Roku 3 review: slicker than an otter's pocket

Roku's latest has plenty of connectivity and content

Reasons to buy
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    speedy user interface

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    Simple to set up and use

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    Catch-up services

Reasons to avoid
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    Inadequate media player

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    Poor quality headhones

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The Roku 3 is the brand's most advanced TV streamer yet. But with Sky virtually giving away its Roku-made Now TV box would you pay top dollar for Roku's finest?

The Roku 3 is the ritziest TV player yet from the pioneering streaming brand. Better equipped than both the Roku 2 and entry-level 720p Roku LT combined, this flagship is as slick as an otter's pocket, but it doesn't come cheap.

Roku 3: Size and Build

While it apes the glossy black puck design of its predecessors, and the Now TV box, the Roku 3 a tad smaller, at just 90mm across, and more streamlined. The cosmetic finish is excellent, although the distinctive fabric Roku name tab remains a design idiosyncrasy.

Roku 3: Features

With access to copious Internet TV channels plus a smattering of games, this Roku can effectively upgrade any flatscreen to full Internet TV functionality.

The stubby remote has integrated motion-sensing, plus a headphone jack for private listening, however, the quality of the supplied earbuds is lamentable and even decent cans sound shrill when connected. Ultimately, the key difference between this model and its siblings is the speed of its processor. The thing positively belts along.

Roku 3: Connections

Despite the diddy dimensions, the Roku 3 isn't short on connectivity. There's both an HDMI output and USB media reader. Online connectivity is catered for by both wired Ethernet and dual-band Wi-Fi. You can even expand the storage capacity of the player using MicroSD cards, which can store games downloaded from the brand's Channel Store as well as additional TV channels.

Roku 3: Content

While there is a healthy number of channels available, most free to watch, only a half dozen or so can legitimately be described as premium. For every Netflix, iPlayer and Now TV there are literally dozens of crackpot wannabes you'll rarely if ever want to watch.

Catch-up is limited to the BBC and Demand 5. Angry Birds and Angry Birds Space are the key gaming attractions, but there's also a tempting version of the Namco classic Galaga.

As a media player though, the unit disappoints. Video file compatibility is limited to MP4s and MKVs - and if your MKV downloads have AC3 encoded audio, they'll need to be routed via an AV receiver for decoding; the player does not downmix to TV-friendly stereo.

Roku 3: Picture quality

Image quality is dependant on both the channel being viewed and the speed of broadband available, but when both stars align, the Roku 3's performance can be excellent. The unit upscales nicely to 1080p, making both Netflix and BBC HD appear mighty fine.

Roku 3: Verdict

Offering lightning fast navigation and expandable storage capacity, the Roku 3 is a terrific streaming TV gizmo. There's no shortage of content courtesy of the likes of YouTube, Netflix and BBC iPlayer plus a few decent games.

On the debit side, it's horribly limited as a media player and undeniably expensive, especially considering the giveaway price of the Roku-made Now TV box. That said, there's no denying that the Roku 3 is the smartest Roku media streamer yet. It gets a qualified thumbs up.

Roku 3 release date: Out now

Roku 3 price: £99.99

Steve May

For over 25 years, Steve has been casting his keen eyes and ears over the best that the world of TV and audio has to offer. He was the creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, and contributes to huge range of technology, home and music titles along with T3, including TechRadar, Louder, Ideal Home, the i newspaper, and more.