There are a lot of different electronic devices out there, and many of them do very different things. The Roku and the set-top streaming box category of products is one that was largely made up of early-adopters and technology enthusiasts a few years ago, but the exploding popularity of Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and other similar services has brought the Roku into the public eye.
So if someone has told you that you should think about getting a Roku, or if you were considering purchasing it as a gift for someone because of its’ low price, then you may have found yourself asking “What is a Roku?” or, more specifically, “What is a Roku 3?”.
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If you already know what the Roku can do, and you just want to see all of the available Roku models and their prices, then click here to check them out on Amazon.
All of the Roku models function in basically the same way. You unpack your new Roku, connect the power cable and the video cable, then plug it into a wall outlet and your television. Then you switch the TV to the correct input channel and follow the instructions on the screen. Once you’re done, you will be able to stream videos and music from sources at which you have a valid subscription (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Spotify, HBO Go, etc.) or from a number of free sources (Crackle, YouTube via some third-party options, Plex, PBS, Vevo, etc.).
Sounds Great! What Else Do I Need?
The most important thing to have, and something without which the Roku will not work at all, is a broadband Internet connection. Almost everything that you watch or listen to on your Roku will come from the Internet, and streaming videos, especially in HD, requires Internet speeds that you can usually only get from a cable, fiber-optic or DSL Internet connection. Additionally, you will also need to have a Wi-Fi connection to use many of the Roku models. The Roku 3 has a port for a wired ethernet connection, however, if you are looking to get a Roku 3 and don’t have a wireless network set up in your home.
Some of the Roku models have the option of connecting to your TV with RCA AV cables (the red, white and yellow ones), but these will only offer a standard-definition quality picture (480p.) If you want HD content (720p or 1080p) then you will need an HDMI cable. The Roku 3 doesn’t even have a connection for regular AV cables, so the HDMI cable is a necessity. Fortunately you can buy these cheaply along with your Roku, so click here to see the pricing for an HDMI cable on Amazon.
You may also want something to mount the Roku on the back of your TV, such as this unit from Amazon, but the Roku will work just fine resting on your TV stand.
So Why Should I Get the Roku 3, Specifically?
As you may have already noticed, the Roku 3 is more expensive than some of the other HD Roku models, such as the Roku 1 on Amazon and the Roku 2 on Amazon. All three of these are great devices, and a lot of people will be more than satisfied with the 1 or the 2. But if you want to be able to comfortably use your Roku for several years, or if you ever have problems with Wi-Fi reception in your home, then the Roku 3 stands out among the rest of its’ Roku brothers. The processor inside of the Roku 3 is five times faster than the Roku 1 or the Roku 2, and it also features a dual-band Wi-Fi card that will make it easier to achieve the strong signal that is necessary for wirelessly streaming video. If you are planning to put the Roku 3 in a basement or a bedroom that is far from your wireless router, this is a very important factor.
But the Roku 3 is the top-of-the-line model that Roku sells and if you don’t have Wi-Fi issues and if you have seen or used a Roku 1 or 2 and found the speed to be adequate, then you will probably be just as happy spending less money on the Roku 1 or the Roku 2.
What Comes with the Roku 3?
The Roku 3 comes with the Roku unit itself, the Roku remote control, a power cable, batteries for the remote and a pair of headphones. The headphones are for a cool feature that allows you to mute the TV and instead have the sound come through the headphones, which you can connect to a port on the remote control. This is an amazing feature for people that listen to TV in bed, but share the room with someone that prefers silence.
Anything Else I Should Know?
The Roku 3 doesn’t actually turn off, ever. Once you haven’t been watching it for a while, it will enter a sleep mode. You don’t need to worry about any excessive power drain, however, as the Roku uses about the same amount of electricity as a nightlight.
The Roku 3 also has both a memory card slot and a USB port, to which you can connect the appropriate media and watch videos that you have stored on memory cards, USB flash drives or external hard drives. This feature is not found on every Roku model, however, so make sure to check the product page for the model that you are looking at if you have decided not to get the Roku 3.
To find out more about the Roku 3, and to check the pricing, visit this page at Amazon.
If you want to know more about the Roku 3, we have a couple of other articles you might find helpful. Our Roku 3 review goes into more detail about the Roku 3 and the setup process, and this article offers more of a comparison between the last generation of Roku models.
Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech tutorials since 2008. His writing has appeared on dozens of different websites and been read over 50 million times.
After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science he spent several years working in IT management for small businesses. However, he now works full time writing content online and creating websites.
His main writing topics include iPhones, Microsoft Office, Google Apps, Android, and Photoshop, but he has also written about many other tech topics as well.