Saturday Jan 28, 2023

Roku Ultra (2022) Review – PCMag


Roku hasn’t updated its top-of-the-line Roku Ultra media streamer itself for 2022, but you now get a Voice Remote Pro with it for the same $99.99 as the previous model. That’s a significant upgrade, as the remote (previously a $30 accessory) adds hands-free voice control and a convenient headphone jack to the mix. The Ultra’s voice features still don’t compete with those of the Alexa-enabled Amazon Fire TV Cube ($119.99), however, and you can also get virtually everything the Roku Ultra offers with the $69.99 Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, minus Ethernet and USB ports for wired network connections and playing media off of USB drives. Depending on your needs, those two options are probably slightly better choices if you’re looking for a 4K-capable media streaming device.

A Familiar Box, Now With a Voice Remote Pro

The 2022 Roku Ultra is identical in features and specs to the one we tested in 2020. It’s a matte black plastic box with rounded corners that measures 1.0 by 5.0 by 4.9 inches (HWD). The front edge has a small window for the indicator LED, the left edge has Roku’s signature purple fabric tag, and the right edge has a button for the remote finder feature. The back features HDMI, USB, and Ethernet ports, as well as a connector for the power adapter. The device is small, simple, and easy to fit under your TV or inside a media console cabinet, but it isn’t quite as tiny as the dongle-like Roku Streaming Stick, which can just hang from an HDMI port.

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(Photo: Will Greenwald)

The Voice Remote Pro also hasn’t changed since its release in 2021. It’s a simple matte black plastic wand with a prominent purple direction pad near the top and a purple fabric tag with the Roku logo on the bottom, just like every other Roku remote. Back, Home, and Power buttons sit above the navigation pad, along with a pinhole microphone. Playback controls, two programmable function buttons, and dedicated service buttons for Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, and Paramount+ sit below the navigation pad. The right edge of the remote features a volume rocker and mute button, while the left edge sports a 3.5mm headphone jack and mic mute switch. A tiny speaker and pairing button are on the back.

The usual high-end Roku remote features are all present. For starters, the headphone jack lets you listen privately to anything you watch on the Roku Ultra (the box includes a pair of earphones). And, if you can’t find the remote, its speaker sounds a chime when you press the remote finder button on the Ultra. The remote relies on a built-in rechargeable battery, which you can charge via the micro USB port under the purple tag.

But the main advantage of the Voice Remote Pro is that it unlocks hands-free voice control. The remote has a mid-field microphone that can pick up your voice from anywhere nearby; just start your command with the phrase, “Hey, Roku.” You can direct the media streamer to search for movies and shows, open apps, and play or pause content. You even get the ability to directly control your TV, because the remote can send infrared signals to it. The mic doesn’t quite have the range of a smart speaker, so you can’t tuck the remote in a distant corner and use it …….


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