Roku streaming devices are definitely core components to the cord-cutting lifestyle. Roku offers vast content accessibility with its inexpensive hardware, making it a fantastic option for upgrading each television in your home. Beyond providing access to gobs of high definition video, the interface is extremely simple to use and the setup process is minimal.
The usefulness of the hardware isn’t limited to the content on the public channels available within the Roku Channel Store, however. In addition to a somewhat hidden batch of private channels that can be installed on the device, video content can be streamed to a Roku from a laptop or computer via your wireless network. Music and photos can be streamed from a mobile device using the free Roku app, which also supports screen mirroring from Android, and Windows 8 & 10. If you’ve just started using a Roku, or simply want to become more of a power user, here are several tips and tricks that will get your value-packed streamer humming at full throttle.
Beef up your wireless network for HD or 4K streaming
Before we get started, a simple but often overlooked first step is raising your wireless speed. While a wired connection to a home’s router is the best possible solution for streaming HD or Ultra HD content, that’s not an option for some rooms. In addition, only the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra (or the older Roku 3 and Roku XS) come with an Ethernet port for a wired connection to your router. The less expensive models in the Roku line rely exclusively on wireless b/g/n/ac compatibility to play streaming video and audio content.
If you’ve bought a router at any point in the last two years, it’s probably more than up to the task of streaming full-HD video. But 4K Ultra HD, supported on the newest Roku models, might not fare as well. If that’s the case in your home, consider upgrading to a router that can support the latest Wi-Fi flavor: 802.11 AC. It offers faster speeds than 802.11 n, and it’s also more robust in terms of maintaining a strong link. Check out our router reviews, including the Portal, a Digital Trends’ Editor’s Choice. You may also want to check with your internet service provider to view the bandwidth available under your current plan — 25 Mbps or faster is recommended for 4K content. A third party verification tool like SpeedTest.net provides good metrics to use before deciding to upgrade to a more expensive option.
Browse and install hidden, private channels
Separate from the public channels listed within the Roku Channel Store, there are a collection of private channels that simply haven’t been officially approved by Roku.
Private channels can range from applications developed by those who don’t want to go through the approval process to applications still in a beta-testing phase. The majority of these applications are free, but there are some private channels that require a premium subscription or purchase.
A number of resources exist for finding these hidden channels including: rokuchannels.tv and mkvXStream. To add a private channel to your Roku device, log into the Roku site and look for the “Add a Private Channel” link within the account profile menu. Simply enter the access code and the channel will be added to your Roku devices. For reviews on private channels, check out Streamfree.tv as well as RokuGuide.com. One of our favorites is the selection of curated content found on Nowhere.TV. Keep in mind that private channels aren’t supported by Roku officially, thus buggy performance could occur during operation.
Enable Screen Mirroring for more streaming action
With the latest version of the Roku software, you can cast your entire smartphone, tablet, or PC screen to your TV. While not supported on iOS or MacOS yet, this feature is a great way to get around any services you can’t find on the Roku Channel Store (whether public or private) as long as you have the app on your device. Simply enable Screen Mirroring from the Roku settings menu, then select your Roku device from your smartphone or tablet within the Settings > Screen > Casting menu.