Roku 3 gets an redesigned interface, sleeker look
New for the Roku 3 is also the ability to choose different themes for the background and user interface elements.
Roku also purposefully added weight to the Roku 3, coming in at 5 ounces, compared with the 3-ounce Roku 2 XS. That extra heft gives the perception of higher build quality, but it also has the real-world benefit of keeping the Roku 3 planted even with heavy HDMI cables hanging off the back.
There’s also some nonskid rubber on the bottom to help keep the box from sliding on a tabletop.
The rest of the Roku 3’s connectivity will look familiar. The back panel is more compact than ever, with an Ethernet port, HDMI output, microSD slot, and power plug. Wireless connectivity has been upgraded, too, with the Roku 3 sporting dual-band Wi-Fi, which has long been on the wish list of Roku fans.
Noticeably missing is the standard-def AV output that was included on the Roku 2 XS; you’ll need to step-down a Roku LT, Roku HD, or Roku 2 XD if you need analog compatibility.
There’s also a USB port on the side, which can be used for limited digital media playback.
The new Roku 3 has one more feature up its sleeve and it’s a neat one: private listening mode. Plug in a pair of headphones to the remote’s headphone jack and you can listen to whatever’s playing on your Roku.
Plugging in the headphones also automatically mutes your TV, and headphone volume can be adjusted using the rocker on the right side of the remote.
Roku is even including a pair of earbuds in the box with the Roku 3, which should encourage new buyers to give the feature a shot.
It’s essentially a makeshift wireless headphones solution, but I think it’s a feature that will get regular use.
Aside from the private listening feature, the new remote is most similar to the Streaming Stick’s clicker.
It operates using Wi-Fi Direct, which means you don’t need to point the remote at the box to send commands. And Roku says Wi-Fi Direct is no more power-hungry than Bluetooth, so you should get similar battery life to the remote included with the Roku 2 XS.
My only real complaint with the Roku 3’s design is it still requires an external AC adapter, unlike the Apple TV’s sleeker integrated power supply.
The Roku 3 is available today for $99 from Amazon and Roku’s online store, and it’s coming to retail stores in April.
So far, the new Roku 3 feels like a very polished update to a series of streaming boxes that were already excellent. I’ll be testing the new box and updated interface over the next few days with two main questions on my mind: is it better than the Apple TV? And is it worth spending the extra on the Roku 3 compared with the $50 Roku LT.