer mounting it to the back of the TV you can. But you will need to use the mobile app in place of the remote (again because of the line of site issue).
Private listening through the mobile App
Speaking of the phone app, one new feature with all 4th generation Roku’s is the ability to have the TV audio be played on your Roku Phone App in much the same way as the often sited Roku 3 headphone jack for the remote control. Two of my more commonly used Roku channels is iHeart and TuneIn Radio which allows me to listen to the audio, on my phone through my hearing aids, even while not watching TV. Plus with the ability to send the TV audio directly to my hearing aids I have the option to cut out all background noise except what’s coming through the phone….
SCORE!!!! The mobile app will support normal headphones also.
Why get a Roku Express instead of a Roku 1
You may be able to find a Roku 1 on sale somewhere on via ebay etc. But the reason I would say to look at the Express or Express + is that there are some big upgrades from the Roku 1.
One big time improvement is that its Netflix channel allows for multiple Netflix user profiles. This was missing from the Netflix on Roku 1.
Performance differences. Using the Express models on Pluto TV and Sling TV is much better on the Express models than it is with the older Roku 1. When I played with Pluto TV on a Roku 1 and it was pretty obvious that it was pushing the limits of the device. The Roku 1 had long load times, longer times to flip through the available channels and with a very similar set up on services like Sling it was beginning to become obvious that the single core CPU was being pushed to its limits. Other services, ABC and the other Roku channel providers, as well as the typical basic free channels it still worked fine, but if you limited yourself to the Roku 1 you would never be fully happy.
Other similar devices in the Roku Family
I’ve not had the occasional freezing and locking up that I experienced with the Roku (purple) stick. In every way it is a superior product to the one that it’s replacing.
Why have two models? Think of it this way. When you buy a car you should always invest some money into putting jumper cables in the back because it’s always better to have it and not need it then it is to need it and not
have it. I view the Express+ in the same way. I realize that the majority of TV’s out there are HD and have HDMI abilities, but I still see older square TV sets at people’s homes all the time, so to me it makes sense to continue to have the abilities to use Roku on them when you can because I foresee those TV’s to be available for the distant future. Roku should be commended for offering such an option in the face of competitors who don’t. Plus, and I don’t think enough individuals see the benefit of this, when you can set up your Roku to be at 480 instead of 720 or 1080, in a few cases you can actually improve the quality of the picture by getting rid of the pixilation that you occasionally encounter, especially when dealing with the common denominator of low download speeds you may encounter with some internet providers.
Recommendation I will always get or push the Express+ because of the ability to connect to the TV with RCA cables. For me it’s better to have it and not need it then it is to need it and not have it. If you think you will never ever have the need or desire to connect with RCA cables, save yourself the $5 and get the Express model, but I do think that it’s highly unlikely for the foreseeable future. If I’m giving it as a gift I’m going to make the assumption that they will become addicted to the Roku and at some point in time they will decide to upgrade to one of the more capable and popular Premier and Ultra models so this may end up getting delegated an older TV.
Conclusion Although I experienced some slight sluggishness with it compared to the more advanced models, compared to the Roku 1 it is crisp and responsive making it potentially the best introductory and budget minded streaming device on the market. I’ll be handing out Roku Express+ as gifts to many individuals in the future because it’s under $40 price tag makes it too appealing NOT to do it and I encourage others who are in love with what it has to offer to do the same, provided of course that Roku keeps its standards high.
See The Roku Express+ video from our fearless leader The Streaming Advisor
The Roku Ultra finally got it’s OS update and with it came the ability to screen mirror on the Roku ultra. I am not sure why this was not a function from the start. But it is active now and works well. Take a look at our simple tutorial video on how to do this here.
The Roku Express+ is a dynamite little (and we emphasize little) media player aimed at beginners in the streaming world and more specifically Walmart shoppers. The device sports all of Roku’s hallmarks including the multi-channel content search, thousands of available streaming channel options, an organized and categorized channel store, simple vertical interface and even more, a system that does not favor one content provider over the other which differentiates it from all of its other competitors Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV. and the Android TV platform which all push content from their own properties. Continue to see our Roku Express+ Full Review bellow.
Boasting nearly a full week of superhero programming Starting Monday with Supergirl and finishing with the time travelling Legends of Tomorrow, The CW App, which is a free ad-supported outlet to the network’s broadcast network, has quickly risen the ranks on Roku’s Movies & TV Section. Where a Roku channel sits in its respective section is a major indicator of an offerings popularity and is based on factors like user ratings and rate of subscriptions. For instance, looking at the top of the TV and Movies section the very first app on the top left corner is predictably Netflix with 1,479,197 ratings next in line is Hulu at 284,645 and behind it Amazon Video with 291,503.
More Roku Numerology
The top 3 are followed by Sling Television, TWC and HBO Go. In just a few months the CW channel has 4,562 ratings and has a 4 1/2 star average user rating. By this estimation based on its place in the lineup, CW may currently be in the top 10-13 or at least trending in popularity. For some perspective, the channel is one out of 666 in Movies and TV. (Roku might want to approve another TV channel soon…just saying) It’s digital spinoff, CW Seed it should be noted is in slot 58. As a comparison, the bottom 3 selection are “War Movies”, with 4 ratings and 11 film selections, du View, a TV everywhere app based out of the United Arab Emirates and Victory Westerns on demand, a channel with a monthly charge of $2.99 that specializes in films from the 1930s 40s and 50s according to Roku Guide. So you can see how placement can be a judge of popularity. Furthermore, CW is listed in Roku’s most popular section along with other you might expect including again Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video along with 24 other household names like Pandora, Watch ESPN and PBS. It should be noted that there is a healthy mix of TV everywhere channels and free offerings.
Where does it rank on Fire TV and Apple TV
At this point we do not know a similar way to track an app’s popularity on Apple TV or Fire TV, but if it shows this kind of popularity on Roku’s platform it is at least a safe bet that the programming is popular on others too. This should come as no surprise at all. CW is the first network to offer all of its top shows via an online app that does not require a monthly fee like say CBS All Access (CBS owns CW), Hulu, which is home to many network favorites or the numerous Network TV apps like ABC, NBC and Fox Now. The last three mentioned do not require a monthly fee but the majority of the programming on the channels is only accessible for those who have a cable login from a participating provider.
When will other networks get with the program?
We have expressed hope that if the CW app were to be successful, that ABC, NBC and Fox may one day eschew the TV everywhere model or at least provide a free version of their TV apps. We may be aways from this happening, if ever, but streaming is still a baby when it comes to the legacy TV space. Till then its up, up and away for the CW as fans count down to the heavily promoted crossover between Arrow, Supergirl, Flash and Legends of Tomorow.
As the Streaming Advisor, I try my best to help a lot of people through videos on our YouTube channel, articles and even in person in the Raleigh area. But nothing gives me more satisfaction than when I can use my skills and knowledge to help those closest to me. I had such a situation emerge Tuesday visiting with my father. He lives in an apartment complex that folds cable from Time Warner Cable into the rent.
When his cable service was set up he was given a modem but no actual cable set-top box. Instead, his television was wired straight into the wall with a coax cable. I don’t know if that was an oversite or not. I recently found out that he was relying purely on streaming with a Roku 4 for all of his TV watching needs because for some reason his TV was only receiving 3 cable channels. Rescanning channels did not fix the problem. One of the only channels he could get was MSNBC. To some of your that would be a cruel joke I’m sure. The good news is he has full access to his cable lineup now thanks to a very rarely discussed app on the Roku. The TWC App.
In what can only be described as a Halloween gift Roku has rolled out and FilmOn channel for Roku in the streaming channels store. The channel FOTV mirrors what was found on the private FilmOn channe. The private channel stopped working very recently, apparently this was because the channel was being added to the official streaming channel store.
The new channel is ad supported and gives users access to both live in on-demand content . Each category in the live TV section (43 total) is broken up into an easy to navigate grid system this often includes both the title of each channel and a description of the content available on each of them. There are 16 on-demand channels which include categories like shorts, documentary, music and comedy. Each section is laid out like many traditional Roku channels featuring cover art on a carousel styled selector.
“The FOTV Channel brings a rich library of on-demand and live content to Roku users,” said Alki David, Founder and CEO of FOTV Media Networks Inc. “By partnering with Roku, we’re able to extend the potential reach of our ad supported programming, which includes hundreds of channels across sports, news, movies, and music, as well as our patented hologram content to millions of Roku devices.”
The channel also includes the ability of film on subscribers to sign in and access more content. This can be found by pressing the start button on the Roku remote which will also bring up a search menu.
The FOTV channel will be available on Roku streaming players, the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku TV models. The FOTV application is also available on iOS and Android devices, and is preloaded on every PC made by Lenovo. FilmOn.com Pay-TV subscribers can access additional live Pay TV channels from this app when they are logged into the channel on Roku.
The upcoming Roku Express could be an incredible value proposition for people looking to get into streaming or just looking to save some money on extra devices for travel or additional TVs.. By offering a $29.00 1080p streaming device with a remote and an HDMI cord included the device. Now unlike some of the companies more advanced models, the device is not a quad-core streamer. The new model is $20.00 less than the quad-core stick. For those looking to convert a non-HDTV into a smart TV, the Roku Express +the price is a little higher at $39.00. The plus of the device is that it includes a port for AV cables while the lesser priced model does not. For HD quality streaming though the Express almost can’t be beaten on price.
Compared to Chromecast and Fire TV Stick
I have long thought that despite how very handy the Chromecast is, the lack of a remote and the fact that users are limited to whatever apps are downloaded onto a mobile device as a major problem, mush less the lack of an actual launch screen or menu. So from a usability standpoint, the Express wins out big time. Amazon’s recently announced Fire TV Stick update for $40.00 features a quad-core processor, voice-enabled remote and Alexa should prove to be a more serious competitor. The Roku Express does not feature a voice remote, though the Roku smartphone app does allow for voice capability.
Only available at Walmart This is not a commercial for Walmart it is an acknowledgement. Walmart will be the exclusive home of the lowest cost device. Roku obviously has a very targeted campaign in mind for the bargain streamer. We have to wonder if consumers will see the price slashed as a black Friday deal. Imagine buying an HD quality streamer and HDMI cord for $10.00-$15.00.
The Streaming Advisor aims to teach and inform others about how to enjoy video content broadcast via the Internet through incisive stories and reviews that explore the new media marketplace and examine online media trends and how they effect consumers.
Online media includes familiar services like Netflix, Hulu, Crackle and other widely known sources along with small start up sites and companies like PlayOn. We keep tabs on Roku, Apple TV, Google TV and Android streaming so that all you have to do is keep tabs with us.