Roku Premiere Plus impresses with 4K HDR in a tiny package

Roku's Premiere and Premiere+ 4K streaming media players look like a great deal. At $40 and $50, they're half the price of Roku's current 4K player, the Ultra, and cheaper than Google's 4K Chromecast Ultra at $69 and the $179 Apple TV 4K. But how do they perform. TechHive has put them to the test. OPEN The players are tiny, they're smaller than the remote control, but can stream 4K HDR content over HDMI to a TV. They're powered by USB and Roku even provides a sticky strip so you can neatly install it next to or behind your TV. CLOSE UP OF PIECES Both models have a fast quad-core processor, the same chip used in Roku's other devices, and performance is good. The difference between the two models is in the remote control. The Premiere has a traditional infrared remote that requires line of sight while the Premire+ uses radio signals. That means you don't have to have it pointing at the TV and can even hide your Roku behind your set. The plus remote also includes power and volume buttons for your TV and a basic voice search.

VOICE SEARCH DEMO You can search for titles, actors, directors, and genres, but you can't do advanced searches like "Show me Sci-Fi movies from the 70s" or "Show me comedies on Netflix." One very helpful feature that's just been introduced is a section of free movies and shows. Roku draws them from its own media database and services like ABC, Fox or Sony Crackle. It's a really useful way to browse and discover stuff that's on-demand but won't cost you anything to watch. Of course, one of the major things is 4K support at a low price point.

The Premiere+ can stream 4K content from a bunch of services including Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube and there's a helpful spotlight app that showcases some of what's available. It makes finding 4K content much easier. SCREENCAST The boxes also support HDR, but only the HDR10 flavor in apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Vudu. It will provide more vibrant colors in bright scenes and more color detail in dark scenes. But the DolbyVision and HDR10+ formats, which provide scene-by-scene optimization, aren't supported by any Roku players. When I started using these I was disappointed with the picture quality, which lacked contrast but Roku wasn't to blame. I had to switch the HDMI connection to an enhanced mode in my TV settings, so make sure you do that if your TV requires it. HDR SETTING? Now, one important thing to mention is the WiFi support in the Premiere+. It uses 802.11n, sometimes called WiFi 4, at 2.4GHz. The 2.4GHz WiFi band is the most popular and can be very crowded. If you're in an apartment or live in a city, you can sometimes see 20 or 30 networks when you scan.

If one of those is interfering, it can slow down your WiFi at for video stream, especially at 4K, you want a connection that's as fast as possible. Roku has another device called the Streaming Stick + that plugs into the back of your TV and uses the newer 802.11ac, or WiFi 5, protocol and the less congested 5GHz band. In our tests, we found data throughput on the Streaming Stick + to almost twice as fast.

GRAPHIC So, what does this mean? The Premiere+ should work fine in most situations but if you're living in an area with many many WiFi networks, the Streaming Stick+ should be a more reliable option. TechHive rated the Roku Premiere just out of 5 and the Premiere+ 4 out of 5. Ultimately, that extra $10 is worth spending for the better remote control. The Roku Premiere is $40, the Premiere+ is $50. .

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