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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.

Read more

Check Also

Facebook’s Kodi box ban is nothing new

According to recent reports, Facebook has updated its Commerce Policy to specifically ban the sale of Kodi boxes on its site – that is, devices that come with pre-installed Kodi software, which are often used for illegally streaming digital content. However, the ban is not a new one – Facebook confirms its policy on Kodi box sales hasn’t changed since last summer, and its external Policy Page – the one being cited as evidence of the new ban – was updated in December. It’s true that the changes have flown under the radar until now, though. The policy change was first reported by Cord Cutters News, and later linked to by TorrentFreak and Techdirt. The original report claims that Facebook added a new rule on its list of “Digital Media and Electronic Devices” under “Prohibited Content,” which specifically calls out Kodi boxes. It says that Facebook posts “may not promote the sale of devices that facilitate or encourage streaming digital content in an authorized manner or interfering with the functionality of electronic devices.” The Policy page lists a few examples of what this means, including wiretapping devices, jamming or descrambling devices, jailbroken or loaded devices, and, then “promoting the sale or use of streaming devices with Kodi installed.” (The only permitted items are “add-on equipment for Kodi devices, such as keyboards and remotes.”) But this ban on Kodi boxes, Facebook says, is not a recently implemented policy. According to a Facebook spokesperson, it launched a new policy last summer that prohibited the sale of electronic devices that facilitate or are intended for unauthorized streaming or access to digital content – including Kodi boxes. This policy has not changed since last summer, but its external Policy Page – this one being cited by the various reported – was updated in December 2017 to offer additional illustrative examples and more detailed information on all its policies, including the one related to unauthorized streaming devices. In other words, Facebook has been banning Kodi boxes since it decided to crackdown on unauthorized streaming devices last year. It’s just now being noticed. The ban affects all posts on Marketplace, Buy and Sell Groups, and Shop Sections on Pages. Facebook explains it takes a very strong enforcement approach when “Kodi” is mentioned with a product for sale. As Techdirt pointed out, that’s problematic because the Kodi software itself is actually legal. However, device makers like Dragon Box or SetTV have been using the open-source Kodi platform and other add-ons to make copyright infringement easier for consumers. Facebook does seem to understand that Kodi software isn’t illegal, but it knows that when “Kodi” is mentioned in a product (e.g. a device) listing, it’s very often a product designed to circumvent copyright. The company tells us that its intent is not to ban Kodi software altogether, however, and it’s in the process of reviewing its guidelines and these examples to more closely target devices that encourage unauthorized streaming. That could mean it will, at some point, not outright ban a device that includes Kodi software, but focus more on other terms used in the sale, like “fully loaded” or some sort of description of the illegal access the box provides, perhaps. (Facebook didn’t say what might change.) As for Kodi, the company says Facebook’s move doesn’t affect them. “It doesn’t impact us, since we don’t sell devices,” says Keith Herrington, who handles Business Relations at the XBMC Foundation (Kodi). He said his organization would love to talk to someone at Facebook – since they’ve never been in touch – in order to ensure that devices that are in compliance with Kodi’s trademark policy are not banned. Both Amazon and eBay have worked with Kodi on similar policies, he added. “We’ve gotten thousands of devices which were in violation of our trademark policy removed from eBay,” Herrington said. It’s unclear how well-enforced Facebook’s ban really is – I’m in Facebook groups myself where people talk about how to jailbreak “Fire sticks” and include posts from those who sell them pre-jailbroken. (It’s for research purposes. Ahem.) Industry crackdowns go beyond Facebook Facebook isn’t the only company that’s attempting to crack down on these devices. Netflix, Amazon and the major studios are suing Dragon Box for facilitating piracy by making it easy for consumers to access illegal streams of movies and TV shows. In January 2018, a U.S. District Court judge handed down a preliminary injunction against TickBox TV, a Georgia-based set-top box maker that was sued by the major studios, along with streaming services Netflix and Amazon, for profiting from the sale of “Kodi boxes.” Google has removed the word “kodi” from the autocomplete feature of Search, along with other piracy-related terms. And more recently, the FCC asked Amazon and eBay to stop selling fake pay TV boxes. It said these boxes often falsely bear the FCC logo to give them the appearance of legitimacy, but are actually used to perpetuate “intellectual property theft and consumer fraud,” the FCC said in letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and eBay CEO Devin Wenig. Why Streaming Piracy is Growing There’s a reason Kodi devices are so popular, and it’s not just because everyone is being cheap about paying for access to content. For starters, there’s a lack of consequence for consumers who do illegally stream media – it’s not like back in the day when the RIAA was suing individuals for pirating music. While there has been some activity – Comcast several years ago issued copyright infringement notices to Kodi users, for example – you can today basically get away with illegal streaming. The copyright holders are currently focused on cutting off piracy at the source – box makers and the platforms that enable their sale – not at the individual level. The rise of cord cutting has also contributed to the issue by creating a highly fragmented streaming ecosystem. Shows that used to be available under a single (if pricey) cable or satellite TV subscription, are now spread out across services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO NOW, and others used by cord cutters. Customers are clearly willing to pay for some of these services (largely, Netflix and maybe one or two others), but most can’t afford a subscription for each one. And they definitely don’t want to when all they’re after is access to a single show from a network. That’s another reason they then turn to piracy. Finally, there is the fact that film distributors have forever withheld their movies from streaming services for months, creating a demand for illegal downloads and streams. Though the release window has shrunk some in more recent years, the studios haven’t yet fully bought into the idea of much smaller windows to cater to the audience who will never go to the theater to watch their movie. And when this audience is cut out the market, they also turn to piracy. Eventually, the record industry adapted to consumers’ desire for streaming, and services like Spotify and Apple Music emerged. Eventually, streaming services may be able to make piracy less attractive, too. Amazon Channels, could become a key player here if it expands to include more add-ons. Today, it’s the only true a la carte TV service available. And that perhaps – not skinny bundles – is what people really want.

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