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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  • notposting - Friday, March 08, 2013 - link

    Depends on your definition of HTPC -- for me it means the PC part is basically invisible in day to day usage, no way the wife would use it otherwise. So mine runs 7MC with MyMovies, regular Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime instant videos all nicely integrated, plus regular tv/dvr duties.

    I only drag out the wireless keyboard/mouse every month or so maybe.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Saturday, March 09, 2013 - link

    See my other post...We have no cable TV connection (I haven't had one for near 3 years now). Just business unlimited cox. $99 a month and I can d/l at 3MB/s usually.

    It's far more than a netflix/amazon box. My bluray already does those. It's the OTHER stuff we bought 3 rokus for :)
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    ...the feature they think most people want. Games. They might be right, but I think Google would stand a better chance having a device like this based on an Android tailored for TV's than anything they've done with GoogleTV thus far.

    I think people just want a cheap device that plays Netflix, hulu, youtube, and amazon. If it also has Angry Birds, that's fine, too.
    Reply
  • rpmrush - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    My GF has the Roku 2 and it works fine as long it was hard wired. Wifi was iffy. I got the WD TV Play because it plays MKVs and other formats of hard drives on top of streaming and it has a YouTube app that works well. I'm finding the WD gives me a couldn't find wifi connection mid stream so I'm running 25ft of Cat5 off my router when the cable comes in. Overall I find them both slow, but the roku more refined. Hopefully with the updated SOC the UI feel will be quicker. Reply
  • edlee - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    its a sin at this point for any streamer to not have full codec support for network streaming, I understand it has plex, but doesnt have supported formats Reply
  • p05esto - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    The Roku SUCKS compared to WDTV. The Roku can't play local movies files via DLNA.... it's totally worthless in my opinion. The WDTV plays anything you throw at it - any video file, period. Stay away from this product unless you have some really specific purpose that the WDTV can't do (can't think of anything). Reply
  • bill4 - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Yeah I totally agree, just got a WDTV and I'm loving it. As you say, it integrates and streams really well from my PC, it plays nearly anything you throw at it, and just works. Awesome, awesome little box. Plus the fact it has optical out is a huge plus for me.

    I even discovered by chance it'll stream music via bluetooth from my Galaxy S 3 the other day, lol. even though it says it's streaming from windows on the screen when this happens, so I'm not sure what exactly is going on. Anyways this gives an easy way to get music from my phone onto my 5.1 system. So it's just another cool perk of the WDTV I stumbled upon.

    I had read some things on AVS forums though to the effect that it looks like in the future WD will be making future versions of the product more like the Roku box (eg, focused on streaming services like netflix), not less. Which obviously I dont approve of. If it's true, anyway.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Saturday, March 09, 2013 - link

    I've got a WDTV Live and it most certainly doesn't play anything you throw at it. On the latest firmware the device locks up on about 5% of the content on my file server. The previous version works fine for those files, but just outright refuses to play certain other files which work just fine on the latest firmware. They stopped releasing firmware updates 3 months after I bought it, so I just gave up and it's sitting in a box somewhere. Reply
  • blueboy11 - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    I for one have an Xbox, Vizio Blu-Ray player, and my Dad's very slow Magnavox Blu-Ray player from Walmart (yeah I know quit laughing at me!) and yet I can stream YouTube app from the devices. Roku needs to get their heads out of their assets and get with the program... YouTube is a necessary app to catch up on news, info, latest videos, whatever you're into.... Is it such a crime for Roku to NOT have YouTube?? Forget about digital rights and give me a logical reasoning is all I'm asking??? One channel can make a difference between buying a product and not believe it or not!! If an app is important for a consumer you betcha that they should include instead of excluding it to get more sales!! (end of rant) Reply
  • T2k - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    It would make it a perfect match for tuners like this: http://www.silicondust.com/company/news/ Reply

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