The Roku Remote

I feel like I might want to add some constructive criticism, about the new Roku playback device, of which I just bought one, as described in this posting.

The designers have made some progressive statements in how they designed this hardware, that range from only taking up circuit-board space with modern, HDMI output, to designing a novel remote-control. I think that although I like many of the concepts that wen into the remote, there is some room for improvement.

This remote has a headphone-jack, so that we do not need to plug any headphones into our TV or into our stationary devices, which may be located on the other side of the living room, from where we sit. The first thing I would typically test about that, is whether the sound from the TV actually does mute, when we plug in headphones. And in fact, this works as it should.

That headphone jack came bundled with headphones for me to use, right out-of-the-box. I suppose this comment might seem petty, considering that this is a standard jack, into which I could plug an any headphones I supply. But in the included headphones, the Right ear-piece could be labeled more clearly, to distinguish it from the Left ear-piece. They look nearly identical, and the tiny ‘R’ stamped into the Right piece, might be hard for people to read, whose vision is not 100%.

Okay, but now I am done with the trivial details.

The remote has 4 pre-assigned buttons, for 4 possible channels, which the designers felt that their users would want to visit most-frequently. Netflix is one of them, but there are 3 more. These buttons save us the possible hassle, of navigating a menu, to the channel we want to view most-frequently.

The problem with this is, that depending on what a certain user prefers, the other 3 channels might not be set up. They are, as usual, free to install, but then we need to enter the log-in information into our Roku, to connect to each of the accounts. What if we do not have these accounts? For example, ‘Spotify’ was randomly chosen to deserve a button on its own, and yet I would find it impractical to set up a Premium Spotify account, to use for the duration.

The problem starts when a visitor enters our living-space, who does not know how we set up our remotes, and when that visitor simply picks up a remote and clicks around with it. In certain cases, the pre-assigned buttons will lead to a setup-screen, which would be meant for the owner to set up the channel in question, for the first time… This could confuse the person, who happens to be visiting socially.

(Edit 02/09/2017 : The way in which I meant for this criticism to be constructive, was first to observe how well the number of unnecessary buttons has already been reduced, but we have these 4, with their bright logos. Would it not be better, if the owner could reprogram them? )

In most other aspects, I like the innovative way in which all this is designed. In particular I have noticed, that there is no Off button. :) I get that. Once we have either turned off the TV or switched it to a different Input, the Roku will wait for a few minutes, and go to sleep by itself. Once asleep, it may wake up periodically, in order to install updates. Its logic seems capable of deciding this by itself. I like.

I also just like the fact that this remote is simpler than old-fashioned remotes, with fewer buttons. And I have in fact tested the voice-search feature, to find that its search-results are very accurate, in comparison to what my 52-year-old mind would expect. I like that too. We do not have to use the voice-search feature.

I think that users need to be warned, not to put any low-performance batteries into the remote. I am used to putting rechargeable alkaline batteries into my remotes, because most of them only draw small amounts of current briefly. This was akin to the idea of putting dry-cells into some devices, long ago.

Because this remote is itself a performing electronic device, it will need the batteries that go with that. And I have not rested whether Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries will work. For some devices they do not, because instead of delivering 1.5V , the Ni-MH batteries only deliver 1.2V . What I just did for the moment was to insert the copper-top alkaline batteries, that came with the remote. I will have to wait and see how I progress from here.

About the Spotify account: The fine print says, that we need Spotify Premium, but that we are being offered Premium for a 30-day trial period. This is not the point I would argue:

I can set up a Spotify Premium account, but mainly tend to listen to my music on my smart-phone, while walking around. What will happen on the phone, is that I select one player app. I happen to be using Google Play Music, from which I have purchased some content. If I switch to making Spotify my default player app, then I will not receive the content on my headphones – with my phone – that I purchased from Google Play. So it makes more sense for me, just to stick with one music-providing app on my phone, that will then also affect whether I am going to use Spotify elsewhere.


About the Ni-MH Batteries: I have just switched out the copper-top batteries that came with the remote, recharged a set of Ni-MH batteries, and switched to the higher-charge batteries.

They work fine.

I am beginning to get the impression that devices which do not work with the higher-charge-capacity, 1.2V batteries, are usually devices that only have 1 cell in series. It then becomes difficult for the electronics to work properly. But as soon as 2 cells are in series, the circuit receives 2.4V instead of 3.0V , and then chances are better that everything will work.

Also, with the Ni-MH Batteries, I see no need to keep testing whether all the features of the remote still work. The voltage of this type of battery will not likely sag, when greater current is drawn from them, so what works will continue to work.

I find it important though, that since I may need to change the batteries more frequently than with the other types of remotes, these can be rechargeable batteries in both cases.

I have been told that one concern people may have, in using Internet-TV, is that they like to keep their TV turned on, even if they are not allocating specific time to watch something. And then of course, the amount of streaming becomes unsuitable.

Roku has a cutesy answer to that. If we have the TV turned on while we activate Roku, then it will use its HDMI interface to direct the TV to its own HDMI input, and will at first display its home-screen.

If Roku has gone to sleep, but we turn on our TV, and if we then turn our TV to the Roku player HDMI input, Roku is displaying a screen-saver, currently the Aquarium Screen-Saver in my case, and we can watch the little fishes swim around a graphical aquarium, without any data streaming.

I find it hard to relate to people otherwise, who leave something on their TV, when they have not set aside time to watch it. Doing so will certainly remain incompatible, with any sort of Internet TV, since by nature, this medium streams at full-def.


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