In this day and age, everyone is streaming video content over the Internet. If you’re looking to cut ties with your cable company over costly bloated packages, or if you just have to see what the fuss “Stranger Things” is about, you’re probably considering a streaming device.
With a ton of streaming devices out there, it can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. Shopping around will undoubtedly see you come face to face with a hunk of plastic that resembles a shiny square hockey puck. This is an Internet-streaming device known as a Roku. With a simple interface and fluid performance, the Roku is one of the most popular and easiest to use.
There are a number of different Roku models on the market. Even though they all have the same basic functions, do your homework and choose the one that is best for you. Made your choice? Good. A new frontier of home entertainment awaits you.
Unboxing and connecting to a TV
You’ve just purchased a brand-new Roku, and you’re eager to jump in and start lapping up all of the streaming video the Internet has to offer. Before you can hunker down on the couch and fall victim to a Netflix binge, you’ve got to get some fiddly things out of the way. First thing’s first – unboxing your new Roku and getting it hooked up to your TV.
This may sound obvious, but go ahead and remove the Roku (and all included pieces) from its packaging. Inside there should be the Roku device itself, a remote, a power supply, a standard definition A/V cable and a manual. Keep in mind that there are a few different Roku models on the market, so the contents of your box may vary.
Next you’re going to want to connect the Roku to your television. There are a few different ways to do this, including with the aforementioned A/V cable (the one with red, white and yellow connectors). While the A/V cable does the job, it is limited to standard definition video. Connecting your Roku via an HDMI cable is the preferred method. HDMI supports 1080p video, meaning you’ll get a significantly better picture resolution. In addition, HDMI is able to carry both the audio and video signal over one cable, cutting down the clutter.
Finally, connect the power supply unit to your Roku and plug it into a free electrical socket. Power on the Roku with the supplied remote and make sure you have selected the correct input (HDMI, A/V) via your TV’s menu. When you see the Roku splash screen, you’re ready to roll.
Initial Set Up & Adding Channels
Follow the on-screen set up process. This includes locating your WiFi network and entering your password to allow the Roku to access the Internet. You will also be prompted to create a Roku account. Doing so requires a valid credit card number; however, you won’t be charged for anything unless you order paid content like on-demand movies.
Once all of that is out of the way, you can start hunting for “channels.” Use the remote to navigate to the Channel Store. From here you can browse all of the streaming providers that the Roku supports. You’ll find popular ones like Netflix and Hulu, in addition to lesser-known offerings. The amount available can be a bit overwhelming, so prepare to sift through it for a while.
Install Private “Hidden”Channels
For reasons unknown, not all of the channels are available through the Roku’s Channel Store. Adding these hidden channels requires a little extra leg work, but it’s fairly simple. Head to websites like Roku Guide, which have curated lists of these so-called “private channels.” Find a channel you want to check out and click the “add channel” button. You will be redirected to the Roku page where you will have to enter in your login details. Doing so will generate a code for that channel, allowing you to add it to your Roku.
Get the Roku App
The Roku remote is simple and easy to use; however, you’ll notice fairly quickly that using the remote to navigate is a bit cumbersome. Luckily, the Roku app (Android and iOS) gives you access to a full keyboard, allowing you to type in your searches as opposed to flipping through pages and pages of content.
The Roku mobile app also allows you to mirror or display the screen of your phone or tablet wirelessly to your TV. Your mobile device and the Roku need to be connected to the same WiFi network in order for this feature to work. Sorry iOS fans, screen mirroring is not supported for the iPhone or iPad.
Stream Locally Stored Content
If you have a ton of digital media sitting on a networked hard drive or computer, install Plex Media Server. Once you have Plex up and running on your computer or NAS, grab the Plex channel on your Roku. Plex will organize all of your digital media in an easy-to-use interface that you can access directly from the Roku Plex channel. Configuration can be a bit involved, but it’s well worth it. Long story short, Plex will allow you to stream all of your local media directly to your TV via the Roku, creating your own personalized Netflix.
Install Some Games
While the Roku was primarily intended to be a way for users to access music and video over the Internet, you can play games on it as well. Head over to the “Games”” section of the menu to see what the Roku has to offer. You’ll find some classics as well as a number of popular mobile games. Some Roku models even support motion controls via the remote. It may not be an Xbox or Playstation, but if you’re in the mood for some interactive entertainment, it could be exactly what you’re looking for.
Do you use a Roku? What are the features or channels you can’t live without? Let us know in the comments below.