Roku 3: Far cheaper than a smart TV, and better: Nowak

A good gadget for Black Friday


Continuing along with this week’s Black Friday gadget special, today we look at the king of media streaming devices: the Roku 3. Yes, the Apple TV is arguably better for people who are deeply hooked into Apple’s various gadgets, but Roku’s flagship product is the best alternative for those who aren’t, or for those who are looking for a broader experience.

The Roku 3 beams a wide assortment of Internet channels to your TV, from the quintessential – like MLB.TV and Netflix, which is the company that ultimately spun off Roku – to the obscure, such as Kids Recipes and Autism Live. All told, about 500 channels are available in Canada.

While smart TVs are quickly duplicating many of the same features that media streaming devices such as Roku deliver, the specialized gadgets still hold a few advantages. For one, Roku has tons more channels, with the only notable one lacking being YouTube. The other bonus is that the devices are quite inexpensive: in Canada the Roku 3 goes for $109, the Roku 2 for $89 and the Roku 1 for $69.

The Roku 3 has a few advantages over its cheaper cousins. For one, it has a faster processor and an ethernet port, microUSB card slot and USB port. If the box’s channels don’t have your entertainment options covered, you can easily copy video onto a USB stick and plug it in, with a number of channels/apps such as Plex also helping with streaming from a computer. It also has a motion-sensing remote control so you can play Wii-like games such as Angry Birds on your TV.

Most importantly, the Roku 3 (as well as the Roku 2) has an earphone jack in its remote control, which is handy for listening to stuff loudly without waking up the whole house.

Roku’s entire lineup, including its older boxes, is benefiting from a new interface. Rather than the single horizontal line of channels found in the previous interface, the look is now grid-like, with much more information on-screen at once. You can see a bunch of channels at once now, but the overall look is still nice and simple. It’s a huge step up that’s much more pleasant – and faster – to use.

At $69, the Roku 1 is amazingly cheap – almost in Google Chromecast territory (it’s still not available in Canada) – but the Roku 3 really isn’t all that expensive in comparison. At $109, it’s still a low price to pay to turn any TV into a smart TV.