We have reviewed the Roku devices before, and the last major hardware refresh (if you discount the MHL-equipped streaming stick) was the Roku 2 XS which we evaluated in detail back in September 2011. Engadget spied some FCC filings early last month, and to no one's surprise, the Roku 3 was officially launched yesterday at the $99 price point.

We could write multiple paragraphs about the new features touted by Roku in the new hardware, but felt it would be simpler to present the plus and minus points of the Roku 3 in a point-wise fashion:

Positives:

  • Faster CPU for a better user experience. Users are no longer bundled with the same SoC that is part of the Raspberry Pi. We are still looking into details of the new SoC, and have good reason to believe that it is Broadcom's.
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi support, enabling consumers to use the relatively interference-free 5 GHz band for wireless streaming
  • Miracast-capable internal hardware
  • Updated user interface to go with the increased number of channels
  • Innovative headphone jack in the remote to enable users to enjoy Roku channels without disturbing others in the room
  • Smaller physical dimensions compared to Roku 2

Areas to Improve:

  • Miracast support will only be available later this year
  • No official YouTube channel yet
  • Very basic local media streaming support
  • Pushes hard for credit card information to be on file before allowing usage of device

Roku was one of the first companies to come out with a streaming set top box for the general consumer and it has managed to move a large number of devices over the last few years, thanks to its pioneer status and marketing budget. However, the truth is that devices like the WDTV Live and WDTV Play from Western Digital provide all the major streaming channels and also integrate very good local media support at a similar / lower price point compared to the Roku boxes. At the lower end, I have also seen Netgear's streaming devices such as the NTV200 and the NeoTV Max 300 SL provide a large number of streaming channels. The latter also integrates a useful differentiating feature in the form of Wi-Di support. 

The Roku 3 refresh is interesting, but seems to lack any particularly exciting feature. What do readers think? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Source: Roku

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  • MrX8503 - Friday, March 08, 2013 - link

    I'm not sure about the dual band. I have WDTV live stream from my NAS over wifi and there isn't any skipping whatsoever. Reply
  • Demon-Xanth - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    I have one of the first generation Rokus, and what it really needs is a remote with a small keyboard on it so you can type in a movie's name. Aside from the lack of an official youtube channel (I have the unofficial one...) that is my only gripe because the thing works great. Reply
  • RxTom - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    The smart phone app is a decent replacement and would be the direction Roku would send you, but I agree. I would like to see something like the Boxee or Tivo slider remotes for the Roku. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    Worth mentioning that the current gen Roku boxes will be getting the new interface in April. No need to upgrade to the 3 if that's all you're interested in. Reply
  • yllanos - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    I'm interested in knowing if Roku 3 supports AFP protocol for local streaming.

    I'm currently using a jailbroken 2nd generation Apple TV and a Synology DS212j NAS to stream local content.

    My connection done using AFP protocol on my NAS and it works OK, but I want to get one of this Roku boxes and sell my Apple TV.
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    Why should this need your credit card number at all? Reply
  • cobalt42 - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    Because their "channels" are more like apps; many are free, but others cost money.

    On a highlight, when I got one a few months ago I discovered you can set it up with a credit card, then immediately visit the Roku web site and delete it from your account.

    If you want to set it up without a credit card at all, I've heard you can do so by calling their customer service.
    Reply
  • agent2099 - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    I don't understand the point of a devices like this. Do you still need a Roku if you have a dedicated HTPC?

    It seems like its a device that is a gateway to get netflix and amazon streaming content to your TV.

    Is there anything else I'm missing. If you want to watch TV you still have subscribe to a cable or satellite service on top of this, right?
    Reply
  • Metaluna - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    It's probably overkill to have both, but it depends on what you're doing with your HTPC. If you're using e.g. XBMC as a media player, then integration of Netflix and other streaming services is awkward at best and requires a lot of set up. On the other hand if you already have a game console (PS3, Xbox360) they already have some of the best Netflix apps around, so the Roku is redundant. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    I understand the appeal of using XBMC interface as much as possible, but if you have a real HTPC you could just stream directly from Netflix. Reply

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