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roku 3 reviewRegular television sets are a thing of the past. These days, if you set out to get a new TV, it’ll likely be a smart TV. That TV will be ‘smart’ the same way your smartphone is – it’s connected and it’s extendable. Just like your smartphone, a lot of new televisions tune in to a sizable application ecosystem, adding the imaginings of third-party developers to your television’s standard feature set.

If you purchased a brand new television during one of the previous TV revolutions – high definition What’s the Difference Between HD Ready & Full HD? What’s the Difference Between HD Ready & Full HD? Television manufacturers can be a tricky bunch. Just when you think you’ve figured out their acronyms and slang, things change again. In the early days of HDTV people were scrambling to figure out the difference... Read More or 3D TVs 3D TVs: What They Are, How They Work, & What Can They Show In 3D? [MakeUseOf Explains] 3D TVs: What They Are, How They Work, & What Can They Show In 3D? [MakeUseOf Explains] If you’re in the market for a new TV, chances are it’s going to be 3D - not because you particularly want one that can do 3D, but simply becuase 3DTVs typically have better displays... Read More  – don’t run off to the store just yet. Using set-up boxes you can extend your TV’s functionality without needing to upgrade the whole shebang. Similar to the app-craze in the television department, there’s a wave of ‘smart’ set-up boxes; Apple TVBoxee Box and Roku foremost among them.

If you followed Matt’s advice 6 Reasons Why You Need A Roku [Opinion] 6 Reasons Why You Need A Roku [Opinion] Electronics can be evil. A short time ago I wrote an article about using the Xbox 360 as a media center. I concluded that it wasn’t the best choice. Sensing my betrayal, the 360 promptly... Read More to buy a Roku last year, or grabbed a Roku 3 Roku 3 Review and Giveaway Roku 3 Review and Giveaway As more content becomes available online, the need for a traditional television subscription may not be enough anymore to justify the costs. If you’re already subscribed to services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, now may... Read More when it launched earlier this year, you probably have already hit it off with Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. These streaming services are part of what makes Roku great. However, Roku is just as good in playing your own media, whether it’s over the network or from a USB stick.

We tested and gathered the best Roku channels to get your own video library to play on the Roku 3.

1. USB Media Player

Streaming media is great, and it’s what I’ll do 90 percent of the time. However, most streaming relies on a previously configured system: indexed folders and the like. Often when you decide to play something on the big screen, it’s much faster and easier to just throw the files on a USB stick. If you keep your movies on an external hard drive, there’s even more reason to simply go over USB.

roku 3 review

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Roku doesn’t do this by default, but there’s an official channel to take care of your plug-and-play needs. Just plug in your USB drive, open the USB Media Player channel and browse through your movies, music and pictures.

The USB Media Player channel (like most Roku channels), are limited by the Roku’s playback support. Mainly, this means you can play MP4, M4V and MKV files. For more information on USB Media Player file support, check out the support article.

2. Plex (Windows, Mac & Linux)

Perhaps the easiest way to play your media on your Roku, is to connect it to a Plex media server. Plex is one of the more popular media center solutions for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. It’s a powerful media center solution that automatically processes the files in your media folders and creates a media library that’s both beautiful and very easy to use. A great starting point is MakeUseOf’s extensive guide to Plex.

media on roku

One interesting aspect of Plex is that the media center is essentially decoupled in server and client How To Access Your Plex Library From A Remote Computer How To Access Your Plex Library From A Remote Computer Over the years, I've tried my hand at a number of media center software alternatives. Some people swear by XBMC, or swore by Boxee before it stopped developing the Boxee desktop application. In the end,... Read More  applications. Once you’ve set up the media server on your computer, you can start streaming your media over your local network to the Plex channel on your Roku. If your media is supported by Roku, it’ll stream the files as-is. However, even if your files are not supported (AVI videos come to mind), Plex will transcode your media on the fly.

That, in essence, is the best part about using Plex: you don’t have to worry about your files and compatibility problems. Plex will take care of the details.

3. PlayTo ($4.99) (Android)

If you’re the proud owner of an Android tablet, PlayTo is an opportunity you shouldn’t pass by. PlayTo is almost like AirPlay What's AirPlay, And How To Use It In Mac OS X Mountain Lion What's AirPlay, And How To Use It In Mac OS X Mountain Lion Imagine you want to play your favorite album in Spotify. Naturally, you'll be hooking your computer up to a better sound station. But what if you're lying in bed, or sitting on the couch? Ideally,... Read More  for Android and Roku. To get started you’ll need to install both the Roku PlayTo channel and the Android companion app. Using the app on your Android device, you can browse various channels.

These cover articles and videos from WIRED, but also from NBC, ESPN and other region-specific content if you’re living in the US.

roku 3 review

Whenever you find a video, you can press the Play To button in the lower right corner of your screen. This will start playing the video on your Roku.

But PlayTo is not limited to pushing Internet media around. Any home UPnP/DLNA media servers 6 UPnP/DLNA Servers for Streaming Media to Your Devices 6 UPnP/DLNA Servers for Streaming Media to Your Devices UPnP devices are able to see and communicate with one another, and one of the best uses for this technology to stream media around the house. Read More are also spotted (including Plex, which was discussed above). Using PlayTo, you can very easily push content from a home media server to your Roku. Again, you’re limited by Roku’s supported filetypes, unless you have media center software that’s able to transcode the video, like Plex.

How do you prefer to show your videos on your Roku? USB or streaming? Let us know in the comments section below the article!

  1. Steven C Shepard
    August 23, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Great article! However, the url for the "extensive guide to Plex" is 404; Plex is perplexing to setup. Cannot seem get the Plex Media Server to run; installs ok, then when you run it, it disappears. Very. Odd.

  2. Aniruddha
    May 17, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Hey @Simon

    You must add AirStream to this list as well. Do try our app visit to know more & download. #happyairstreaming :)

  3. patrick
    September 30, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Good question. I search for the same answer. Nothing is easy in computer world!!!

  4. JP
    August 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    What types of USB sticks and file formats are supported? Most movies are over 4gb and require either NTFS or exFAT format for the USB stick. Does the Roku support both of these file systems? Can I actually watch 4+GB movies on a USB stick on my Roku? Also will Roku output 5.1 surround sound signal or just stereo?

    • cjcox
      September 2, 2013 at 3:58 am

      Roku uses NTFS for USB.

  5. brian markham
    July 19, 2013 at 10:09 am

    The Roku 3 has been an awesome buy and I no longer need the services of cable or satellite tv so it paid for itself in less than a month. This little tiny device has everything and more thats available in streaming TV technology. I did much research before making the purchase which i was still a little uneasy not knowing how well it would work especially since i live in a rural area with weak cell signal and unavailable high-speed internet. First thing i mastered was hooking up a cell signal amplifier antenna to increase my signal which worked great, i now have 4G solid and use my phone as my wi-fi hotspot by using FoxFi app ($7.49) one time purchase for full app access. Since i use verizon and have unlimited data plan, i dont have to worry about a set data allowance which i had a 5GB plan using the verizon mi-fi wireless data card. One requirement that i suggest is having an unlimited internet data plan. Since I'm using the Roku 3 as an alternative to satellite my data usage is at least 75 to 100GB a month. So i pay nothing for internet by using my phones data plan, I bought the Roku 3 at walmart for $99 after the reviews i saw confirmed that Roku had it all and more. The best part is that i only pay for what i watch instead of the increasing cable bill for more channels i inever watched. I mostly use HuluPlus, Vudu, and Amazon Video which covers all my favorite TV shows as well as new release movies. With Hulu I pay 7.99 a month for unlimited tv and movies and theres more than enough of the latest TV episodes from virtually all the popular networks. Vudu is a pay per episode or movie which you own for life I pay 1.99 for my favorite tv episodes and only watch what i want when i want, the on demand is a great feature. Vuduu has no monthly charge. If you know you are going to watch an entire season of a series then there is usually the option to buy all episodes at discounted prices, some series can be over 50% off compared to paying for each individual episode. Movies can be rented or purchased to own at reasonable prices, comparable to purchasing the DVD at the store. All Vudu content is available in 1080p, 720p or 480p. Since the roku is connected via HDMI cable the picture is very clear, I personally almost always choose 480p standard def which is much clearer than my satellite 480p was, its also cheaper to stream in 480 compared to 720 or 1080p a dollar difference. Amazon Instant Video is free for many popular new and classic movies for Prime Members. Just with those 3 streaming channels I can virtually find whatever TV episode or movie I'm looking for. If you have HBO thru a cable service then you can access on-demand all of HBO programming absolutely free by logging in with a valid username and password. If you dont have an HBO account like me I simply asked a family member who has HBO for their log-in info and so I now have HBO GO àpp at no charge period for you or the HBO original subscriber since HBO GO is a free service. Beyond what I have explained which is really only about less than 10% of the Roku Channel listing, depending on what you like to watch, its on there. Many, many horror, classics and indie movies are available at no charge. Facebook is also available but in a limited format thats more for viewing photos not statuses, another cool feature is the my media app, instantly view photos, video and music from your phone, computer or any mobile device. Normally you dont get to view your phone or computer photos on your big screen TV, what a difference. If your into music videos, your in luck with Vevo, the app that has hundreds of the most popular and older music videos that you would normally have to view on youtube on your computer. Theres also third party media channels like Plex and Playon that offer many more networks for a small yearly fee. To view these channels a windows pc or mac must to connected to the same wireless network since they are not official Roku channels. I purchased them thinking I was going to watch them frequently but realize now I would be fine without them. Sometimes you just have to find out the hard way or find the right review thats accurate. I could go on and on about this little gadget thats basically the size of a cell phone called Roku but from my experience so far is that if you are looking for a cable tv replacement or alternative and cheaper TV viewing then go with the Roku 3, since it currently has the latest technology and all the entertainment you could need. At under 100 bucks you really cant beat it. Although there are streaming devices at half that price including Roku models that are older versions as well as other popular brands like Sony and Vizio which also just came out, you wont go wrong with the Roku 3. I wanted the all around best one and did my research before purchasing to avoid returning and a headache. Roku setup is very simple and after the initial process setup, theres really nothing else to do but choose your channels and tv shows and movies. It connects to your wifi automatically after the first time. Oh yeah many games too including Angry Birds, Wheel of Fortune and so many more. Trust me on this review, I am a tech junkie and I do a lot of research on the latest technology and gadgets. Hope this helps. I think this is the wave of our TV viewing future. It just makes sense financially and convenience.

    • Paul Kissel
      October 9, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      @ markham - Lots of great info but its damn hard to read something this long with no paragraph breaks. Perhaps this comments tool doesn’t do line breaks but thought I’d mention it for your future posts.

  6. Marc
    June 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I haven't tested it, but does anyone know which filesystems are supported by the USB Media Player feature?

    • brian markham
      July 19, 2013 at 10:24 am

      I could view all my photos from my samsung galaxy nexus phone as well as video and music. I didnt notice many more options on the media channel on my Roku 3, although I am pretty new to roku and streaming devices period. But it seems to be compatible with much more than whats pre-installed on the Roku device itself. The third party media servers probably have more features since its more internet based. Also the internet media category of channels on the Roku 3 seem to have a ton of personal media transfer.

  7. Katharine Wood
    June 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I have Plex set up on my Roku and computer. It's very easy to set up. It plays everything and it even downloads cover art and theme music for tv shows and movies. Really awesome.

    • Kathleen Spencer
      June 6, 2013 at 2:07 am

      I have a Roku XD, not a 3 and I just got it! Did they sell me an outdated one?
      If so that makes me mad.

      • Katharine Wood
        June 6, 2013 at 2:24 am

        They are still selling both models, so yeah the Roku 3 is the latest and greatest. I have the Roku 2 XS 1080p and the only difference between my model and the 3 that I can see is that the remote comes with a headphone jack. The Roku 2 XD (your model) might have some more differences though, since it doesn't come with ethernet and usb ports or the motion control for games. The Roku 3 and the Roku 2 XS 1080p both come with those.

        • Kathleen Spencer
          June 6, 2013 at 2:31 am

          Okay......I am happy with mine. Thanks for your answer. Now I know!

        • Simon Slangen
          June 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

          Hi Kathleen,

          Great news for you if you're a Spotify fan! :)

          The Spotify channel is available on Roku 2 XD (in the UK, US, Ireland), but not yet on Roku XS and Roku 3.

  8. Deirdra Murphy
    June 4, 2013 at 12:47 am

    I love the Roku 3!

    • Simon Slangen
      June 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      It's a nifty little device! :-) What do you most use it for? On-demand, web channels, or your own media?

  9. likefunbutnot
    June 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Seriously, just skip the Roku and get something decent that has a Plex client.Even without access to a Plex Media Server, you can still access channels of streaming content from its interface and then you're not hampered by the lack of Youtube support or general Roku interface slowness.

    Those little Android-based HDMI sticks that do both XBMC and Plex (and therefore Plexbmc) are absolutely marvelous local and streaming content clients.

    • Simon Slangen
      June 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      I get the hole left by YouTube. There really should be a dedicated app for it. Is it a licensing issue? I'm sure we're not the first to spot this hole in Roku's market. In any case, a YouTube client wouldn't be amiss on the Roku.

      I don't think of the Roku's interface as sluggish, though. Not sure about previous models, but this third iteration feels very responsive.

      Great tip on the Android sticks. Have you tried any in combination with Plex? I'm a little skeptic concerning native codec support (i.e. without transcoding on the PMS).

      • Katharine Wood
        June 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm

        You can "sideload" a channel onto your roku to watch YouTube. Just go here:

        I have it installed and it works great.

        • Simon Slangen
          June 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm

          Great tip, thanks for sharing! Planning to give it a whirl later today.

      • brian markham
        July 19, 2013 at 10:29 am

        Also most bluray players have a Youtube app installed, i have a philips 3d bluray with youtube on it, i've only used the app once but worked great. Plus you can get youtube on roku 3 thru media servers via computer.

    • brian markham
      July 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Honestly when I first got my Roku 3 I was excited about the Plex and PlayOn media servers but after paying the annual fee which is definitely reasonable, I have only used them both a few times. I thought they would have newer content that wasnt available straight thru my Roku device but I was disappointed at the content which seemed outdated or very limited as well as poo picture quality since it has to run thru the computer as well. Maybe in time they will add more content and channels. Its not a total waste but not completely necessary either.

  10. RJB
    June 3, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Don't forget Playon also.

    • Simon Slangen
      June 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Thanks for the tip, PlayOn looks very nice indeed.

  11. Tom Six
    June 3, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Awesomely, nifty device!

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