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Roku 4: Voice Search, 4K HDTV, and More


If you are new to steaming TV, you may want to check out what a Roku box is. Then, come back and check out my review of the Roku 4.

Readers of this site know  I recommend different streaming devices based on a persons preference. If you are heavily invested in the Apple Eco-System, you should get an Apple TV. If you love Amazon Prime or like to experiment with streaming technology, go with the Fire TV. Everyone else on the planet should get a Roku.

Any of these devices will provide are suitable for watching TV without cable. However, Roku has just released their Roku 4 streaming device, just in time for the holidays. Let’s see if there is finally one streamer to rule them all.

What’s New with Roku 4

Roku has put a lot of effort into setting the Roku 4 apart from the previous three Roku iterations. It supports 4K video, looks completely different from the Roku 3, and has had a hardware and operating system overhaul.

Roku 4’s New Look

The Roku 4 looks vastly different from its predecessors.  Its official dimensions are 8.2 inches wide, by 8.2 inches long. While its thinner (only 2.7 inches high), it leaves a footprint 2-3 times larger than the Roku 3.

Other than the size, it has all the other trappings of past Roku streamers. It has a flat textured top with glossy rounded corners. It’s black, so it will fit the décor of most things found in an entertainment center.

New Roku 4 Hardware

Roku has outfitted the Roku 4 with a new quad-core processor and has tripled its predecessor’s memory with 1.5GB of RAM. This adds noticeable zip when navigating the user interface.  It still only has 256 MB for app storage, but a Micro SD card slot allows for adding more storage if required.

Roku 4 also introduces support for 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi. If you have a router that supports 802.11ac, this will greatly improve the network speed, and potentially your streaming experience.

No More Lost Remotes

By far, my favorite hardware addition Roku has added is the remote finder button. Can’t find the remote? Simply push the remote finder button atop the Roku 4, and your remote will begin chiming to alert you to its presence.

Roku Software Improvements

Roku has also upgraded to Roku OS 7, along with  vastly improving cross platform search, voice search, and other software features.

Cross Platform Search

While previous iterations possessed this functionality, it always felt a bit limited. Now when you search for an actor or title, it searches about 20 apps and tells you which apps have the show available. Furthermore, Roku indicates whether you have free access to it through a subscription, or have to rent or purchase the program.

As of this post Roku cross platform search supports Acorn TV, Amazon Video, Blockbuster On Demand, CBS All Access, CinemaNow, Crackle, Fox Now, FX Now, HBO GO, Hulu, M-GO, Met Opera On Demand, Nat Geo TV, Netflix, Popcorn Flix, SnagFilms, STARZ PLAY, Time Warner Cable, Tubi TV, and VUDU.

Voice Search

The voice search functionality is top notch. While experimenting with the feature, Roku 4 was able to find well known movies and TV shows  about 90% of the time.

I found when issues occurred, it was due to the way the movie is titled as opposed to Roku understanding my voice. For example, I would say “The Avengers”, but the live action blockbuster could not be found. However, if I said “Marvel’s The Avengers”, Roku 4 knew exactly what I wanted.

Roku My Feed

Roku also has improved the functionality of “My Feed.”  Simply follow your favorite show and Roku will let you know when a new episode is available.  Say goodbye to constantly checking various apps to see if the new episode of your favorite TV show is now available.

The Roku App

The new mobile app is also vastly improved. Previously the Roku app was nothing more than a remote control on your mobile device.  Now all the power of the Roku operating system is available in the app.

   

You can search by voice or text, access “My Feed”, and install apps on your Roku 4 by using the new Roku app. If you aren’t a fan of the voice search or typing long search strings with the remote, the Roku app gives you access to a full keyboard.

Currently, your mobile device needs to be in proximity of the Roku 4 to access “My Feed.” However, Roku has indicated that they are looking to make the functionality available when you are away from home.

4K Support

If you already have a streaming device, the biggest reason to buy the Roku 4 is the 4K video support (also known as Ultra HD 4K). Where 1080p supports 1920 by 1080 pixels strewn across your TV, 4K video can display 3820 by 2160 pixels. That’s four times as many pixels!

However, that does not mean you should set your 70 inch 1080p HDTV on the curb for Saturday scavengers. 4K video is still in its infancy. For the foreseeable future, devices supporting 4K video will also support lower resolution video.

Enjoying 4K video on a Roku 4 requires both a TV and content  that supports 4K Ultra High definition. Furthermore, you need to make sure your 4K Ultra HD TV supports HDCP 2.2.

HDCP stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. It’s a copy prevention technology used on HDMI connections. HDCP 2.2 is quickly becoming the new standard. Don’t confuse this with HDMI 2.0.  Modern 4K devices should be HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.

It’s important to know this because if any device involved in getting 4K video to your TV is HDCP 2.2, then they all need to be. Otherwise, the picture will show in 1080p.  This includes Blu-ray, tuners, and DVRs that may be a part of your entertainment system.

To know if a device supports HDCP 2.2, you will typically need to check the manufactures websites. I’ve noticed that retailers aren’t even posting the HDCP specifications on the spec sheets displayed in stores.

A good rule is top-tier TVs made after February 2013 will most likely support HDCP 2.2.  Of course, it’s always better to check with the manufacturer to be sure, and always be wary of deals that seem a little too good.

Will You Need a New HDMI Cable?

Unfortunately, the Roku 4 does not include an HDMI cable. Don’t be fooled by marketing gimmicks, your old HDMI cables should work just fine on the 2.0 standard.

I hedge a little and say “should”, because it’s possible you previous cable wasn’t fully up to the high speed specification.  If you want more information, here is a great article explaining HDMI 2.0 and why you won’t need new 4K cables.

The Roku You Know

Roku 4 adds all these features and takes nothing away. All the function of the Roku 3 is available with the Roku 4. It still has on-board Ethernet for those wanting a wired network connection. The Micro SD storage expansion is right where it has always been. They even left the Optical Audio port for those with a home theater configuration.

Everything you loved about the Roku 3 is available to you with the Roku 4. With the exception of much better performance, the UI is what you’ve been accustomed to.

Roku 4 Setup

Installing the Roku 4 is no different then installing any other Roku.  First, connect the Roku 4 to your TV using an HDMI cable (not included). If you like, you can hook the Roku 4 to your network using an Ethernet  cable. Otherwise, you can connect to your WiFi network later in the setup.

Next, power the device the device. While you wait for the Roku logo to appear on your television, put the included double A batteries in the Roku Remote.

After the welcome screen, simply select a language and follow the onscreen instructions.  If you aren’t using Ethernet, Roku will walk you through connecting to your WiFi network.

I recommend using an 802.11ac wireless connection, especially if you plan on watching 4K video.  I go into detail on why in this post on affordable 802.11ac routers.

If you are interested in a more detailed walk through, Roku has a detailed Roku 4 Setup Instructions on their website.

Roku has  a wide array of over 1800 channels available.  They have popular services like Sling TV, but they also have fantastic niche services.  To get an idea of what I mean, check out my review of ConTV, which offers live stream of Comic Book Conventions, along with full length Anime, Sci-Fi, and Horror movies.

At the end of the setup, you will have the option to add any channels you like from the Roku store.  If you are not sure what to add, don’t worry.  You can always add more channels later. Below is a glimpse of the other channels Roku provides.

Movies and TV:  Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Sling TV, VUDU, M-GO, Disney, PBS, HBO GO, Crackle TV, PBS, Google Play Store and more

News:  CBS News, Fox News (very limited), Sky News, The Blaze, Weather Nation, and more

Sports: MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, NHL Game Center, NFL Now, WatchESPN, WWE Network, Dishworld Sports, UFC Online, and more

Internet: YouTube, Break, Vimeo and countless niche channels

Plex: Roku supports Plex Media Server with an official Plex channel. I recommend picking it up if you are interested in streaming your own media.  It’s easily the best way to view personal content on a Roku device.

Is Roku 4 Worth Buying?

Roku 4 is currently the best streaming device on the market. That said, it’s $129 making it almost $30 more to the Amazon Fire TV.  However, it’s cheaper than the new Apple TV, which doesn’t even support 4K video.

If you already own a streaming device, and don’t have a 4K television, then there is little reason to shell out $130 for the Roku 4. However, if you don’t have a streaming device, or need one that supports 4K video, then the Roku 4 is the one to buy.

That said, if you love Amazon Prime, or what to save $30, the Amazon Fire TV is a perfectly fine streaming device, that just gets edged out by the Roku 4.

If you enjoyed this review and want to purchase the Roku 4, please do so using this
link to Roku 4 on Amazon.com.  Purchases made through the link supports this site with no added cost to you, allowing me to write more reviews like this one.

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Categories: TV Streaming Devices
Dennis Restauro :Dennis is the founder of Grounded Reason. He also hosts the Grounded Reason Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: Follow Dennis on Twitter

View Comments (35)

  • Thanks for writing these reviews, it sure helps to have your expertise in sorting thru the myriad of choices out there!

  • Perfect. I have options and they are explained in the English language. I hate paying for channels the cable company thinks I want. I am over 60 years old I don't need more I just need fine tuning to my tastes. Why don't they get that? Greed maybe and I am not that important> Nice review and I thank u for helping and 60 year old guy>>>

    • You would need one for the systems you want to stream on. I'd recommend the Roku Streaming Stick is you want to save money.

  • I'm quite far behind the times in regards to information about T.V. and the options I have vs Cable T.V. Your reviews and articles have educated me a lot and I thank you for that.

  • The information you have provide has been great, but I am still a bit confused about whether I would need to purchase a roku for each room?

    • You need a Roku for each TV you want to watch streaming services on. I would get the Roku for the main TV, and then perhaps a less expensive Roku Stick for other TVs.

  • I'm totally confused .....
    I want certain channels that are not listed in your posts...how many of the devices do I need...for all of the channels that I want...mainly....like Bravo...MTV and MTV2, also I need Fox Sports1..NBCsn and OWN...I can't seem to find any of the CTC offers that you have listed.....if you can suggest to me it would be greatly appreciated...

    • Unfortunately Jamie, many of those channels are not available without a cable subscription login. If enough people drop cable though, they will eventually be forced to sell directly to their customers.

  • Dennis, like the rest of us who read your Knowledge based info. I'd like to thank you also. My question is a continuation of the 2 TV set mystery(to me at least :P). Will the 2nd tv be able to access different programming than the main Roku, since the 2nd tv has the 'stick'?

    On a another theme. Will a subscription be needed for most of the streaming Apps available? I know Netflix requires it.

    Thanks again

    • Hi Gary,

      Much of the content you can watch live or next day require a subscription or purchase. There is plenty of free TV entertainment out there if you don't mind waiting a bit from initial release. That said, Crackle is free and has quality original content. There are quite a few networks out there that deliver quality entertainment if you don't mind watching a couple of ads. Many are niche channels so it's hard to recommend for people, as everyones tastes are different. I'll try to work on updating my page that covers some free TV online.

      As for the stick, you don't even need a regular Roku. The stick covers all the major features of a Roku. They just have a little less under the hood. So to answer your main question, yes. You can watch different content on different TVs at the same time.

  • What a great job of explaining and clarifying all of this.
    Thank you Dennis, Dale.

  • Dennis, Thanks for the info. I have been considering Hulu and CBS All Access but I do not have a DVR. Do I have to purchase ROKU for them to work on my TV or is there another way. Thanks Mary

    • You can save some money by getting a Roku Streaming Stick. It will have the functionality you desire for less then half the price. The drawbacks are a slower processor and you have to use it over WiFi, which is fine. I just prefer a wired connection. It eliminates a lot of variables if you ever need to troubleshoot.

  • Hello,

    I currently have a smart 55" TV from 2012. I want to eliminate my cable service and dive into the streaming world. My question is, do I need the Roku 4 if I have a smart TV? Navigation is a bit tedious, will the Roku 4 improve this issue? Sports is the only thing preventing me from canceling cable cold turkey. Does the Roku support a library of live sporting events? Thanks in advance

  • Do you recommend buying a Roku TV if getting a new TV in lieu of getting Roku 4? what would be the downside? we basically just watch tv...not really into the high tech features.

    • Personally I like to separate the functions. That way I can upgrade my TV and my Roku separately. The Roku TV ties both together keeping you on one upgrade path.

  • Dennis, you said above:

    "CBS News, Fox News, Sky News, The Blaze, Weather Nation, and more"

    But Fox News is only available on VUE and SONY has blocked me (apparently permanently) with the 1014 location error although I have been here in this same location for more than 30 years, and did not move or try any other location!

    • Akela, there is a free Fox News app on Roku, but it's extremely limited. I've updated the article to note that. You should keep calling Sony support. The reason that error happens is because your IP addressed changed. They should be able to fix it.

  • I currently have the Roku3 with voice command on order for our main TV. If my husband and I don't get access to our in laws cable account and we decide to do SlingTV I see that they offer a Roku 2 for free or 1/2 off for another Roku 3. What is the difference between the 2 and 3? Also, we want to use the Sling account on our main TV with the Roku 3...but if we get a 2 for free from them, does the Sling acct have to be set up with that one (it will be on our other TV that we don't use very much when I want it on the main TV). Also, I see that you mention CBS, PBS & Disney. Are these free like Crackle, or do you have to pay a monthly fee for the subscriptions? I plan on getting CBS all access within the next year as The Good Wife has a spin off show coming out next spring that will only be on CBS all access.

    • CBS requires CBS All Access to use on the Roku. PBS offers a free app, but doesn't offer everything PBS has to offer. Disney's Roku App is for Cable subscribers. However, you can get Disney through Sling TV.

  • Dennis,

    I was wondering what your take on the Chromecast is? Can it support Hulu Plus & CBS all access (and possibly Sling)? I keep hearing some negative things about the Roku 2 and I know that is currently what Sling is offering for free. For our spare TV that is used just for the kids in the mornings on weekends, when my husband works out...and every once and awhile I am debating on if I should spend the money on another Roku 3 or do the chromcast. I see on here that Nick JR has free tv...and as I understand it that how the chromcast works is that everything you can pull up on a phone/tablet you can cast onto your screen. So even if we don't have a cable account to get Nick Jr...we can do the link you have on your website and cast it onto our TV. We are first trying to get our main TV set up how we want...and then will work on the other one for streaming. Just sick of cable.

    • Thanks Dennis! My Roku 3 shows up today to try out...and I need 1 more device for our other TV. So I ordered 2 of the new sticks and if we see that we don't need the voice feature we might send the Roku 3 back to Amazon and just use the 2 sticks on our 2 tv's. It sounds like according to the Roku website that the new stick has a faster processor like the roku 4. So if we don't need the voice feature of the 3, we could get 2 sticks for the same price as the Roku 3. Since I have my father in laws cable log in, how easy is it to access local channels on the Roku (CBS, PBS, TBS)? Or would it just be easier to get an antenna? I don't mind spending the extra money for a one time expense to get local stuff live if that is the only way to do it. It's nice to have some things live, but I am more of an on demand person myself.

      • The TV everywhere apps don't show live local. I personally think it's much easier to use an antenna. The picture is much better quality then cable as well.

    • That was my other thing. The only smart device we have is my husband's phone and our tablet. If he is gone the phone is with him, but we still have the tablet. I have not really looked into the stick too much. How is it different from the Roku 3 with voice? Sling use to offer a free stick, but now it is a Roku 2. If it is just a stick, what remote would one use to navigate...or does it come with its own remote? Do you recommend maybe 2 roku 3 units (one for each TV)? I was just wanting to try to go a little cheaper on our tv we don't use often since we are not sure if we are going to try Sling out yet or not. But they do have a pretty good deal and for half off a device, for just 3 months locked in doesn't sound like a bad deal to test it out.

    • Chromecast is a nice product, but I don't like having to be dependent on a smart device for it to work. Have you though about a streaming stick?

  • What is the best method other than cable to have access to Fox News and Fox Business?