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Roku Is Stepping Up Its Game with New Apps


Yesterday DIRECTV NOW rolled out its long-awaited DIRECTV NOW Roku Channel. The surprise was it is a very nice channel with a full channel guide.

After years of complaints that Roku apps felt dated, this new DIRECTV NOW Roku Channel is a great example of what all Roku Channels should be: smooth scrolling between screens and a beautiful user interface.

In the past it was said that Roku was not powerful enough for nice streaming apps. Many used this to defend the PlayStation Vue Roku Channel that has remained mostly unchanged since it launched last year with a grid of channels and a confusing set of menus. Many had suggested that Roku was unable to support the app used on Fire TV and the Apple TV. Now we know that is not true.

Here are a few examples of recent new Roku Channels:

Roku has recently rolled out several other beautifully updated apps. Both Comcast and Twitter came out with new apps that look sharp and are feature rich. Sling TV and Amazon apps show that Roku apps can look just as nice as anything Apple or the Fire TV can support.

Even Sling TV has a fun and interesting interface on Roku. Sling TV typically brings new features to the Roku before other streaming players.

Developers such as those at PlayStation Vue need to step up their game. Their apps look dated and feel dated not because of the Roku but because of the developers behind them. Hopefully PlayStation Vue’s developers will step up their game and update their Roku app or face being left behind as more and more live TV streaming services come on the market.

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  • AstroMonster

    Yeah, well, the Roku version of DirectTV Now still isn’t as smooth as the ATV or FTV version. There is considerable lagging in the guide scrolling, for one thing.

    It’s their beta, so let’s wait and see if they smooth out the performance before we go fawning over them.

    • mau47

      Given the tech specs of most Roku boxes I doubt you will ever see them gain much speed. Most Rokus with the exception of their new high end models are dual core or less running under 1 GHz and 512 MB or less RAM. Unless they work some serious magic, I just don’t see how they can pull it off.

      • AstroMonster

        I have a Roku 3 and 2 newer Roku 2 units (and an old Roku 1)..I can’t imagine ever spending another dime on a new Roku box.

        All I need is for either ATV or FTV to legitimately support VHX (for my MST3K library) and Vudu, then the Rokus go in the trash

        • Golfluvr13

          I read that Vudu was coming to ATV soon, of course they did not define what soon meant. Could be a month or could be 2 years.

          • AstroMonster

            I saw that too. Vudu is available for iOS (iPads and such), so it makes sense.

            Amazon is coming this summer to Apple TV. Confirmed

          • Golfluvr13

            I’m so excited for Amazon to come to the AppleTV! That is the only thing missing on it for me (Google movies/tv would be nice).

          • AstroMonster

            You can watch all your Google Play movies and TV purchases thorough the YouTube app on Apple TV.

            That’s how I do it

            No sideloading or anything..
            Just the standard YouTube app

          • Golfluvr13

            I did not know that. Thank you!

          • AstroMonster

            Glad to help 🙂

          • Golfluvr13

            I appreciate it.

          • Craig

            I’m secretly hoping Apple announces Vudu for Apple TV about 30 seconds after they announce Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV @ WWDC. Given the amount of time (and amount of rumors) both services have had to create an app? I would think they’d both done and ready to be launched.

          • AstroMonster

            That would be nice….
            Never been an Apple fan but I do really like the ATV.

        • JGaLaXY

          you using Plex with them?

          • AstroMonster

            I have Plex installed, but only signed in on the Roku 3

          • AstroMonster

            I do have it installed on the fire TV also….

      • AstroMonster

        I am also constantly reading horror stories about the new Roku units. A lot of unhappy people out there with them because they have so many issues

        • Golfluvr13

          The Premier + has some sound issues when playing back on Amazon and Tablo. I have complained about it over and over. That is the reason I bought an AppleTV. I don’t have those issues with it.

          • AstroMonster

            I’ve heard about the sound issues 🙁

            I have also heard that some of the units have to constantly be rebooted to work

          • Golfluvr13

            I haven’t had a problem having to reboot it, but once in a while it will reboot itself in the middle of watching something. I don’t have that problem on the Roku 3 or the 2016 stick.

          • AstroMonster

            I think it is the Premiere that has to be rebooted (not the Premiere+)

          • Golfluvr13

            Yeah, I think the Premiere wasn’t quite ready for prime time when Roku released it.

          • AstroMonster

            My Roku 3 will randomly lock up and reboot every now and then too

          • Golfluvr13

            I’ve had my 3 reboot a few times, but it has always been with PS Vue and watching the DVR in it.

          • AstroMonster

            Happened to me testing out the new Direct TV Now app last night..hahaha

  • mau47

    There is still a good bit of work left for Roku to do so its easier for developers to make these custom UI’s without a lot of investment. They don’t have templates available for developers to start with and work off of to make it easier and supposedly won’t until late this year. 2018 is when you will start to see more apps catching up. Heck, 7.6 released in April added support for in app purchases on screen graph apps, so there are a lot of little holes they need to keep filling.

    I also wonder how many older units you will start seeing being left behind as screengraph is designed to shine on multicore boxes which is why I think we are seeing some apps like Direc TV not support older units that are single or slow dual core with limited ram.

    • HeyRadar

      I agree it’s time to abandon legacy devices (any device that is slower than the $25 Express). Exactly what DirecTV Now did.

    • Craig

      I have a $69 Xiaomi Mi Box Android TV that runs circles around the best Roku (Ultra) when it comes to speed and UI fluidity. Roku needs to overhaul their hardware/software BIG TIME! And honesty? I wouldn’t blame Roku if they were to ever go the route of Amazon and fork a version of Android (replacing Linux) under a Roku customized launcher skin. In the long run? It’d probably be smarter from an app standpoint. Roku needs to do something, though. Compared to any other platform? Roku boxes are simply glacial.

      • Rucknrun

        I love my MiBox too. No complaints it works well.

        • Craig

          My only MiBox complaint is… where’s the general rollout for Nougat? And… How long will it take to get O release with the new launcher? I know this much? DirecTV NOW better be released for both it and the Sheild soon.

          • Rucknrun

            I had Roku’s and Android TV’s. I tried DirectTV Now it was not for me. I got the free Fire Stick. Man I hate that interface. I am ready for Android 7 on the MiBox. I did read somewhere that they were in the testing phase with it.

          • RontBeamer

            It’s kind of interesting you guys say this, every review I have read puts the Mi Box dead last in performance of the commercially available android boxes.

          • Rucknrun

            If you want to stream stuff it is perfect. If you want to play games or something like that, I would probably go with a shield. I don’t have any idea how much it will be supported in the future. I agree with that. There is very little info about it.

          • Duder12

            It’s because it’s only sold at Walmart and it chops when doing 4k for some people.

            It’s only 70 bucks though…

          • Rucknrun

            I hate Walmart too. I did buy one and it works well. I have it crammed behind a tv hanging on the wall. Still works well over wifi.

      • Devin Serpa

        Some people just use their Rokus to watch TV. If it’s not broke no need to fix.

        • Craig

          Money and market-share don’t follow that mentality. Sorry, bud. Bottom-line’s in a boardroom come down to new hardware and software and new features there-in, to fuel investor excitement. Eventually they’re going to have to do something, whether you or I think they should or not. Human nature always expects the thrill of the next new thing and Roku is no exception to that nor are they immune. They either improve or they’re done. Especially with Android TV and Fire TV chomping at the bit. There will never be a time where technology is fixed. That is simply an illusion.

  • Rucknrun

    I agree the Playstation Vue interface is dated. However, it works well. Live streaming is very good.

    • RontBeamer

      I kind of actually like the UI on PSVue.

      • Rucknrun

        When you go to DVR’d shows it is hard to tell which ones are new and which ones are old. That is my biggest complaint.

  • Sunny Rain

    You shouldn’t have to jump through lots of hoops to make an app work in an Operating System. This is 2017. That’s why platforms like Android and iOS have been more successful because they know market needs and make their platforms more straightforward and unified.

    Also, the Roku app is still much slower and laggy and messy than the Apple TV version. So, only Roku fanboys will actually root for this.

  • Tom Vermeulen

    Pluto.tv for Roku is free, has many channels, and a menu that I can scroll through and select onscreen or through my phone. I love it. You’d think the “Big Boys” could’ve​ done so well years ago. Not a fan of the new MLB app or layout though. If you leave the app and come back you can’t resume the game.

    • JGaLaXY

      pluto.tv might be the most underrated app, it even has FREE music channels, super impressed with it

    • Devin Serpa

      Yep Pluto TV, Netflix, VUDU = $12.99 monthly entertainment expense.

    • AstroMonster

      I love Pluto TV, but I wouldn’t use it’s guide to try and impress anyone. It’s guide is pretty lame actually.

      You can’t scroll to the right and see any time other than what is on screen at the moment, so you can’t really get an idea what is coming up.

      Plus, every time you go back to the guide, you start off at the top again

    • HeyRadar

      It look Pluto.TV a long time to get their Roku Channel Guide even close to the Fire TV version. I’m not sure if they had to wait for Roku to make OS changes.

  • Is there a way to turn off the “preview” video for Netflix? That one is super annoying. I’ve started using the back button and arranging everything by categories it’s so annoying.

  • I love my Roku Express, it works great and the Direct TV Now app works great also, no issues. I do plan on upgrading to a MiBox or Shield in the future and maybe adding a Firestick on a 2nd tv in the bedroom, but no complaints about the Roku, any of the versions really.

  • Duder12

    I have come to the conclusion that the writers of cord cutters no absolutely nothing about software development