With cord cutting on the rise, cable subscriptions being cut, and 4K televisions becoming cheaper and cheaper, you’d think that it’s the perfect storm for the Roku 4. But even with the changing television landscape, is it worth adding one to your Christmas list to go along with the new 4K TV Black Friday deal you scored this morning?
If you don’t have the Roku 3 already, our short answer is yes — the Roku 4 is a great little box. However, if you already own the Roku 3, it’s probably not worth the upgrade price. The new physical design of the device takes a more pancake-like approach than its predecessor, with a matte black top, rubberized bottom and shiny black sides. On the top of the device, you’ll find one of the new Roku 4 features, a button that allows you to ping your remote loudly so that you can find it when lost. If you’re like me, it’s an important feature to have (I have two young kids that like to run off with the remotes and play swords with them).
When using the new device after using the Roku 3, you’ll immediately notice a speed boost. That’s mostly thanks to the device’s quad-core processor and sleek interface. Of course, it also helps that it uses the best 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi for an optimal wireless signal, so that your device is always using the best wireless available. Where my Roku 3 doesn’t pick up my 5ghz WiFi, the Roku 4 does.
The Roku 4 delivers stunning 4K video, with the promise of being able to deliver the highest quality video streams available today. The remote has seen an upgrade, with dedicated buttons for the most-used applications (like Netflix, Sling, and Amazon Video). And after you’ve just purchased a brand new 4K TV, it’s likely that you’ll have an overwhelming urge to tinker with it and find other products to enhance your 4K viewing potential. The Roku 4 is a great choice for doing just that.
However, the biggest issue with buying a Roku 4 is that most 4K TVs already have similar 4K apps built right in; it’s rare that you’ll find a brand new 4K TV that doesn’t already have a dedicated Netflix app. But the biggest difference is the Roku 4’s ability to search all of the programs with just your voice. And, it generally works pretty well. Searching for Agents of SHIELD let’s you know that you can watch it on the ABC app, the first two seasons are available on Netflix, and you can buy episodes on Amazon Video. You can also set your Roku to alert you when new episodes of your favorite shows are added. Cool. In fact, you won’t find a better streaming platform than the Roku, as it has a comprehensive search that allows you to sort results by price, and the interface doesn’t favor any service over another (or try to sell you other similar products like the Fire TV does).
There’s also not a lot of 4K content readily available just yet, although the new Roku makes it easier to find what actually IS available. We can’t blame Roku for that, and we won’t, but it’s something that needs to be considered. The 4K content that is available on the platform plays beautifully, without any hiccups.
Although it’s a quality device with a solid build, and it’s slightly faster and better in every way than the Roku 3, the newest iteration of the device isn’t a necessary upgrade at $129; you’re better off buying the much cheaper Roku 3 for now.