Roku is now one of the most popular choices when it comes to a TV streamer. However, if you are not familiar with these products, choosing a suitable Roku model is not a clear decision. No worries! In this article, we will help you choose between two of the most popular models Roku 4 vs Roku 3. Read on below!
What we will discuss in this article:
- The design of each Roku model
- The connectivity features available on each Roku model
- The hardware features of Roku 4 and Roku 3
- The maximum content resolution on Roku 4 vs Roku 3
- Which model that has the better remote control
- Whether Roku 4 or Roku 3 is better for you
Well, let’s start by comparing the designs of Roku 4 vs Roku 3. In a glance, they may seem to have some similarities. However, there are notable differences that set them apart.
There is really nothing much to say about the Roku 3 box. It is a relatively tiny box with a black, glossy finish. Just like all of its kind, it will sit silently at the center your entertainment system without needing any further attention from the user. Some people think that it is exactly the same as the predecessor, Roku 2, inside its housing.
Well, for sure, Roku 3 retains some features from the predecessor. This new player still has a glossy black puck. It just has slightly less girth at 90 mm across. Once installed, Roku 3 has an appearance a little like a futuristic pebble that is sprouting cables. (See also : Roku Premiere Plus vs Roku 3)
The distinctive Roku fabric tab is still found on Roku 3. In addition, though, there is a tiny status LED which glows up when the unit is turned on.
If you are new to the whole platform, you need to open a Roku account first before you can proceed and enjoy the streaming service. With a Roku account,you will benefit from an easy debiting mechanism when you want to watch some paid content. However, for general use,the Roku account will not make you pay any money.
It is a little bit of a pain because opening an account requires you to enter your credit card details. It is also a little bit painful because Roku 3 requires you to connect to the Internet to get the latest firmware update before you can open the menu. In other words, if you do not have an accessible Internet connection, you won’t be able to use the Roku 3 streaming device right away, not even for offline tasks.
Nevertheless, existing Roku users who are just upgrading from the second generation units only need to authorize the new box online. Then, add it to your inventory. The process is very simple and straightforward, as it takes nothing but a few minutes. Apparently, a lot of Roku users do employ multiple boxes in one account.
On the other hand,Roku 4 looks like someone has ran over a Roku 3 with a heavy truck. The new box is a thin and squared-off plastic pancake. It is wider and deeper than other TV streamers, but it sits much lower than them. Basically, it is the opposite of the taller, chunkier Apple TV.
According to TechRadar, the Roku 4 TV streamer measures 0.8 inches x 6.5 inches x 6.5 inches (2 cm x 16.5 cm x 16.5cm). The flat top surface allows you to put items on the top of the unit. You can even put an Amazon Fire TV unit, in case that you are wondering. Anyhow, these dimensions do seem like an impressive feat once you find out what’s under the hood.
Just like the predecessors, Roku 4 has a black color. The top is matte black, while the sides are glossy. It is slightly taller along the edges than on the middle. There are some adornments, such as the big “4” on the top, the trademark purple Roku fabric tag, and the discrete logo “Roku 4” on the front side. The bottom surface is nicely rubberized to prevent the unit from sliding around.
Remote Control and Remote Locator
Unlike the previous models, the Roku 4 unit actually has a button mounted on the box. The lone button is shaped like a miniature version of the Roku remote. So, what is its function?Well, the label mentions it all. It is used to operate the remote locator function.
Yes, perhaps one of the biggest improvements on Roku 4 is the cool remote finder function. Previous models, including Roku 3, do not have this feature. It may seem like a trivial thing, but it is actually incredibly useful. You know that this is true if you’ve ever lost your remote.
To use the remote locator function, simply press the button on the top of the Roku 4 box.The remote will emit an alarm sound from wherever it is hiding. You can actually customize the sound; your choice of a simple whistle, a submarine-style sonar, or even the “Ride of the Valkyries”song, among others.
It is a life-saver feature for people who always misplace their clickers. However, this is probably only true if you are really using the actual Roku remote, rather than a universal model.
Besides the addition of the locator function, the remote is largely identical to that of Roku 3. It is slightly bigger and chunkier than other remotes in the market. It may look a bit outdated if placed next to the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Google Nexus Player remotes. Nevertheless, it still feels comfortable and natural in the hand.
Both the remotes of Roku 4 and Roku 3 already use Wi-Fi Direct. So,these remotes don’t need to be aimed precisely to operate. You can put your Roku 4 or Roku 3 pretty much anywhere in the room. Point the remote anywhere, and it works just fine.
Well, there is one minor change in Roku 4’s remote. The “return” button (not to be confused with the “back” button, which is much more useful) has been replaced by a little magnifying glass. This button summons the voice search dialog. The rest of the buttons are basically the same.
Roku 4’s remote has kept the A and B keys for gaming. Note that the volume controls beside the gaming keys effect only the headphone output. There are buttons for instantly launching Netflix and Amazon, however the buttons for services that you don’t subscribe to may be irksome. This is a departure from Roku’s usually content-agnostic ethos.
Another minor annoyance is the main OK button. It is unconventionally placed below the directional buttons. It is much better if placed at the center of the directional buttons.
Available Channels and Maximum Resolution
In order to compete favorably in the market, Roku has made its mission to make their boxes easy to get onto for content providers.Roku has been highly successful, as the platform now features more than 200 content sources with more than 2,000 channels in its Channel Store. There are many more options available as “private channels” which anyone can make at will.
The maximum content resolution supported by Roku 3 is 1080p Full HD. This model does not support the latest 4K technology. So, this is a fine choice to complement a non-4K television, but not if you want to enjoy premium 4K content on your 4K-capable big screen.
Nevertheless, most users probably stick to the store’s popular channels, and use only a handful of them. Still, such breadth and flexibility is impressive when you compare it other streaming boxes in the market.
As a content platform, Roku offers solid selections of services in the Channel Store. You can find several major streaming attractions, such as Sky’s Now TV platform (this is not surprising because Sky is a shareholder in Roku), Netflix, HBO Go, HBO Now, Amazon Instant Video, Vimeo, Daily Motion, and Google Play Store.In the United Kingdom, BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 are also available.
Cord cutters in the US will get access to Sling TV as well. Sling TV has recently made a splash on Roku 3 by offering a $50 discount to new subscribers who pre-pay for three months. Overall, the service works very well. While it doesn’t offer the same content-to-dollar ratio as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, it is still worthy for the $20/month price tag.
There are notable audio apps as well. Included are Spotify, Tunein, Rdio, and Vevo. Furthermore, in addition to the official selections in the store, you can also browse various invitation channels. So, it is very flexible.
The biggest difference between Roku 4 vs Roku 3 is that Roku 4 supports premium 4K content. You should only choose this model if you have a 4K-capable display. Otherwise, you will not benefit from the feature.
Nevertheless, Roku 4 offers an even wider array of options. There are both 4K channels and 1080p channels available. There are more than 3,000 channels available in total, ranging from the popular mainstays like Netflix and HBO to the more obscure ones like Firewood Hoarders.
If you are in the US, you should make your first stops for YouTube, Crackle, and Vudu for free movies and TV shows. Afterwards, you should get Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon, Sling TV,Hulu, FX Now, Showtime, Starz, or Plex, if you have a subscription to any of those.
Finally, once you have downloaded the essentials, you should take a look at the curated 4K Spotlight Channel. This place serves as a hub for all options of 4K content. It is the easiest way to find Ultra HD movies and TV shows.
While Roku 4 doesn’t offer many points in music or gaming, it certainly has the most sports channels among the available streaming platforms. You can find both NFL Channel and NFL Sunday Ticket, along with apps for the NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, and college sports and tennis. Roku 4 even covers some of the more extreme sports from the GoPro, Red Bull TV, and UFC apps.
Roku 3 still uses the ‘old’ user interface. The difference with Roku 4 is noticeable because the user interface of Roku 3 only has a resolution of 720p. Compared to Roku 4, images displayed by Roku 3’s UI are more blurred.
There are new features added to the user interface of Roku 3, which are Roku Feed and Movies Coming Soon. These new features are designed to help users track down their new films and TV shows.
It is easy to setup, and it is quite helpful once you have parsed about 40-or-so films from the Movies Coming Soon section. Add a film that interests you to the Roku Feed section by using the asterisk button. From now on, your Roku will keep you updated about on which services that the film is available and how much that it costs.
On Roku 4, you can choose the resolution to be 720p, 1080p or 4K. This is very nice. Choosing either the 1080p r the 4K setting makes a huge difference compared to Roku 3. The user interface of Roku 4 looks much better, sharper, and more detailed.
There are four themes right out of the box. Changing the theme will change the background’s color, the screen saver, and… the noise that the remote makes when you press the remote-finder button. The company has released a free fifth theme for Halloween.
Anyhow, the rest of the user interface is similar to the rest of the Roku family.The main screen acts as a central hub. There are separate spaces for Home, TV Store, Movie Store, News, Search, My Feed, Streaming Channels, and Settings.
Hardware and Performance
Last but not least, Roku 4 vs Roku 3 come with different hardware. The Roku 3 box is equipped with a dual-core processor. Well, this is actually not a weakness because the performance is pretty good. It is fast and smooth. With a fast broadband connection, you should be able to stream content from Netflix or iPlayer with crisp, nicely textured images.
Roku 4 comes with a quad-core processor and upgraded RAM. Of course, these upgrades are quite significant. They are needed for processing premium 4K content that the unit is capable of.
However, the performance of the unit largely depends on your Internet connection speed. If it is less than 10Mbps, Roku 4 probably will not be any faster than Roku 3. However, with a consistent download speed around 30 – 35 Mbps, you will see that Roku 4 is noticeably faster than the predecessor.
The difference is not mind-blowing, but still pretty nice. Rewinding and fast-forwarding are significantly faster. The new hardware also allows fairly rapid transition when going from a game back to the home screen. In short, Roku 4 offers less buffering time and overall smoother performance.
Roku 4 vs Roku 3
All in all, Roku 4 is more recommended. This model offers substantial improvements compared to the predecessor. Of course, the biggest advantage is the premium 4K content support. However, there are also other reasons to choose Roku 4, such as the remote finder function, improved user interface and themes, and upgraded hardware.