Roku Premiere+ worth the upgrade for people with HDR capable 4K TVs
If you love your Roku 2 or Roku 3, but now want to stream 4K and HDR content, the best option is the Roku Premiere+.
The Premiere+ is among five new Roku streaming devices announced in September.
You could spend another $29 for the Roku Ultra, but the features and $99 price point for the Premiere+ make it the better choice. You will get a 4K streamer that supports High Dynamic Range (HRD10) content. Essentials like Ethernet port and headphone jack for private listening come with the Premiere+.
Roku Premiere+ streams on dual-band frequencies at 10/100Mbps. It comes with a MicoSD card slot for extra storage of apps and casual games. Roku reserved options like remote voice-search capabilities, a USB port and optical audio output for Ultra.
Before you buy anything, you’ll want to make sure you have a newer 4K television with HDCP 2.2 compatibility.
I hate to throw a technical term at you so early in a review. But this one is important, so I’ll try to dispense with it as quickly as possible.
- Streams 4K/HDR10 content
- 2.4GHz/5GHz bandwidth
- MicroSD card slot
- 4K Spotlight Channel
- Ethernet port
What is HDCP 2.2 capability?
High bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP 2.2) is a technology that prevents illegal copying of 4K Ultra HD content. If you own a 4K Ultra television that was built in say, 2014, check the specs in your user manual. Go online and type in the model number of TV into Google if your manual isn’t handy.
The earliest models of 4K TVs came with HDCP 1.4. They won’t be compatible with the new Roku Ultra or Roku Premiere+. You will need to buy an HDCP 2.2 converter, which can cost upwards of $50. You will also want to make sure your 4K TV has HDMI 2.0. Checking all of this ahead of time will help you avoid being among the many that didn’t know about their 4K TV lacking HDCP 2.2 capability, but bought a new Roku. It can be a pricey mistake.
Should I upgrade my Roku? Roku 4 vs Roku Premiere+, Roku Ultra
Whenever a company launches a refreshed line of media devices – whether it’s streaming boxes or gaming consoles – it always brings a bit of device envy. Maybe you’re wondering, “Am I missing out on something great?” Companies love that, especially if you have already bought one of their products before.
The answer may depend on whether you already own a fairly new Roku device or TV. If you don’t own a 4K television, and don’t plan to buy one soon, you won’t be missing much with the latest Roku streamers.
Let’s say you own a new 4K TV with HDR. If you do end up getting a streaming device to go with it, the ability of HDR streaming will be important to you. You will want to be able to stream Amazon Prime, Netflix and Fandango Now content that’s offered in HDR10. If you prefer Dolby Vision over HDR10, you won’t find it on new Roku devices. The new Chomecast Ultra will stream both HDR formats.
HDR10 is the latest format that brings a vast array of colors to your TV screen. It’s also the format being adopted by most TV manufacturers.
The new Roku lineup comes about five months after the much lauded Roku Streaming Stick (model 3600R), which retails for just under $50.
Roku Premiere+ specs
Roku 4 owners already have many of the features of the Premiere+ and Ultra with the exception of HDR support. The user interface and content from the new Roku line is largely the same. The number of people with 4K/HDR capabilities is still pretty small. That’s probably why only three of the five new Roku devices feature 4K capabilities.
The 4K Spotlight Channel is among the better features to enjoy on the Roku Premiere+. It pulls Ultra HD content from multiple channels so you don’t have to go hunting for them.
On the main menu, you will be able to draw from roughly 350,000 movies and shows over 3,500 paid and free channels. Roku is often commended for having an unbiased search feature that draws from multiple apps or channels. Competitors like Amazon Fire TV are slowly migrating towards a more universal search function.
Netflix and HBO now appear in Amazon Fire search results. Amazon also recently made voice-search functions available on all new Fire TV boxes and streaming sticks, and more software upgrades are expected to follow in the coming months.
Roku Premiere+ vs Roku Ultra
One of Ultra’s standout features is Night Listening Mode. This feature is one that every streaming media player on the market should try to emulate. Night Listening keeps the volume at the same pitch despite the action playing out on your screen. So you don’t have to lunge for your remote every time a building on your flat screen explodes.
We also really the lost-remote finder feature with Roku Ultra. There’s a lot to be said for being able to find a remote with one click of a button from your media box. But it’s not a problem I want to throw $29 more at to solve. The Ultra also supports Dolby+ audio and has an optical output. That’s a big deal for home theater enthusiasts, but not most people.
The Roku Premiere+ checks off all the major boxes you would expect for a streaming device priced between $95 and $100. And the roll out of Premiere+ as a HDR streamer gives competitors like Amazon something to think about before launching their next line of streaming devices.
The Ultra is more for home theater buffs, and those with a high end audio system hooked into their TV setup.
Roku Premiere+ vs Roku Premiere, Mi Box & Amazon Fire TV
We haven’t mentioned much about the model below the Premiere+ simply called Premiere. There’s more to say about its shortcomings than its perks, especially at a cost of $80. It offers no Ethernet port, which kind of mind boggling. The Premiere has 4K streaming only, no HDR. There’s also no USB port or MicroSD slot. If you were either upgrading your streaming device, or buying one for the first time, I’m not sure why you would buy Premiere.
You’re better off either buying a future proof device (like Premiere+) that will work on the next TV you buy. Otherwise, you could buy a far less expensive streamer. The new Roku Express gets you in the door of streaming content just fine at $30. Same is true for an Amazon Fire TV streaming stick at $40 if you wanted a voice remote.
Roku Premiere+ has a great advantage over Amazon Fire TV by its ability to stream HDR content. Amazon Prime actually offers HDR content, but ironically you can’t stream it on their Amazon Fire TV devices. Xiaomi’s Mi Boxmay be a worthy competitor for Premiere+. For $69, Mi Box gives you HDR10 streaming, 5GHz bandwidth, Google Cast and a voice remote. For a few dollars more, you can use a USB adapter to create an Ethernet connection.
Sling TV, PlayStation Vue on Roku Premiere+
2017 could end up being the year that live streaming television goes mainstream. Roku and other major players in the streaming device market would be wise to pay attention.
Sony rapidly expanded PlayStation Vue apps this year to Roku, Android and Android TV. The company also promises to bring PS Vue to PC and Mac. Sling TV has been ubiquitous on streaming devices, and spent 2016 expanding its channel offerings. DirecTV Now just launched its own live TV streaming service. YouTube and Hulu are expected to deliver their own brand of live streaming TV in 2017.
Sling TV and PlayStation Vue are offering favorite cable channels like AMC and even regional and national sports channels once exclusive to cable and satellite subscriptions. Their competitors are sure to compete with similar offerings.
I bring this up because it’s too bad Roku doesn’t have a better PlayStation Vue app. Roku isn’t as much to blame as Sony, which develops the app. Jared Newman wrote a thoughtful piece for TechHive back in September about Roku’s app problem particularly with PS Vue.
Roku Premiere+ is clearly among the top media streamers for 4K and HDR content. Let’s hope content providers and app developers start to upgrade some of the user interfaces to match Roku’s great features.