Roku Premiere review: 4K streaming doesn't get much easier than this for $39
This is going to be one of those reviews where we spoil everything from the jump. Roku Premiere (and the Walmart-exclusive Premiere+) bring 4K streaming down to under $50.
That's it. That's the important part. Everything else is secondary.
The Roku user experience? Same as it ever was. All those streaming "channels"? (What Roku calls "apps," really.) Still there. Easy-to-use remote control? Yep.
This is a Roku streaming player that does 4K resolution and Dolby Atmos audio. And it's relatively inexpensive.
- Great price, with a small footprint
- Roku's excellent ease of use
- All the streaming services Roku supports
- Wifi limited to 802.11n (aka Wifi 4)
- Wireless only — no ethernet port
So good, so inexpensive
Roku Premiere: What I like
The story of the Roku Premiere pretty much starts and ends with the price. The Premiere is a mere $39. The Premiere+ — again, which is exclusive to Walmart and is the model I'm reviewing here — comes in at $49. The only real differences between the two are that Premiere+ comes with a voice remote, and it has a shortcut on the remote to Vudu — which is owned by Walmart.
Otherwise, we're looking at the same specs here. 4K resolution. Wifi 4, which until early October 2018 had been known as 802.11n. Dolby Atmos support for Audio. All the usual caveats apply of course. To take advantage of 4K streaming, you'll need a 4K-capable television. To use Dolby Atmos, you'll need a speaker setup that uses Atmos.
Assuming you've handled all that, what you end up with is your usual rock-solid Roku experience. Same user interface. Same menus. Same setup process. In fact, sign in with an existing Roku login and it'll automatically add all your channels. (You'll still have to sign back in, though.)
That's Roku's strength. It's simple to use, and it doesn't cost a whole lot.
Roku Premiere: What I don't like
Here's all you need to know about the difference between the Roku Premiere and the Roku Streaming Stick+. It's all about the networking.
Roku Premiere tops out at Wifi 4 — aka 802.11n. Roku Streaming Stick Plus can do Wifi 5, heretofore known as 802.11ac. Wifi 5 is better than Wifi 4. Better range. Better connection.
Do you need Wifi 5 to properly stream 4K video? Not necessarily. It's going to depend on the strength of your wireless network as much as anything. So I can't tell you if you're going to need to spend $59 to get the Streaming Stick+ instead of Roku Premiere. I can't tell you if $39 for the Premiere will be good enough. It might well be.
I had occasional hiccups streaming 4K video. Nothing consistent, and nothing I wouldn't call ordinary hiccups in my home — I've got a lot of people streaming a lot of things a lot of the time. (Kids, ya know.)
The only other compliant would be that because of the form factor of the Premiere+ (it's what I call a "mini box"), there's no Ethernet port. Just HDMI, and power. So be it.
It's just a great box
Roku Premiere: The bottom line
4.5 out of 5
Roku Premiere (and Premiere+, too) is a simple product. It's 4K video, with HDR and Dolby Atmos, tucked into a small box. I wouldn't go so far to say it's hobbled by only having Wifi 4, but that's definitely a limiting factor when it comes to network performance.
Maybe that'll be a problem for you. Or maybe it won't.
What most certainly won't be an issue is the Roku end of things. It's the same excellent experience you'll find in every other Roku device. And it's going to get better.
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