Our verdict of the Roku Premiere:
Slick, smooth, and speedy — the Roku Premiere is an incredible device for such a low price. While it has minor niggles, with such a large choice of apps in such a compact package, this is an amazing media streamer with 4K capabilities at an unmissable price.
The media streamer market is at saturation point, with multiple devices available from all the big names. There’s Apple TV, Amazon Fire sticks and boxes, Android TV units, and Google Chromecast.
And then there’s Roku. With a couple of devices to choose from, their budget Roku Premiere is particularly interesting. It costs under $50, streams 4K video, and seems to have an app for every service you can think of, and quite a few you can’t.
But does the Roku Premiere deliver on the performance promised on the box?
We’ve teamed up with Plex to offer a fantastic giveaway bundle to one lucky reader, consisting of a Roku Premiere, HD HomeRun Connect Duo TV-tuner, indoor antenna, and LIFETIME Plex Pass! You’ll find the entry widget at the end of this review, and the bonus code in the video. Good luck!
Unboxing the Roku Premiere
In the box, you’ll find the Roku Premiere (3920 model), USB cable, power adapter, and a surprisingly short HDMI cable. Also in the box is an IR remote control (Wi-Fi fans can use the mobile app), featuring pre-set channel shortcut buttons (including Netflix) and two AAA batteries. Along with a brief set-up guide, an adhesive strip is also included.
All of this is wrapped up in an orange box that promises much: “4K & HDR streaming made easy” and a bunch of free and subscription services. If you have 4K content, a suitable internet connection, and a TV with the requisite HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI port, you’ll get 4K. Otherwise, the Roku Premiere is perfect for standard 1080p content, too.
Roku Premiere Specification
On the face of it, the Roku Premiere is incredibly unimpressive. It’s a small plastic slab, measuring 3.30 x 1.40 x 0.70 inches and weighing just 1.28 ounces. On the back is a single micro-USB power port and a single HDMI port. You’ll also find a small reset button, accessed using a pin.
For connecting the Roku Premiere to your network, there’s an 802.11bgn single-band wireless chip.
At the heart of the Roku is a quad-core ARM Cortex A53 CPU with 1GB of RAM and 512MB channel storage. There is no microSD card slot with the Roku Premiere.
The device can handle 4K UHD up to 2160p at 60fps, and supports HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma). Audiophiles can enjoy DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Audio, with Dolby ATMOS pass through over HDMI, and Digital stereo over HDMI.
Can you connect Roku to your TV? Well, if you have an HDTV or greater, you should be fine. The box can stream to standard HDTVs with 1080p, as well as upscaling 720p.
For 4K UHD TVs, the Roku streams up to 2160p at 60fps (3840×2160) with up-scaling from 720p and 1080p. For this, the 4K TV should have an HDMI input that supports HDCP 2.2. The Roku Premiere can also stream at HDR10 to 4K UHD HDR TVs, using the same HDCP 2.2 HDMI input.
Note: as most people own a 1080p HDTV, we’ve reviewed the Roku Premiere on such a device.
Setting Up the Roku Premiere
While easy to set up and install, the Roku Premiere comes with a couple of positional challenges.
- How should you power it?
- Where should you place it?
Both are straightforward. The device ships with its own USB power adapter, so if there is a mains electric connection nearby, use this. However, this isn’t always the case. Fortunately, most modern TVs offer a 5V USB power outlet which is ideal for the Roku Premiere.
With the power sorted out, positioning is the next challenge. The Roku Premiere is compact and light enough to be mounted on your TV. It comes with a double-sided adhesive strip to attach the device to the top or bottom of your television. If there is a consistent surface for the adhesive, the Roku Premiere can be reliably attached. Given the length of the HDMI cable, it makes sense to keep the device close to your TV.
Hooking up the Roku Premiere to Wi-Fi is straightforward, as is the entire set up process. You’ll need to set up your Roku account on a PC or tablet, however, in order to activate the device. This is a straightforward process that helps you initialize the Roku for your territory and download the relevant selection of apps. Once this is done you can switch back to the Roku Premiere itself to add channel apps, log in or create new accounts, and prepare for viewing.
It’s fair to say that everything about this unit, from the compact size and ergonomic remote control to the simplicity of the user interface, makes it suitable even for the most tech-averse person you know.
Another example: the fabric tab on the remote’s battery compartment. No more struggling with your remote’s battery cover—it literally pulls off to let you quickly change the batteries. The remote itself is light, easy to use, and sits nicely in your hand. The lack of volume control is a surprise, but a minor disappointment.
Everything about Roku is designed with usability in mind. It’s a wonderful philosophy that gets a big thumbs up.
Finding and Installing Apps on Roku Premiere
The Roku Premiere features a vast selection of channels that can be installed or removed like apps. Among these are big names such as Netflix, Google Play TV, and Apple TV. The selection depends on where you live, so some apps don’t appear or won’t work in particular territories.
Thousands of channels are available overall. You’ll even find things like Plex and HD Homerun for streaming video and TV from your own networked devices.
Other channel apps include Disney+, Prime, Apple TV, Now TV, and YouTube. Channels are divided by category, and the platform even supports basic games.
Managing apps on the Roku Premiere is easy, too.
You can and delete as necessary, and the settings screen opens a whole host of options. You can change the theme, the screensaver, enable network access for mobile apps, factory reset, system update, change the language, and even initiate a guest mode. This lets visitors to your home input their own credentials for a specific app. A useful option for borrowing Disney+ to catch the latest addition to the service with friends and family.
As noted, the Roku has 512MB of channel storage. I spent around 30 minutes finding and installing apps without running out of space, so unless you’re really indecisive you probably won’t hit that limit.
Missing Channels? Use Mirroring
Incredibly, despite having 100s of channels, the Roku Premiere might not feature a channel app you want to use. For example, in the UK there is no Britbox app (although the US version is listed). Similarly, there is no Kodi app for Roku.
So, what is the solution? Fortunately, Roku supports screen mirroring. All you need to do is open Settings > System > Screen Mirroring, then choose whether to allow all connections or issue a prompt.
On the device you’re mirroring from, use the mirroring option. So, on Android, use a mirroring app rather than Chromecast. We tried it out on Windows, Android, and iOS—the mobile devices worked whereas Windows 10 did not. Connection was made, but no streaming was established, despite several attempts and reboots.
Setting Up Roku Premiere with HD Homerun DUO and Plex
This review is all about the Roku Premiere, but thanks to Plex, our incredible prize bundle also includes an HD Homerun DUO, HDTV indoor UHF antenna, and a Lifetime Plex Pass.
But how well do these systems play together?
Well, we think you’ll be impressed. While the HD Homerun DUO requires a strong, consistent terrestrial HDTV signal, it’s easy to add to your network. Just plug it into your router using Ethernet, hook up the antenna (internal or external), and over the air TV can be viewed on any compatible device. The Roku Premiere features an HD Homerun app, so any TV you’re missing can be enjoyed that way.
Plex has expanded in recent years, now offering content only available with a Plex Pass along with your own media hosted on a network drive. The Plex app on Roku easily connects to your existing Plex server, giving access to every media file you need.
Roku: The Perfect Plex Partner
Over the years I’ve used several media streamers, from Apple TV and Chromecast to Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast Ultra. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but none are as easy to use and slick as Roku.
Of course, the Roku Premiere has some shortcomings. HDMI-CEC—the system that allows your TV remote to control a media streamer or vice versa—seems inconsistent. There is also a lack of volume control. Screen mirroring from Windows 10, meanwhile, appears fraught with pitfalls and is possibly best avoided. The lack of Kodi might be a deal-breaker, too.
However, these are minor. Overall, this is a great media streamer, at a surprisingly low price for 4K and HDR. It’s easy to set up, surprisingly simple to use, and you probably won’t use your standard TV decoder for days after installing the Roku Premiere.
Enter the Competition!
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