Roku Premiere full review
The £39.99 Roku Premiere is the cheapest device for streaming 4K and HDR10 content from a range of online services to your existing TV, bringing everything together under one user-friendly interface for super-simple operation.
It's one of three Rokus available in the UK, with the £29.99 Roku Express (reviewed) maxing out at 1080p Full-HD resolution, and the £49.99 Roku Streaming Stick+ (reviewed) adding an enhanced Bluetooth remote that supports voice control and the ability to tuck the box out of view. All three serve up content at 60fps, and require only an HDMI 2.0 port to connect to your TV, USB for power, and a stable Wi-Fi connection (25Mbps).
Because you'll be serving up 4K and HDR10 content through the Roku Premiere, it's likely that the USB port on the back of your TV (if, indeed, it has one) will not be sufficient for powering the device. If you see a low-power warning onscreen during setup you should instead use the 0.3A USB wall charger supplied in the box.
In order to stream 4K or HDR10 content you must have a compatible TV, plus access to 4K streaming services such as Netflix's top-tier option. Of course, if you do have a 4K TV it is almost certainly smart, so the need to add a Roku is less obvious.
We love Roku's simple operating system, nippy navigation, and the ability to view and search across all content services on one platform, with price comparison provided when content is available from more than one. It also makes streaming photos, video and music from your phone or tablet (through screen mirroring or casting from within apps) simple.
For those who have not experienced 4K (or Ultra HD as it is otherwise known), in essence this is simply an image that has four times as many pixels as full-HD. A standard TV might have a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, but 4K has 3840x2160, which results in a clearer picture and greater colour depth (10-bit vs 8-bit).
Paired with HDR10, you also get higher dynamic range, which means brighter parts of the image can be even brighter with improved colour accuracy, and darker parts darker with improved contrast.
The software on the Roku Premiere and Roku Streaming Stick+ is identical to that on the non-4K Express, with 4K services listed in the standard channel store. You can use the 4K Spotlight channel to ease finding these.
Roku Premiere: What it is, what it does
The Premiere is in essence a Roku Express (in fact it uses the same chassis as the older Roku Express) but with the addition of 4K and HDR10 streaming. If you don't have or intend to buy a 4K TV, nor subscribe to any 4K content, it makes no sense to buy the Premiere over the Express.
Both media streamers ship with infra-red controls, which means they must be placed within line of sight of the remote control - unless you use the free mobile app for Android and iOS, which works remotely and adds voice operation, plus the ability to tune in via a pair of headphones.
An adhesive strip is supplied with the Premiere that allows you to stick it to the side of a wall-mounted TV, or it can sit unobtrusively under a TV that sits on a desk, but in either situation the more compact Roku Express may be preferable.
The remote control has some non-customisable shortcuts to Netflix, Google Play Movies & TV, Rakuten TV and Spotify, which of course are useful only if you subscribe to those services. It lets you browse, select, play and pause content on Roku, but you'll still need a separate remote for your TV.
The remote control is easy to use, but unless your budget is very tight it's difficult to see why you wouldn't step up to the Roku Streaming Stick+. The top device in Roku's line-up has a Bluetooth- and voice-controlled remote that allows the device to be hidden from view, and can control some additional TV functions such as power and volume.
In common with the Express and Streaming Stick+, the Roku Premiere adds smart services to any TV with an HDMI port. It boasts more than 4000 channels (better described as apps) that can unlock catch-up TV, on-demand movie-streaming services, web video, music- and media players, and more. The only thing it doesn't offer is a web browser. You can view the full list of channels on Roku's website.
Roku supports all the most popular streaming platforms, both free and paid, and in doing so combines everything from Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Google Play Movies & TV with the likes of YouTube, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and more in one place. Better yet, it has a cross-platform search function that serves up price comparison on individual platforms, and allows you to keep tabs on particular actors, TV shows and movies.
If you have more than one Roku in your home you can sync these channels between devices via a free Roku account. You can also add a payment option that makes unlocking paid content in some services much easier.
It is also possible to mirror the screen of your phone or tablet, or to cast content from compatible apps once it has begun playing. The mobile app also lets you browse photos, video and music stored on your device.
For the most part Roku relies on online services for content, and without a stable Wi-Fi connection it is little more than a dumb box. Given that the quality of the internet connection is important, if your budget allows we'd recommend the Streaming Stick+ - neither support ethernet, but the Stick+ supports dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi in comparison to the Premiere's single-band 802.11b/g/n.
A feature we especially like about Roku is the ease with which you can take it away with you and access your favourite content from any TV, anywhere. The software can get around hotel Wi-Fi connections that require you to log in, and the device itself will take up barely any room in your suitcase, measuring just 85x18x35mm and weighing 38g.
Roku Premiere: Set up and use
Setup is simple, complete in only a few minutes. You connect the Premiere to your TV over HDMI, power it via USB, then follow the onscreen instructions, which involve selecting a language, connecting to Wi-Fi, updating the software and then activating it online by creating or signing into a free Roku account via a web browser.
The Roku operating system is incredibly easy to use, with all your installed channels available from the home screen, and a rolling menu to the left offering access to your feed, Roku Search, the channel store and Settings.
In Settings you'll find the usual factory reset and system update options, as well as some customisation options for themes and wallpapers, the ability to change your display type, a Guest mode, audio and payment options, plus a setting to limit ad tracking.
Performance is very good, given a strong Wi-Fi connection. Some channels start up and allow you to browse and actually start watching content faster than others, but we were under no impression that the quad-core processor inside was flagging at any point.
Roku Premiere: Conclusion
Just £10 more expensive than the 1080p Roku Express, and £10 cheaper than the 4K HDR10 Roku Streaming Stick+ which comes with an enhanced Bluetooth remote, this £39.99 Roku Premiere sits in the awkward middle ground where it is an excellent device in its own right but difficult to recommend over either of its siblings.
Compared to non-Roku media streamers it is a recommendable device, priced to match the non-4K Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa remote, adding 4K and HDR10 streaming, and voice control through a free mobile app; and more user-friendly than Chromecast, with the Roku OS offering easy search and navigation across a plethora of free and paid streaming services.
Roku brings more than 4,000 apps to any TV: all that's required is HDMI, USB for power and a stable Wi-Fi connection.
Roku Premiere: Specs
- Quad-core processor
- HDMI 2.0a (Premium High Speed cable supplied
- TV must support HDCP 2.2)
- streams 1080p/4K video at 60fps with upscaling from 720p and 1080p
- 802.11b/g/n single-band Wi-Fi
- Dolby Audio and DTS passthrough via HDMI
- screen mirroring
- simple IR remote with 2x AAA batteries (supplied)
- adhesive strip
- Micro-USB for power
- less than 3W power consumption