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Because Roku devices are so feature-rich, we could write about them for years and still not cover everything. So, plug in your device, follow our Roku setup guide, then absorb the information contained in this article to learn about seven awesome features you’re probably not using.
1. Create Your Own Screensaver
Roku devices come with three native screensavers. They are Roku Digital Clock, Roku Analogue Clock, and Bouncing Logo. None of them are particularly inspiring. To select one, go to Settings > Screensaver > Screensaver and make your choice.
Of course, you can also download new screensavers from the Channel Store. As we’ve explained previously, you can access the Channel Store from your Roku device and — if you live in the United States — via the web. On your Roku device, go to Streaming Channels > Screensavers to see what is available.
But did you know there’s a third option? If you own a 4K Roku device, you can also make your own screensaver using the photos on your smartphone.
To set up the feature, you need to download the Roku app for your Android or iOS device. Within the app, go to Settings > Mobile Screensaver. You can choose up to 25 images to use. You also need to set the display style (High-Quality Stills or Pan and Zoom), and the speed (15, 20, or 30 seconds). Tap Set Screensaver when you’re ready.
2. Private Listening
Roku devices can be addictive. A Netflix subscription is even more addictive. Put the two together, and you’ve got a recipe for all-night binges.
But all-night binges bring their own problems, and I’m not just talking about the lack of sleep. If you live with other people, they probably won’t appreciate being woken up at 4am by the sound of the TV blaring out loud.
Similarly, if your kids love binge-watching SpongeBob SquarePants (or whatever children are into these days), you might be somewhat fed up of hearing the same jokes on a neverending loop.
The solution is private listening. If you own a supported Roku model, the feature is available through the Android app, iOS app, and the point-anywhere remote. The supported models are Roku Express, Roku Express+, Roku Streaming Stick (model 3600 and higher), Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku 4, Roku Ultra, and all Roku TVs such as the TCL 49S405 Smart LED TV.
3. Live TV Pause
Live TV Pause is only available if you have a Roku TV (i.e. a smart TV with the Roku operating system built-in).
And even if you have a Roku TV, it’s only available if you have connected an over-the-air (OTA) antenna to your set (which everyone should do, you will be amazed at the content you can receive for free through an aerial).
Lastly, you need to connect a USB storage stick with at last 16GB of space to your TV. Live TV Pause uses the memory on the stick to save the footage.
Assuming your setup meets those three criteria, the feature will be available. You can pause live TV for up to 90 minutes, which is plenty of time to make a cup of tea or pop to the loo.
4. Hotel and Dorm Connect
You’ve always been able to throw your Roku Streaming Stick into your luggage whenever you’re leaving home for a few days. And doing so will put all your content at your fingertips wherever you are in the world.
Indeed, I have previously argued that this “feature” is one of the main reasons you should buy a Roku device over a smart TV.
But there was always a problem: using Wi-Fi networks that required you to sign into the network via a web browser. You know the type, you see them a lot in hotels and office buildings.
Well, if your Roku is running Roku OS 7.0 or higher, your life just got better thanks to the new Hotel and Dorm Connect feature. It lets you sign into browser-based Wi-Fi networks in seconds.
Just make sure you select I am at a hotel or college dorm when you connect to the network.
5. Plex News
Nobody who owns a Roku stick should be without Plex. It lets you watch all of your locally-saved videos anywhere in the world. You don’t even need a Plex Pass. Of course, all the Plex Channels also give you access to legal on-demand TV, and now you can even use Plex to watch local OTA broadcasts.
In September 2017, Plex announced another great new feature: Plex News.
If you’re a seasoned cordcutter, you’ll know news is one of the areas which is hardest to replicate without a cable TV subscription. We’ve tried to help in the past by introducing you to some news channels all cordcutters need. Plex News adds another solid option.
In case you missed the announcement, Plex News gives you access to more 190 global news outlets and uses an advanced algorithm to learn what news your care about.
6. The Roku Channel
There is no shortage of high-quality video-on-demand apps. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, HBO Now, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV — the list goes on and on. In fact, we have argued that there may be too many streaming apps these days.
If you’re observant, you’ll have noticed all the apps I mentioned have one characteristic in common: they all cost money. The same is true for almost all the big-name services.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just install The Roku Channel from the Channel Store. It’s the official channel from the company and it provides hundreds of top movies for free. You don’t even need to make an account. The channel is available on any device released after June 2011.
The only catch? The channel is ad-supported. However, Roku is committed to showing fewer ads than regular TV. If you try watching the channel for any length of time, you’ll discover that the company is staying true to its word.
7. Enable Consumer Electronics Control
Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) is part of the HDMI standard. It can be used to sync volume between devices, coordinate separate audio and video inputs, and can allow one remote to control all of your devices.
Roku utilizes CEC’s one-touch play feature. If enabled, your TV will jump to the Roku’s input port as soon as you press the Power button on your Roku remote. It removes the need to use your TV remote if you want to jump from regular cable programming to Netflix, for example.
To turn on the feature, go to Settings > System > Control Other Devices > 1-Touch Play and mark the checkbox.
Do You Have Any Roku Tips to Share?
Using these seven tips along with the 20 tips we covered in the two articles we referenced in the introduction means you should be well on the way to becoming a Roku ninja.
But wait! Amazingly, there are even more tips and little-known features out there. So now it’s over to you. What are your favorite tips, tricks, and features that most Roku users don’t know about?
As always, you can leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below. Or share this article with fellow Roku users on your social media site of choice.