Roku upgrade guide: Should you buy a new box?

Out of all the companies making streaming TV devices today, Roku is the most prolific, having released more than two dozen streaming players and sticks over the last eight years.rokustreamingstick

With so many Roku players in the wild, the decision on when to upgrade can be daunting. I’m generally in favor of keeping what you have for as long as you can tolerate it; but if you’re curious what you’re missing by holding out on upgrading to a new Roku, here’s a rundown.

 Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100 and 2000), Roku HD-XR (N1101), Roku XD (2050), and Roku XDS (2100).

Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100 and 2000), Roku HD-XR (N1101), Roku XD (2050), and Roku XDS (2100).

rokuvoicesearch

Many older Roku models—including any that launched in 2012 or earlier—run an outdated version of Netflix that doesn’t support profiles. That means users can’t get individualized recommendations or access to “Kids” mode. Avid Netflix users might want to upgrade, if only to cut down on wasted time browsing through irrelevant content.

Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100, 2000, and 2500), Roku HD-XR (N1101), Roku XD (2050 and 3050), Roku XDS (2100), Roku LT (2400, 2450, 2700), Roku 2 HD (3000), Roku 2 XD (3050), Roku 2 XS (3100), Roku Streaming Stick MHL (3400, 3420), Roku 1 and SE (2710), and Roku 2 (2720).

rokunetflix

Some older Roku players don’t support full high-definition video (1080p); they’re limited to high definition (720p) or standard definition (480p). The newest players start at full high definition (1080p), and some support 4K (2160p) resolution and HDR (high dynamic range). If you care deeply about picture quality and have a television that supports these formats, it’s time to consider an upgrade.

Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100, 2000, and 2500), Roku LT (2400, 2450, and 2700), and Roku 2 HD (3000).

All Roku players except Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra. (Premiere+ and Ultra also support HDR.)

Roku feature chart

Many early Roku remotes—and some current ones—use infrared instead of radio frequency to communicate with the box. This requires line of sight, which precludes you from mounting the Roku behind the television or hiding it inside an entertainment center cabinet. IR can also be unreliable at long range. (The only upside to IR-enabled Rokus: They’ll work with lower-end programmable universal remotes, such as Logitech Harmony models that don’t support RF.)

All Roku players except Roku Streaming Stick (3400, 3420, 3500, 3600), Roku 3 (all versions), Roku 4, Roku

One of Roku’s neatest features is its ability to play audio through headphones, either with a supported remote control or with Roku’s mobile app. It’s a nice way to watch action films at night without waking the kids.

Roku 3 (4200 and 4230), Roku 4, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

All Roku players except Roku Express, Roku Express+, Roku Streaming Stick (3600), Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra

Both the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra let you plug headphones into their remotes.

In recent years, Roku has introduced a handy feature for the forgetful: Press a button on the box, and a siren will sound on the remote to help you find it. Unfortunately, this feature has only been available on the priciest players.

All Roku players except Roku 4 or Roku Ultra.

With a dual-band wireless router, you can get a more reliable connection on the less-congested 5GHz frequency band, but only if your device supports it. Many older Roku models only support single-band Wi-Fi, and even some recent ones don’t support the latest 802.11ac standard. Consider upgrading if your Roku’s streaming quality doesn’t seem to match your internet speed and/or your router’s capabilities.

All Roku players except Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

Roku players have generally become much more powerful over the past few years, allowing you to scroll smoothly through menus and load apps without delay. If you’re frustrated by the performance of your current Roku, consider upgrading to one of the models below.

All Roku players except Roku 3, Roku 4, Roku Streaming Stick (3600), Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

Roku, of course, isn’t the only streaming-device maker on the market. Although Roku’s Premiere+ and Streaming Stick are fine options, you might also want to consider the competition. Check out our reviews of the Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Nvidia Shield TV, and Chromecast for more details.

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This story, “Roku upgrade guide: Should you buy a new box?” was originally published by TechHive.

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