The trend is to get rid of your cable connection now and go for streaming boxes, and one of the most popular of them is the Android TV. You can get top of the line stuff with the NVIDIA Shield Android TV, but Android may still be a step too far for some people, especially with the controversy over media piracy allegations on Kodi boxes that stream media content via third-party add-ons. If this is so for you, the best streaming box for you may be Roku.
Roku is one of the better streaming TV services available out there, and it has almost every streaming channel available – PlayStation Vue. Sling. Amazon. Google. Netflix. Chromecast. YouTube. The only major provider missing is Apple. Also, DirecTV is listed as coming eventually on Roku. There is so much content to stream on the Roku that you will feel that you have barely scratched the surface even after years of sitting on your couch in front of the Roku.
Roku is available on sticks as well the Roku ultra, although the Ultra costs almost three times the sticks. If you want a test of it and see where it goes, sticks may work for you. However, the Roku Ultra is made for the future and with the higher price tag comes things such as 4K resolution and HDR and USB media and a superior remote control with voice control and audio jack for private listening. There are almost 3500 channels to offer on the Ultra, and you would need to connect your PC to the TV to find as much as content as you would find here.
The Ultra box is rather small device 4.9 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches, with better cooling technology in place than Roku 4. In fact, the media player is fan-less and does not sound like a jet engine warming up around your television. Besides the power and HDMI ports, you will find an Ethernet port, a USB and micro-SD card slot too. The built-in media player can play almost any file type in your library with high-resolution audio to go. There is no HDMI cable though, and this is disappointing considering cheaper models have had them before.
As to the interface itself, the home screen shows all channels front and center, with the apps you have downloaded displayed too and gives you the option of prioritising your favorites, something that you won’t find on say Fire TV or Shield TV. You can use the remote to get in and out of apps easily. The interface has been this way for quite some time, and it hardly needs changing as the simplicity goes a long way in the accessibility.
The Roku Ultra lets you voice search for movies and TV shows, and it is pretty accurate as voice searches go. You can speak the name of the actor, movie, director, app or any keyword you think pertinent to the remote control or to the mobile app, and although it takes two to three seconds, it comes up with a list of probables of what you are looking for.
Finally, there is the remote that comes with the Roku ultra that has gotten more streamlined than its predecessors did. It has a matte finish and a much thinner and sleeker profile but it is not as thin as that for Roku Stick or Express because it has the audio jack for private listening and mic for voice search, but given these features it seems like a fair tradeoff.
With its quad-core processor, support for HDR and Dolby audio and a full 4K output, the performance on the Roku Ultra is great and jumping from app to app or opening apps takes almost no time.