I’m throwing in the towel and giving up on the Amazon Fire Stick. Between the 5.1 audio problems, laggy performance, and crashes, I decided to look at the current state of home media streamers. I couldn’t have picked a better moment, because literally the same day I made the decision I was walking around Best Buy and noticed the new Roku Ultra. I didn’t buy it on the spot since I wanted to do some more research. After going home and convincing myself that it was worth the $129 price tag, I placed my order on Amazon.
The new Roku Ultra arrived in a snap thanks to 2-day Prime Shipping, and I had it plugged into my TV faster than you could say “Smart TV”. From the very get go, setup was a breeze. A simple, guided wizard takes you through the process, and orients you to the new device. “Channels” are what Roku calls apps, and you pick out your favorite in order to get it to do exactly what you want. For me, that’s mostly Plex, Netflix, and YouTube. But I also browsed the catalog a bit and found several other interesting ones to add, such as NatGeo, HGTV, a few news channels, etc.
Using Roku Ultra’s search is also pretty impressive. Press and hold the magnifying glass on the remote and speak into the top of the remote. Release when finished speaking. Roku will then search the channels you’ve added for content, and return the results for your selection. It’s pretty cool that it will search multiple channels! Definitely makes finding content much easier. I was also impressed because I asked it for a live stream of the Presidential Debate. The Roku Ultra pulled it right up on the Fox News channel/app. I’m a guy that doesn’t have regular cable television, so it’s really cool to be able to do this.
The point-anywhere remote is also a good touch. Most users might under appreciate this, but that’s kind of the point. The remote just works. I have other traditional IR remotes that get fussy when they aren’t lined up just right with the receiving equipment.
My only complaint so far is that sometimes buffering audio is about 1-2 seconds off. I’ve noticed this in both Plex and Netflix, so I’m wondering if it’s a systematic problem. Basically what happens is that when I select a video to watch, the video will start playing, but I won’t be able to hear any audio for the first 1-2 seconds. It’s a small thing, and something I can definitely live with, but if Roku is looking to polish the edges here, this would be one thing to buff(-er) out! (Pun intended for my nerd friends!)