Roku Ultra (2020) review: Incremental improvements

The 2020 Roku Extremely is an incredibly tricky streaming field to study.

Whilst Roku’s and device haven’t modified a lot from final yr’s style, the broader international of streaming TV has modified so much. Between new products and services like Apple TV+, Peacock, HBO Max, and the drawing close Paramount+, there are extra streaming choices to juggle than ever. In reaction, we’ve noticed units such because the Chromecast with Google TV and the TiVo Movement 4K emerge to make sense of the ones choices, funneling content material from more than one apps right into a unmarried, unified menu.

Roku, in the meantime, has held steadfast to its much less formidable way: Make unfastened content material simple to search out, however make customers dig via particular person apps for the entirety else.

This overview is a part of TechHive’s protection of the most productive media streamers, the place you’ll in finding evaluations of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you will have to imagine when purchasing for this sort of product.

In case you nonetheless believe that way, the $100 Roku Extremely has so much to love. It helps Dolby Imaginative and prescient and HLG excessive dynamic vary video, Bluetooth audio, and Dolby Atmos audio decode. It’s additionally a smidge quicker than different Roku avid gamers, and it nonetheless has the comfiest far off you’ll in finding with any streaming participant as of late.

However in case you’re rooting for a brand new paradigm in streaming, the place digging via a dozen other apps is not important, the brand new Roku Extremely will inevitably disappoint. (Roku may be transport a brand new mini soundbar. You’ll be able to learn our Roku Streambar overview right here.)

Slicker field, higher specifications

The 2020 Roku Extremely is simple to inform aside from earlier variations. The plastic enclosure has a matte end right through as a substitute of being shiny across the edges, and the perimeters of the field curve inward on the most sensible as a substitute of outward. I believe it’s extra sexy.

rokuultra2019v2020 Jared Newman / IDG

2019’s Roku Extremely at the left, 2020’s Extremely at the proper.

The port association has modified as smartly. There’s not more MicroSD card slot for expandable app garage, even though the Extremely does have extra integrated garage. (Roku received’t say precisely how a lot.) In the meantime, the USB slot for native media playback has moved from the facet of the field to the again, the place it’s joined through the ethernet port and HDMI output.

rokuultrarear Jared Newman / IDG

MicroSD for expanded app garage is long gone, however USB for native media playback stays.

This may be the primary Roku participant with Bluetooth, so you’ll be able to pair a telephone, pill, or laptop and play track during the TV. It’s a great addition, even though it doesn’t toughen pairing wi-fi headphones to play audio from the Roku. (For that, you’ll be able to use Roku’s cell app, which gives non-public listening via headphones or earbuds hooked up to the telephone.)

As sooner than, the Roku Extremely helps 4K HDR video, which permits for each larger answer and extra colour element in highlights and shadows, however the brand new arrival of Dolby Imaginative and prescient manner the ones colour optimizations can occur on a scene-by-scene foundation. After all, you’ll want a TV with Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR toughen to take benefit, together with supported content material in apps like Netflix or Amazon Top. Dolby Atmos decode toughen implies that some content material can produce object-based audio results you probably have an Atmos-enabled speaker gadget.

I will have to point out one unusual video playback factor, even though: Deep in Roku’s settings there’s an approach to robotically fit the TV’s refresh charge to no matter content material is taking part in. It’s disabled through default, however enabling it avoided me from taking part in video from Apple TV+ because of HDCP mistakes. Roku says I encountered a identified worm that it’s running to squash. If you are going to buy a Roku Extremely, checking for a firmware replace will have to be your first order of commercial after connecting it for your community.

The far off, in the meantime, is unchanged from final yr’s Extremely, which is ok. It’s a little heftier than maximum streaming remotes, making it more straightforward to carry, and the various sizes and styles of its buttons allow you to navigate with out having a look at them. A headphone jack at the left facet permits for personal listening—a suite of earbuds is integrated—and buttons for quantity and mute are at the proper together with an influence button up most sensible. The far off has an infrared emitter, so you’ll be able to program the ones buttons to paintings at once along with your TV.

rokuultraremote Jared Newman / IDG

Roku’s outsized far off feels nice and has a couple of programmable buttons.

You continue to can’t reprogram the Roku far off’s integrated app-launch buttons, however the two numeric buttons above them can also be mapped to any voice command, so you’ll be able to use them to open your favourite apps or activate closed captioning. And as with earlier Ultras, there’s a button at the field itself that performs a legitimate at the far off that can assist you in finding it—a pleasant contact that the majority different streamers nonetheless haven’t replicated.

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