Whether you’re a cord cutter or not, you probably want a streaming device for your TV, and Rokucoms is a popular choice. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the number of active Roku accounts topped 27 million, a 40 percent year-over-year jump. Those users streamed 7.3 billion hours of programming in Q4 and 24 billion hours in 2018 overall.
Part of that popularity may lie in the variety of Roku devices. Roku’s lineup includes the Roku Express, Express+, Premiere, Premiere+ (a PCMag Editors’ Choice), Ultra, Streaming Stick, and Streaming Stick+.
Whether you’ve nabbed a new model or have had the same one for years, there’s more to know beyond the basics of a Marvel marathon. We’ve put together 26 ways for you to get more out of your streaming device.
Watch Free Movies on The Roku Channel
Video-streaming services are great but they cost money. With The Roku Channel, you can sign in and access those premium channels (like HBO and Showtime), but the channel also offers free access to 10,000+ movies and TV episodes, if you can handle a few commercials.
You can also watch in the Roku app whether you have a Roku device or not. Just download it, sign in or create an account, and start streaming.
Search Across 500 Apps at Once
Instead of searching every Roku channel individually to find what you want, you can search across them with Roku Search. Enter your search term via the Roku remote, Roku mobile app, or via voice search, and you’ll get results from over 500 channels, whether you have them or not. Search by title, actor, or director and you’ll get a comprehensive list.
Similarly, use Roku Search to compare costs of streaming content. Type in a movie, show, or star and you’ll get a list of available titles and the prices across channels and services.
Discover ‘Hidden’ Roku Channels
Not all available Roku channels are listed in the Roku Channel Store. To find the “secret” ones, check out the Roku Guide. Clink the link you want, then Add Channel, and you’ll be taken to a Roku account page. Log in and add the code for the channel and you’re set.
Adjust Playback Settings for Netflix
You can control the quality of your Netflix streaming on your Roku, whether you want to see things more clearly or stay within a data cap. Log in to Netflix’s website, then go to Account > My Profile > Playback Settings.
As great as the Roku is, navigating from the remote could use some help. Download the Roku app (iOS, Android) and get the benefit of a keyboard, easy searching, and streaming from your phone or tablet.
Talk to Your Roku Remote
One of the easiest ways to navigate your Roku is by talking to it. You can do this if you have a Roku Voice Remote, the Roku Touch tabletop remote that comes with Roku’s wireless speakers, or the Roku mobile app. On the remotes, press either the microphone or magnifying glass and hold them while you speak your request. On the app, select the magnifying glass to get to the search page and then tap the microphone, let it go, speak your request, and tap the middle of the screen.
Roku has also opened its platform to Google, so you can use Google Assistant to make voice requests. First check that your Roku player is running Roku OS 9.0 or higher or that your Roku TV has Roku OS 8.2 or higher. Set up your Google Assistant on your Google device or app. Open the Google Assistant mobile app, tap Explore > Settings > Home Control > Add Device > Find > Roku. Sign in to your Roku account and then choose which device you want to control with Google Assistant.
If you have an Amazon Echo and a Roku, ask Alexa to control your Roku.
First you’ll have to link both accounts by going to the Alexa mobile app, selecting Skills & Games, and searching for Roku. When you find it, tap Enable Skill, sign in to your Roku account, and select the Roku device you want to link. Then close your Roku account so Alexa will search for the device on the Device Discovery Screen.
Once it finds it, tap Manage, Link Devices, and select the Roku you want to connect to Alexa. Then add the Roku to a group by selecting the Devices icon. Either add it to an existing group or create a new one by tapping the Plus button. While still in the Alexa app, tap on the Roku device and make sure it is enabled. Then you’re set to ask things like, “Alexa, open Netflix.”
Automatic Volume LevelingHow many times have you been lulled into near-somnolence by a show only to be jolted awake by a commercial? In Roku OS 9, you can turn on automatic volume leveling so a commercial or a channel change doesn’t result in a spike in volume.
You can only turn on the feature when you’re streaming. Press the star button on the remote and navigate to Advanced Sound Settings > Volume Mode > Leveling. Additionally, you can go to Advanced Sound Settings > Volume Mode > Night to increase the volume of softer sounds and decrease the volume of loud sounds.
Most Roku devices support screen mirroring from Windows and Android gadgets to your TV (not iOS).
To hook it up, press the Home button on the Roku remote and select Settings > System > Screen Mirroring > Enable Screen Mirroring. (If you don’t see a Screen Mirroring option, your Roku device doesn’t support it.)
On Android, screen mirroring is supported on devices running Android 4.2+, provided that device is not a Google-branded Nexus or Pixel device with Android 6.0+. As Roku explains in its FAQ, some Android devices also use different terms for screen mirroring, like Smart View or simply Cast.
On PCs, screen mirroring works on Windows 8.1 and up.
Cast Videos to Your Roku
Even if you don’t have a Google Chromecast, you can still cast supported apps, like YouTube and Netflix, from your mobile screen to your TV via Roku. Make sure the app and your Roku device is on the same Wi-Fi network and look for the Cast icon inside the app. Tap it and select your Roku device, which should beam the app’s content to your TV.
Maybe you paused whatever you’re watching and walked out of the room. Or you slept through streaming and now the Roku logo is just bouncing around, like the flying toasters of the millennium. Give yourself something nice to look at with Roku’s screensavers. Select Screensavers & Apps from your Roku and you can get an art gallery viewing, hang out by a crackling fire, or keep an eye on the weather.
So it’s not an Xbox One X or a Nintendo Switch, but your Roku is still in the game. Go to Games and you can go retro with Pac-Man, race to save an emperor’s daughter in Chop Chop Runner, and test your smarts with Jeopardy. The Roku Enhanced Gaming Remote with Voice Search supports motion-control gaming.
Move the Apps on Your Roku Home Screen
Roku displays your channels in the order in which you added them. But you can move those apps around. Find the app you want to move, press the star button on your Roku remote, and select “Move channel” from the pop-up menu. Use the directional pad to move it to your desired location.
Roku Mounting System
If you have a non-streaming stick Roku, it’s taking up some real estate next to your TV. Move it out of the way by buying the Roku Mounting System that fits the 1, 2, 3, and LT or one for the Ultra for $10.99, which attaches to the back of your TV.
If you missed those last few lines, there’s a quick way to catch up. Set up instant replay by going to Settings and selecting Accessibility or Captions, depending on which one your device displays. Then select Captions Mode > Instant Replay. When you hit the Instant Replay button on the remote you also get the text on the screen..
Stream Your Own Stuff Via Plex
Though Roku has a ton of different channels and things to watch, you’ll probably still want to access your locally stored content on your TV. Sign up for Plex ($4.99 per month, $39.99 per year, or $119.99 for a lifetime) and you can. Plex organizes your scattered content and lets you watch it from tablets, TVs, phones, and more; you can record and watch live broadcast TV, too.
Download the Plex app. Then, in the Roku app, go to Preferences > Connect Plex account, and follow the instructions to verify the PIN code to connect the app with your Plex account.
Tap Into Live TV Streaming Services
New live TV services are popping up regularly, from Sling TV and DirecTV Now to PlayStation Vue and Hulu with Live TV, all of which are available via Roku. If you have a subscription to HBO Now or Showtime, meanwhile, you can watch shows and movies as they are broadcast. Sports fans can pay for MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and NHL.TV and watch games as they happen. NFL games are streamed live and available on demand on a number of services.
A number of live TV streaming services offer cloud DVR, meaning you can record live TV and access your shows later via the service’s Roku app.
- If you have an antenna to watch live TV, you can also record it with a device like Tablo TV. Set it up; download the app to your Roku; and you can watch, pause, and record.
- If you subscribe to YouTube TV, it comes with a cloud DVR that holds an unlimited number of hours of programming for up to nine months, provided you are connected to the internet.
- Sling TV customers can DVR 50 hours of content starting at $5 per month.
- DirecTV Now comes with True Cloud DVR (above), which lets customers record up to 20 hours for free.
- Included with Hulu with Live TV is the ability to DVR up to 50 hours of TV and shows, expandable up to 200 hours.
- The PlayStation Vue’s DVR is compatible with Roku, but keep in mind that you can record series but not individual episodes and recordings stick around for only 28 days.
- Philo subscribers can save anything that streams to the service’s included DVR for 30 days.
- If you have fuboTV, there is a DVR function that can be set even partway through a show’s airing to capture the entire thing. How much is stored depends on your plan.
Watch Local News
Cutting the cord doesn’t have to mean cutting yourself off from local news broadcasts; NewsOn streams them from outlets nationwide.
Watch CW Shows Without a Login
If you’re a fan of the CW shows like Riverdale, The CW channel no longer requires a sign-in or subscription. You can watch the last five episodes of any CW show, with new episodes available the day after they air.
Use Roku Private Listening
If you want to watch something on your Roku without disturbing those around you, use Private Listening. Remotes for the Roku Ultra and Roku TVs include a built-in headphone jack; just plug in and keep watching. Or download the Roku mobile app, connect your headphones to your device, and tap the headphones icon.
Be Our Guest
Be Ultra Clear
If you have a 4K TV and a Roku that supports it and want to get content that takes advantage of that spectacular resolution, visit Roku’s 4K UHD section, which features channels that have 4K content.