Internet TV and Bit-Rates

When we hook up our Internet TV box for the first time, we are allowed – in most cases – to set our TV resolution to 1080p. But the reality today is, that this resolution does not by itself state the picture quality.

Such video streams are sent to the receiver in compressed format, and the compressed bit-rate is a more accurate indication of what the actual picture quality will be. I.e., even if the basic format is 1920×1080, by compressing the stream more, lower bit-rates can be achieved, at the expense of picture quality.

Modern Internet TV boxes are quite intelligently programmed, to be able to change the bit-rate in mid-stream. Thus, when my ‘Roku‘ started buffering, during an initial test, it did not only allow for its buffer to catch up with the point in the movie I was watching, but also noted that the real bit-rate of my connection was not high enough to support the highest quality level, available at 1080p. Immediately after that, the picture seemed slightly less sharp, but as I continued to watch, the overall quality of the picture started to recover again.

My Roku has never had a streaming-interruption since then.

In fact, the way it is with HDMI connections to our TV, it is impractical for the source of the stream to change the picture-format in mid-stream. It tends to stay fixed.

And when we compare Bell Fibe – which is a service offered by my ISP, also to stream TV to me via DSL – its reason for maintaining a consistent picture-quality is actually different. In this case, the bit-rate of the Fibe stream is reserved at the Modem / Router, which also belongs to Bell. I.e., the Bell Modem can ensure that a certain rate of bits per second are available for TV, and can do so at the expense of actual computers also trying to communicate. My Roku is counted by the Bell Modem, as just another connected WiFi client.

What this actually means, is that if another person is considering buying a Roku, but worried that his Internet is not fast enough – as long as he does have some form of high-speed Internet – he need not worry much. The receiver would detect his slow connection, and adjust the picture quality to suit.

Also, with a Roku, we get to set the picture format to 720p instead, so that the required bit-rates start at a slower one.

If my TV was a 4K TV, I could set the format accordingly, but then I would worry, that this might be time and money wasted, because then, the picture quality on my network might not keep up with the 4K format.



A Glitch in the Roku

The Roku, like many home appliances today, periodically downloads firmware updates, designed to fix glitches. Yet, it might be helpful for its developers to know what all of them are – and what they have yet to fix.

(Edit 05/11/2017 : The status of this glitch or bug has been superseded, by a firmware update which took place since the time of this posting, and which I’ve written about in this later posting. The bug seems to have been fixed. )

One feature the Roku has, which I have described before, is its ability to use the HDMI interface, to tell the TV, to make it the selected input, as soon as we operate any Roku controls. My TV has 3 HDMI inputs, and all 3 are currently connected to some sort of appliance.

Roku calls this feature “One-Touch Play”.

Samsung calls it “HDMI Anynet+ CEC”.

The problem becomes noticeable, if we leave the TV input switched to the Roku, turn off the TV, and then simply allow the Roku to go into standby, at some later point in time.

What happens is that as it goes into standby, the Roku ‘remembers’ that it was the selected input of the TV. This may in fact not be the case anymore, when we next want to use the Roku, because by then, we may have switched the TV input to something else. But, when the Roku resumes, it still ‘thinks’ it is the selected input, and fails to send the signal to the TV again, to make itself the selected input.

This problem can lead to confusion until the cause is identified, and carries on in a very persistent way. When we have multiple remotes, being able to understand what each of them does may no longer be satisfying. We may actually want to keep their operation as direct as possible as well.

IMHO, The correct behavior would be, that the Roku forget it was the selected input, and that it resend the signal to the TV anyway, to select itself, as soon as a control is pressed.

I have been able to create another similar situation, in which the Roku was simply on its home-page, after viewing video for an hour or more, and in which to switch the TV to a different input – using the TV remote – did not send the message to the Roku, that the Roku was being disconnected.

Actually, I can tell whether this feature is working correctly or not, while I switch the TV to another input, before shutting everything down. When things are working, my TV displays a message saying “Disconnecting Anynet+ Device”. This tells me that the TV is sending the signal to the Roku as well, telling the latter, it is no longer the selected input.

This only happens with the Roku, not with the Sony Blu-Ray player, which suggests that it may still be a glitch with the Roku.


This bug exists with

Software version: 7.5.1

Build: 4095

(Edit 02/15/2017 : )

The other situation in which this glitch occurs is as follows.

The Roku could be on its Home Page, and I could use my TV remote, to switch the TV to a different input. At that time, the TV Menu does display the word “Roku” next to the currently-chosen input. Then, I can switch the TV off.

If the Roku has not gone into standby yet – i.e., its white LED is still lit – and I use the Roku remote both to Turn On the TV, and to allow the Roku to Recapture the TV input, this next works. But after that, the next time I use the TV remote to switch its input to another input, first of all,

  • The TV Menu no longer displays the word “Roku” next to the currently-chosen input, and
  • After that, using the Roku remote no longer recaptures the TV input.