We knew we wouldn’t be disappointed heading into our Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review.
Roku is known for its fantastic smart TV interface that is full of features. The company makes this interface available to many smart TV brands.
But for the people who have a non-Roku TV, there is a convenient way to enjoy the interface: With a Roku Ultra 4K HDR media player. This palm-sized device combines the features of a Roku stick with the functionality of a media player. Of all the Roku streaming devices in the market, the Ultra is the one with the most features.
Do the many features of the Roku Ultra translate into a great viewing experience? Let us take a closer look to find out.
Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review part 1: What is in the box?
Depending on where you buy the Roku Ultra, you may get a set of JBL headphones in the bargain, which is nice. Also in the box is the Roku device, a pair of AA batteries, a voice-enabled remote, a power adapter, a user manual and a warranty document.
First looks: Hardware
This palm-sized Roku media player is a sleek, black square with 5-inch sides. The Roku Ultra is also pretty slim, at a depth of only one inch. Because of its small form and flat, disc-like shape, the device fades into the background. Once you plug it in and place it in its permanent spot, you will soon forget that it is there at all.
The top and bottom surfaces of the device are pretty bare. But the top of the Ultra does have a button that causes the remote to beep when pressed. It comes in handy when you lose the remote in the cushions or under the couch. The right and back edges of the Roku Ultra hold the ports. This Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review still has lots to cover.
Inputs, outputs and connectivity
All but one of the ports on the Roku Ultra are found at the back of the device. On the far left, you will find the Ethernet port. Next to the LAN port is an HDMI port and an SD slot stacked on top of each other.
Next to these is an optical audio port, a huge selling point for the Ultra. With this port, you can connect to a soundbar or AV receiver. Meaning there is no need to route audio output from 4K content through the HDMI port.
This allows you to keep your ‘legacy’ audio-visual setup and still enjoy 4K content. No other Roku streaming device has an optical port, which makes the optical audio digital output one of the best reasons to spend a little extra for the Ultra.
Next to the optical port is the power jack, which takes a 12V, 1.5A power adapter. You will find a USB 2.0 port on the right edge of the device.
As for connectivity, you can access the internet through the Ethernet port or the built-in, wireless adapter. The dual-band adapter allows the Roku Ultra to connect to a Wi-Fi network on both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies.
Before you power the Ultra for the first time, you will need to make some connections. First, connect to the TV using an HDMI port. You will have to get a hold of an HDMI cable since the device does not ship with one. Next, connect to the router using an Ethernet cable. Lastly, plug in the power adapter and connect it to the Ultra.
When you press the power button, the device comes on, and you can start the setup process. It will only take ten minutes; less if you already have a Roku account.
The setup process will take you through the language settings. It will also have you create or log into a Roku account. As for the more technical parameters, the Roku Ultra will detect the capabilities of your TV and complete the process on its own. When setup is complete, you will be looking at the home screen of the Roku interface.
If you are familiar with Roku, then you have seen this screen before. The home screen is intuitive and straightforward. It has a vertical navigation panel on the left side of the screen. There is also a clock and a settings shortcut at the top-right hand corner of the screen.
The rest of the home page holds pre-installed apps like Netflix, YouTube, HBO and Hulu. There is also a handy app that plays content from any external drive you connect via the USB port.
Which makes the Roku Ultra a streaming device that doubles as a media player.
Apps and content
Roku’s channel store is second only to Android TV’s store. You will find a wide selection of apps, streaming and otherwise. Everyone’s favorite streaming apps come pre-installed.
If you want more apps, you can browse the channel store and customize your Roku Ultra to your heart’s content. You will find about 17 streaming apps that provide 4K content. Included in this list are the staples (Netflix, Vudu, HBO, Prime, Hulu).
In terms of numbers, Roku Ultra provides access to thousands of free and premium shows, in addition to podcasts, documentaries and movies.
Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review part 2: Performance
The Roku Ultra has a powerful processor and a formidable graphics processor. You can zoom from menu item to menu item at lightning speed. And no matter how fast you send commands to the Ultra, the interface will not freeze up or blur. The device can take whatever you throw at it.
Then there is the matter of streaming speeds. With a good internet connection, the Ultra is at least as fast as other Roku streaming devices. To guarantee a lag-free streaming experience, you will only need an internet connection with a minimum bandwidth of 15Mbps. At this achievable speed, you will never see your content buffer.
Resolution and supported codecs
The Roku Ultra has 4K resolution. It also supports most HDR10 formats, except for Dolby. To enjoy this high-fidelity, high-resolution content, you will need to have a 4K TV set. If your display only goes up to 1080p, then that is the maximum resolution you will get.
The Roku Ultra supports most, if not all, the codecs you can name, which means that there is little chance that you will come across a format that will not play on this device.
The Roku Ultra is compatible with both Google Assistant and Alexa. It comes preinstalled with Google’s Assistant, and you can install Alexa if you want. So instead of typing your search query, you can simply do a voice search by holding down the microphone button on the remote.
That said, the voice control feature can be flaky.
Our Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t go over the remote. It has a simple layout with the power and home buttons at the top. It also has a navigation pad and a set of playback controls. It has a microphone button for voice commands and four hotkeys for selected streaming apps.
A convenient feature of the remote is the headphone jack that allows private listening.
You will not need a line of sight to use the remote, which is good. The remote also has a ‘find-my-remote’ feature, which is also good. Let’s summarize the most important things we learned during this Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review:
- Easy to use
- Comes with a remote control that accepts voice commands
- No line of sight needed when using the remote
- The Roku interface comes with the Roku channel store, which has a good amount of 4K HDR apps and content
- Regular updates for the Roku interface
- It has more features than any other Roku streaming device
- It has an optical digital audio output that makes it compatible with less cutting-edge AV setups
- The media player does not support Dolby HDR
- The voice search function works in fits and starts
- More expensive than most other Roku streaming devices
- The Ultra heats up, which is something that does not happen with less fancy Roku devices
Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review verdict: Should you buy it?
If you have a 4K smart TV that supports HDR, you probably will not need this media player unless the Smart TV interface on your television is especially awful. In which case you can buy the Roku Ultra for its excellent interface. And the rich world of content that is the Roku Channel Store.
It is also worth noting that you will only be able to fully enjoy the Roku Ultra if your TV supports 4K content.
That said, the Roku Ultra media player has every feature you could possibly think of. It will provide you with an immersive experience that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. At the end of the day, the Roku Ultra is a good purchase. Hope you enjoyed our Roku Ultra 4K HDR Streaming Media Player review.