We show you the best features of the Roku streaming devices. Make your TV super-smart, unlock hidden channels, use your voice as a remote control, stream video from other devices, add more storage and more. Here’s our complete guide on how to get the most from your Roku streaming device.
Roku has been in the TV streaming game pretty much since the beginning and it’s still going strong with the Roku 3 and Roku Streaming Stick. These dinky devices plug into a spare HDMI port and connect to your Wi-Fi network, for watching TV, movies, gaming and much more besides. With over 1000 apps (or ‘channels’) now available for Roku, these streamers really are incredibly versatile and packed with some great hidden features.
While entertaining yourself with an app like Netflix or BBC iPlayer is easy enough, there are plenty more ways to enjoy your TV streamer. Features that are hidden away and far from obvious. That’s why our in-depth Roku tips and tricks guide shows all you need to know to get the most out of your Roku streamer.
Read next: Best Roku apps you can download right now
Roku tips and tricks: Turn your Roku remote into a universal controller
The Roku remote is already a well made, nicely designed and super-simple-to-use bit of kit. But when you have to use the remote along with all your other TV and media controllers, things can get rather cluttered. Here’s how to avoid that issue.
All you need to do is upgrade your remote with a Sideclick starter kit for Roku, which is about $30 (£24). Clip this to the side of your Roku remote and you’ll have a host of buttons that you can program. In other words, you’ll have full control over your TV. This includes all of the main controls that you’re likely to use; Quick access power, volume up/down, channel up/down and input. You also have bonus A/B buttons, which can be mapped to anything you want.
Roku tips and tricks: Find a lost Roku remote
If you misplace your Roku remote, fear not. Your trusty clicker can call out to you from the abyss. The Roku itself features a handy button that you can press to have the remote emit a distress noise. Follow that cry for help and you’ll track down your remote wherever it lies. Behind the sofa or inside of the cat; there’s no place to hide.
Roku tips and tricks: Hidden channels
Roku refers to its various apps as ‘channels’ and there are plenty of these to pick from. But beneath the surface, anyone willing to try a little harder can unlock another level of channels that are usually hidden.
Private channels are essentially apps that have not been officially approved by Roku but that still work and offer plenty of extra fun. Some allow you to watch usually website-bound video streams, access smartphone information and more.
To install a private channel, go to the Roku website, then login and select “Add a private channel”. Each channel has its own access code, so just enter this and you’ll have full access – simple. You can find private channels listed on Roku-Channels.com, RokuGuide.com, StreamFree.tv, and RokuChannels.tv.
Since some of these are betas or made by individuals, they can be rather buggy, so be warned. And check out our guide to the best Roku hidden channels for some ideas of where to start.
Roku tips and tricks: Use your TV as art
Using the Roku you can setup screen savers which can effectively turn your TV into a giant piece of art – that moves.
Roku offers both Themes and Screen Savers. All of these are available in the Settings menu and mean you can change from that standard purple background to something a bit more expressive.
Roku tips and tricks: Use your mobile and voice as a remote
The Roku app is a must have to really take full advantage of the streamer. At its most basic level it means you can search and control the Roku from your phone, without digging around to find the remote. But it’s when you come to search in a menu that this really helps.
The app on your phone is able to bring up the keyboard, so a search is as simple as it would be normally on your mobile – no more keying about with the remote to slowly, painfully type out what you need. But even simpler is the voice search which can be done via the app – simply say what you want and, most of the time, it’ll pop up in the Roku’s search immediately.
Roku tips and tricks: Enhanced Voice Search
From May 1 2018, Roku users in the UK can get on board with Enhanced Voice Search. This feature is delivered by the Roku OS 8.1 update.
EVS is an advanced version of the standard voice search, as you’ve probably already figured out. With this update installed, you’ll be able to talk more naturally and still be understood by your Roku. You can perform searches for actors, directors and themes, and launch specific streaming channels.
This feature will be available for Roku players through the Roku mobile app, and for the Roku Streaming Stick+ through the remote control.
Roku tips and tricks: Get updates for new movies and shows
Roku is all about enhancing your TV viewing experience, which is why it is the gift that keeps giving. Whenever new TV shows and movies are added to its various channels you will be updated, so you don’t miss anything.
Head into the “My Feed” section to start picking shows and movies that you might be interested in and then Roku will pop up with alerts for you when anything new of interest appears.
Roku tips and tricks: Stream your downloaded shows, movies, music and pictures from your laptop or computer
When we say Roku makes your TV smart we mean it – like, computer-level smart. Thanks to that Wi-Fi connection you can use it to turn your TV into a giant screen for your PC, essentially.
Using the Plex app you’re able to access the TV shows, movies, pictures and music on your home computer or laptop, as long as it’s connected to the same network. This is presented sleekly with cover art, information and it’ll even continue where you last left off. In other words, it sort of collects your computer’s contents and forms your own local Netflix. Lovely.
Roku tips and tricks: Cast from your smartphone
The Roku app helps turn your phone into a smart media slinger, a bit like Chromecast.
Using the Roku app, select the “Play On Roku” feature to choose the media stored on your phone that you want slung to your TV screen, via the connected Roku box. From movies and TV shows to music and images, there’s plenty of support built right in. There are even screen mirroring options from Roku so you can simply share your phone’s screen right there on the TV.
Roku tips and tricks: Hide the player
If you’ve not opted for the already-hidden Roku Stick model, then hiding the box out of sight is a nice option. Since the remote uses Wi-Fi you don’t need a direct line of sight to control it anyway.
While there are plenty of mounts that attach to the back of your TV, ready to slot the Roku in, we’d advise simply buying a bit of velcro and using that. Then you can easily remove the box to access it should you need to for whatever reason.
Roku tips and tricks: Use a PIN to keep the Roku child-friendly
Roku is pretty impressive when it comes to free content. You could probably use it comprehensively without spending anything beyond the original purchase. But there are paid-for content options too, and knowing children they’ll probably find them.
To avoid unplanned purchases, simply set up a Roku account and apply a PIN code. Then make sure to never share it will your little ones.
Roku tips and tricks: Share your setup across devices
Once you’ve started using Roku it probably won’t be long before you want it to work from every room in your house. If you do buy a few more Roku players, then at least you won’t need to worry about setup as it’s super simple.
Just login to your Roku account on the new device and it can pull in all your channels from the other setup. Selecting new ones is easy too – so why not?
Roku tips and tricks: Get more storage
Running out of storage space is always a hassle. Even Roku can suffer from this issue with all of those channels to choose from.
A quick and easy expansion option is to use the microSD card slot at the back of certain models. The Roku will even format the card for you, so it’s all ready to go. And with 256GB cards going cheap these days, you won’t need to worry about storage issues again.
Roku tips and tricks: Cast from YouTube and Netflix
Thanks to the built-in cast buttons on both YouTube and Netflix, you can find something to watch on your phone, tablet or PC. Then with just a tap, you can fling it to your Roku device.
The box will stream directly from where you left off on your mobile device. It’s impressively seamless. Ideal for searching for the next thing to watch or launching IMDB, to find out who that familiar-looking actress is.