Roku 3 gets redesigned interface, sleeker look (pictures)
The newly announced Roku 3 ($99) is the company's flagship streaming-media box, with a completely redesigned user interface, a faster processor, and a neat new feature that lets you plug headphones into the remote.
Roku 3: Same size, sleeker look
The Roku 3 doesn't look radically different from the existing Roku boxes. It's about the same size as a Roku LT, although it has a more striking look with a glossier finish and nicely rounded edges.
The first thing you'll notice is you can see nine channels at once, compared with just five in the old interface. The new layout also reveals three more channels with every click, which lets you zip through all your channels in a fraction of the time.
Roku also purposefully added weight to the Roku 3, which comes in at 5 ounces, as 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.
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 get a Roku LT, Roku HD, or Roku 2 XD if you want analog compatibility.
The new Roku 3 has one more feature up its sleeve and it's a neat one: private-listening mode. Plug a pair of headphones into the remote's headphone jack and you can listen to whatever's playing on your Roku.
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.
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?