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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
4K and HDR supported
No power or volume buttons on remote
No voice controls
Sluggish at times
Fuzzy picture quality
The Roku Premiere is a promising streaming device option for tech minimalists and small spaces.
If you want to declutter or accommodate a smaller space with an inexpensive and unassuming streaming device, the Roku Premiere might be your go-to pick. It’s a slightly larger alternative to the small size and portability of a streaming stick, but it’s considerably smaller than other set-top-style streaming devices. Setup is a breeze and the interface is straightforward to use. And all of this comes with the ability to support HD, 4K, or HDR picture quality—but without 5GHz Wi-Fi support.
Overall, it’s a streaming player with a minimalistic sensibility and a viable cord-cutting option for shoppers who don’t want their streaming unit to take up too much room or break the bank.
We reviewed this streaming player on its setup, streaming quality, and overall user experience.
As far as set-top streaming devices go, the Roku Premiere is one of the smaller options on the market at just 1.4 x 3.3 x 0.7 inches. It’s rectangular and block-shaped, but it’s slim enough to tuck away near your TV.
You can also secure it to your television set with the adhesive strip the manufacturer provides. If you have less surface area to work with, this is a clever option for mounting the unit to your TV. You’ll want to place it somewhere visible so that it can interact with the remote—it’s actually essential that you point the remote directly at the Roku to get results.
But because of the streaming device’s diminutive size, it will hardly overwhelm your media setup, wherever you put it.
Overall, it’s a streaming device with a minimalistic sensibility.
There are just two cords: one is for the HDMI connection and the other is the power adapter. Both ports are well placed on the back of the player and close enough together so that you can easily keep corresponding cords tidy and out of the way.
The remote that accompanies the Roku Premiere also mirrors the low-key feel of the streaming device itself. It’s very light and there’s definitely a plasticky feel to it. It was clear from the moment we picked it up that it’s a no-nonsense accessory.
There are the usual navigation buttons and shortcut buttons for the Sling, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu apps. But you won’t find power or volume buttons, which means you’ll have to reach for another remote to control those functions. This is a bit disappointing if you’re hoping to streamline everything to one device and one remote.
There’s not a lot of legwork involved to get the Roku Premiere up and running. Simply plug the HDMI and power cords into the unit, connect the HDMI to your TV, and put the supplied batteries into the remote.
Sadly, the included remote won’t power on your television, but once we turned on the TV, we were immediately prompted to connect the Roky to a Wi-Fi network. This is necessary for automatic software updates. After we supplied that information, we saw a message indicating an update was available. That update was pleasantly speedy—it took only about 30 seconds to complete.
The next step involves activating the device by signing in to a Roku account online. You’ll see a prompt to visit the activation page and corresponding code to enter once you get there.
Setup is a breeze and the interface is straightforward to use.
If you don’t have a Roku account, you’re asked to create one and enter credit card information. These details are intended to make it faster and easier to rent or buy media through the device.
We logged in with our existing Roku account, plugged in the activation code, and then waited about one minute for the system to conduct a channels update. We had a bit of an issue with our remote pairing, which is supposed to happen automatically. But we restarted the pairing process and that did the trick.
The Roku Premiere had to cut a few corners to keep the price this low, and the speed of the device definitely suffers for it. We found that loading up apps and navigating to others took anywhere from five to 20 seconds, and there was often a lag in the remote movement. Even toggling through the apps on the home menu yielded a sluggish and slightly delayed response.
But one of the attractive aspects of the compact Roku Premiere is its 4K and HDR compatibility. For the size and price of this device, it’s a bit of a rarity, and if you already have a 4K TV then you’ll definitely want a streaming device that can take advantage of that picture quality.
Fortunately, the Roku Premiere is also compatible with older HD TVs, which means you can upgrade to 4K in the future if you’re so compelled and the Roku Premiere will be right there with you.
It supports HD TVs up to 1080p or 1920p x 1080p and scales up from 720p. There’s also support for 4K UHD TVs and 4K UHD HDR televisions for a screen resolution quality of up to 2160p.
We tested the Roku on a 1080p HD TV and the picture looked good across most apps, but not all. We had trouble with some like the NBC network app, which took a little while to load up an episode and then looked fuzzy on our HD screen.
The Roku Premiere is also compatible with older HD TVs, which means you can upgrade to 4K in the future if you’re so compelled.
We suspect this might be an issue with the wireless standard. A wireless standard is essentially a standard for the way that Wi-Fi technologies are developed. Most home routers and devices support the 802.11ac standard, which is also known as Wi-Fi 5, and it tends to deliver the fastest performance speeds. But the Roku Premiere only supports the 802.11b/g/n standard, also known as Wi-Fi 4, and only operates on 2.4GHz bands.
That should be fast enough to support quality streaming—even for 4K content. But most other Roku devices also support the faster 5GHz bands, which is what we’re used to using for streaming. If you have a strong 2.4GHz connection, this may never be an issue for you. But for those with 802.11ac Wi-Fi in their home, you may find it frustrating that your streaming stick can’t take advantage of your faster internet speeds.
The Roku home menu is easy to use and understand, except for one quirk: all of your apps are displayed in a grid format that repeats, which means you can toggle through them endlessly. Once you get used to that, you’ll know that you didn’t somehow add apps more than once.
Aside from the repetition, finding and adding apps is simple. Just use the menu options located to the left on the Roku home page to browse free apps or peruse the streaming channels library. From the streaming channels library, you’ll also be able to take a look at 4K HD titles.
When you find the channel you want, it’s as simple as clicking on it and then selecting “Add Channel.” Removing apps and moving them in your queue is as easy as clicking the asterisk button on the remote. This button brings up info or options within apps and system settings, including access to preferences like captioning.
Navigating the Roku libraries is an overall intuitive experience without too much wading around. As a complement to the friendly search experience, you can download the Roku app for iOS and Android, which provides a faster way to add channels or even view content if you want.
The app also includes a “remote” function, but you won’t get volume or power controls there. You may be able to get around this by setting up Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to help you with voice and power controls.
The Roku Premiere sells for $39.99, and this is an attractive price tag for anyone seeking a cordless TV experience under $50. Considering that some set-top streaming devices cost well over $200, the Roku Premiere seems like a steal in many respects. You gain the ability to stream 4K video without handing over a lot of cash.
But there are other options within a similar price range that go the extra mile. Pay $10 more for the Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99 MSRP) and you could also enjoy built-in voice assistance, power and volume controls on the remote, and overall faster streaming performance.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, which also supports 4K and HDR streaming, retails for $49.99. But the extra cost yields a few valuable assets the Roku Premiere lacks.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a streaming stick. In that respect, it levels up on the streamlined sensibility of the Roku Premiere. You simply plug the stick into the HDMI port into your television and connect and plug the power adapter to it. You don’t have to worry about how to place the player. It’s also something you could pack away with you if you want to have all your entertainment with you while you’re traveling.
Portability and minimalism aren’t the only strengths, though. The Fire TV Stick 4K remote can actually power on your television as well as adjust the volume. These are small details, but they may tip the scales.
It also offers handy voice controls via Alexa, so you can search for content, start and stop shows, and even control other devices in your home using spoken commands.
On top of that, the streaming quality is ultra sharp and there’s really no discernible lag at all when navigating menus or going in and out of apps. Of course, if you don’t use Amazon Prime and don’t want the Amazon Alexa experience, this is probably not the option for you. But if you want to pay a similar price but have access to more bells and whistles, you may find all of that with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
Want to see your other options? Check out our picks for the best streaming devices.
Minimalist but powerful.
The Roku Premiere is small but relatively mighty in terms of streaming power. It offers a user-friendly interface and 4K and HDR streaming capability, but with less bandwidth than you might expect. But if you’re on a budget and don’t want to clutter your space with a bigger set-top option, this is a streaming device that caters to that sensibility.
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