After looking at several older Roku streaming devices, I was turned off by overheating and fan noise issues. Upon hearing that these issues were eliminated, I decided to take another look at one of the newest Roku’s. The Roku Ultra which is currently selling for $109 at the Roku website, and $70.99 at Amazon, is the most expensive device in the Roku lineup.
Not only had previous problems been corrected, but the Roku with its quad-core processor is lightning-quick and had no other major issues.
Setup is extremely easy. Just plug in the Roku, connect to a HDTV with an HDMI cable, choose your internet access and put in your password, if necessary. Then follow the instructions to create a Roku account. If you subscribe to several services like Netflix and Hulu, adding your user name and passwords to those accounts may take longer than actually setting up the Roku. If you don’t subscribe to any streaming services, don’t dismay. The Roku has tons of free options for you.
The Hardware Build
This newest Roku is about smaller (just 4.9” x 4.9” x 0.85”) than the previous models, but it retains the black square block design and solid build.
The back of the Roku Ultra has a DC power port, Ethernet port and HDMI port. Under the HDMI port is a micro SD card port. This can be used to hold additional apps.
There is also an Optical Digital Audio Output. This is one of the few streaming devices that has an optical port which allows older televisions to hook up to the streaming device. This is also very useful if you have a newer 4K television, but run your audio through an older A/V receiver or soundbar that doesn’t yet support 4K HDR.
There is also a USB port conveniently located on the side of the device. The Roku Media Player app is set by default to open when you insert a USB drive. You are then presented with a clean interface that allows you to play audio and video files that you have stored on the USB drive. Amazingly, the Roku Ulta plays most audio and video files including AAC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV); MP3(.MP3, .MKV); WMA (.ASF, .WMA, .MKV), FLAC (.FLAC, .MKV), PCM (.WAV, .MKV, .MP4, .MOV), AC3/EAC3 (.MKV,.MP4. .MOV, .AC3), DTS (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV), ALAC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV, .M4A). Even FLAC hi-res files are supported. Full specs can be found at the Roku website.
Lost remote finder
A small button on the top of the Roku can be used to find a misplaced or lost remote. The remote emits a sound when you press that button. Press any key on the remote to let the Roku know that you have found the remote. There are five options for different remote-finding sounds in the Settings menu. If your TV is on when you press the remote finder, a dialog will also appear on the screen.
The Roku Interface
The Roku interface is well-thought out and easy to navigate. It revolves around the apps and even allows you to move the apps around for your convenience.
The Roku website has plenty of information on the different apps and channels. The Roku Blog also has great information.
A Plethora of Content
Roku provides access to 500,000 movies & TV episodes from thousands of streaming channels. Even if your Smart TV supports streaming apps, Roku will have many more apps to choose from. It also offers many apps with free content. So if you are looking to really lower your cable bills, this Roku offers the best choices. Also the Roku is updated more frequently than your television so it often offers a better version of the same older app that you may find on your television.
This Roku has one of the best remote controls I’ve seen. It is small enough to easily fit in your hand, but it is also clearly marked. There are several favorite buttons as well as gaming buttons. A direct line of sight is not needed so you can point the remote in any direction. You can also connect the included headphones for private listening. My only dislike is that the voice search is initiated by pressing on the search button and I would prefer it to have a microphone image.
4K HDR Support
The Roku Ultra features 4K Ultra resolutions and produces an outstanding picture. Of course, your television must support 4K and HDR to get this outstanding picture.
The Ultra supports HDR10 but not the Dolby Vision HDR format. Although Dolby Vision produces a slightly better picture, this is not really a problem since HDR10 is more widely supported. See my HDR article for more information.
Often, one of the biggest problems in streaming 4K movies and TV shows is in finding the 4K content. The Roku Ultra not only displays 4K brilliantly, but it also helps you find the 4K content that you are looking for.
There is a “4K spotlight” app that shows you providers who support 4K and HDR. The app also features 4K and HDR television and movies across several providers. My only wish was that it would show right on the screen which provider had that content. As it is, you have to choose the movie or TV show, then switch to Amazon, Netflix, or whatever.
Image: 4K spotlight
Roku also has a mobile app for Apple and Android that allow you to use your phone or tablet as a remote. The mobile What’s On tab also features great collections of all types of movies and shows.
All-in-all, the Roku Ultra has more to offer than any other streaming device, allowing us to give it Hardware Secret’s highest rating.