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21 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success

Whether you're a cord cutter or not, you probably want a streaming device for your TV, and Roku remains the most popular option over Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick, according to Parks Associates.

Part of that popularity may lie in the variety of Roku devices. Roku's lineup now includes the Roku Express, Roku Express+, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+Online Extra: Some Additional Tips for Effective Presentations (a PCMag Editors' Choice) and Roku Ultra. There is also the Roku Streaming Stick, which got an upgrade last year.

Whether you just got a Roku or you've had one for years, there's more to know beyond the basics of a Defenders marathon. We've put together 20 ways for you to get more out of your streaming device.

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  • 1

    Cheap Date

    Streaming services are great but they cost money. For a free alternative there's The Roku Channel. It offers movies from Roku partners like Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Warner Brothers. There's no login info or charges to deal with, just a few commercials. Every Roku model will get the channel, which will be rolling out over the fall.

  • 2

    Watch It

    Because Roku is organized by channel, users have to navigate to each one to see what there is to watch. The Roku app does away with a lot of that work via What's On. Tap the What's On icon at the bottom of the app's screen and you'll find shows and movies organized into categories that can be watched with just a click from the page.

  • 3

    Hidden Channels

    Not all available Roku channels are listed in the Roku Channel Store. To find the "secret" ones, check out the Roku Guide. Clink the link you want, then Add Channel, and you'll be taken to a Roku account page. Log in and add the code for the channel and you're set.

  • 4

    Movie-Star Quality

    You can control the quality of your Netflix streaming on your Roku, whether you want to see things more clearly or if you need to stay within a data cap. Log in to Netflix's website, then go to Account > My Profile > Playback Settings.

  • 5

    Fewer Clicks

    As great as the Roku is, navigating from the remote could use some help. Download the Roku app (iOS, Android, Windows) and get the benefit of a keyboard, easy searching, and streaming from your phone or tablet.

  • 6

    Roku Screen Mirroring

    Some Roku devices support screen mirroring from Windows and Android gadgets to your TV (not iOS): Roku Streaming Stick, Roku, Roku 2, Roku 3, Roku Premiere+, Roku 4, Roku Ultra, and select Roku TVs.

    To hook it up, press the Home button on the Roku remote and select Settings > System > Screen Mirroring > Enable Screen Mirroring. If you don't see a Screen Mirroring option, your Roku device doesn't support it.

    On Android, screen mirroring is only supported on devices running Android 4.2 or Lollipop; it doesn't work on Android 6.0 and up. As Roku explains in its FAQ, some Android devices also use different terms for screen mirroring, like Smart View or simply Cast.

    On PCs, screen mirroring works on Windows 8.1 and up.

  • 7

    Save That Screen

    Maybe you paused whatever you're watching and walked out of the room. Or you slept through streaming and now the Roku logo is just bouncing around, like the flying toasters of the millennium. Give yourself something nice to look at with Roku's screensavers. Select Screensavers & Apps from your Roku and you can get an art gallery viewing, hang out by a crackling fire, or keep an eye on the weather.

  • 8

    Big Game

    So it's not an Xbox One X or a Nintendo Switch, but your Roku is still in the game. Go to Games and you can go retro with Pac-Man, race to save an emperor's daughter in Chop Chop Runner, and test your smarts with Jeopardy. The Roku Enhanced Gaming Remote with Voice Search supports motion-control gaming.

  • 9

    You've Got Options

    Roku displays your channels in the order in which you added them. That is unless you select Options (visible on the upper right) using the asterisk key from the Home screen, and reorder them so that your most frequently watched channels are at the top.

  • 10

    Up Up and Away

    If you have a non-streaming stick Roku, it's taking up some real estate next to your TV. Move it out of the way by buying the Roku Mounting System for $9.99, which attaches to the back of your TV.

  • 11

    Cast Away

    If you opted for Roku instead of a Google Chromecast, you can still cast YouTube videos from your mobile screen to your TV.
    Go to the YouTube channel on Roku > Settings > Pair Device. You'll see a string of numbers to enter. Go to your mobile device, open a browser window and go to youtube.com/pair and enter the code. Now when you're in the YouTube app on the mobile device you paired, you can send the video to your TV screen by clicking the cast icon—provided both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.

  • 12

    Say What?

    If you missed those last few lines, there's a quick way to catch up. Set up instant replay by going to Settings > Captions > Instant Replay. When you hit the Instant Replay button on the remote you also get the text on the screen.

  • 13

    Stream Your Own Stuff

    Though Roku has a ton of different channels and things to watch, you'll probably still want to access your locally stored content on your TV. Sign up for Plex ($4.99 per month, $39.99 per year, or $119.99 for a lifetime) and you can. Plex organizes your scattered content and lets you watch it from tablets, TVs, phones, and more; you can record and watch live broadcast TV, too.

    Download the Plex app. Then, in the Roku app, go to Preferences > Connect Plex account, and follow the instructions to verify the PIN code to connect the app with your Plex account.

  • 14

    We're Doing It Live

    New live TV services are popping up regularly, from Sling TV and DirecTV Now to PlayStation Vue, all of which are available via Roku (Hulu With Live TV is reportedly coming soon). If you're not sure which one is best, check out our comparison chart.

    If you have a subscription to HBO Now or Showtime, meanwhile, you can watch shows and movies as they are broadcast. Sports fans can pay for MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and NHL.TV and watch games as they happen. NFL games are streamed live and available on demand on a number of services.

  • 15

    Set a Record

    A number of live TV streaming services offer cloud DVR. But if you have an antenna to watch live TV, you can also record it with a device like Tablo TV. Set it up; download the app to your Roku; and you can watch, pause, and record.

  • 16

    In Your Neighborhood

    Cutting the cord doesn't have to mean cutting yourself off from televised local news. NewsOn gives access to local news broadcasts from outlets nationwide. If you're just looking for the weather report, then you can get it with Weather Underground.

  • 17

    Super News

    If you're a fan of the CW's superhero shows (Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl), then your day was just saved. On Roku, The CW channel no longer requires a sign-in or subscription. You can watch the last five episodes of any CW show, with new episodes available the day after they air.

  • 18

    Universal Search

    There's no such thing as too much content. Unless you're looking for something specific. Instead of scrolling through the offerings of every Roku channel, you can search across lots of them. When you click on the magnifying glass in Roku-level search, you'll get results for over 100 channels whether you have them or not. Search by title, actor, or director and you'll get a comprehensive list.

    Similarly, use Roku Search to compare costs of streaming content. Type in a movie, show, or star and you'll get a list of available titles and the prices across channels and services.

  • 19

    Quiet Time

    If you want to watch something on your Roku but you don't want to disturb others around you, you can plug headphones into your Roku remote if you have a Roku 3, Premiere+, 4, or Ultra. Or for any model of Roku, you can use the Roku app on your phone. Open the app and plug headphones into your phone and you're set.

  • 20

    Be Ultra Clear

    If you have a 4K TV and a Roku that supports it and want to get content that takes advantage of that spectacular resolution, visit Roku's 4K UHD section, which features channels that have 4K content.

  • 21

    Smooth Stream

    If your Roku is struggling to keep up with your streaming, there are a few steps you can take to try and resolve the issue. First boost your Wi-Fi signal with one or all of these 10 tips. If none of them work, play around with the placement of the Roku itself.

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