Roku Premiere review: More 4K streaming apps for less money

Editor’s note, September 24, 2018: The original Roku Premiere streaming box was first introduced in 2016, but is still for sale. On Monday Roku announced that a new device, also called Roku Premiere, is available now for $ 40. It’s physically smaller and has additional HDR features. We hope to check out the new version soon. The review below remains unchanged from the original publication on January 30, 2017.

When Roku announced three different 4K-capable devices last year, I immediately picked the two high-end devices, Premiere + and Ultra, as the devices I liked the most.

The third is the Roku premiere discussed here, and after a lot of hands-on time with all three, my mind hasn’t changed. If you want a 4K streamer then the others make more sense.

Of course there is always an exception. If you’ve got a relatively inexpensive 4K TV with no high dynamic range (HDR), especially one with an anemic selection of streaming apps built in, the premiere is worth considering. Aside from the Xiaomi Mi box and Chromecast Ultra, it’s cheaper than any other 4K-enabled streamer on the market – and both are hampered by the lack of Amazon Video and the amazing range of 4K TV shows and movies. It’s also better than the 4K-enabled Amazon Fire TV box, unless you’re really into Alexa and voice commands.

On the flip side, there are plenty of reasons to spend a few dollars more to get our favorite 4K streamer, the Premiere +, or even more for the Roku Ultra or the Nvidia Shield. In contrast to these devices, Premiere cannot stream a high dynamic range. Since HDR can really improve picture quality, owners of HDR-enabled TVs should definitely purchase an HDR-enabled device. The better Rokus also have many worthwhile additional functions – such as Ethernet connections and remote controls with headphone jacks – that the basic Premiere lacks. And the shield is just an all-rounder.

If you’re a 4K TV owner who just wants Roku’s great selection of apps on a single device and wants to save as much money as possible, the premiere is well worth a visit. But a streamer that you use every day is worth spending a few more dollars on.

What you need to know about Roku Premiere

What is 4K HDR streaming anyway? New here, huh? No problem. Many internet video services, including Netflix, Amazon Video, Vudu, and YouTube, stream some of their TV shows and movies in 4K resolution, which promises higher video quality than their other streams. We say “promise” for a reason: Often times, the differences are hard to see, even for trained eyes like ours.

The Permiere can also serve lower quality streams and access all of the thousands of apps that any other Roku can. Most apps, including Hitter, Hulu, HBO Now / Go, Watch ESPN, and Sling TV, don’t yet offer 4K or limit it to certain devices. Historically, Roku has received 4K streams before many other devices, but there are always exceptions. Hulus 4K, for example, is currently limited to the latest game consoles.

David Katzmaier / Tips Clear

Should I get it if I don’t have a 4K TV? No. Unless you’re expecting to buy a new 4K (non-HDR) TV very soon, I recommend buying the Roku Streaming Stick or other non-4K device and saving some money.

Why shouldn’t I just stick with my smart TV system? You can, but it could be annoying. Most 4K TVs have built-in apps that support 4K. Depending on which television you have and which services you use, you can stream without any problems without an external box. On the other hand, Roku in particular has more streaming apps that offer 4K and standard video streams and makes it easier to find and use those apps and streams. It also updates more frequently than most smart TVs, and provides a single, convenient for all of your internet video.

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