Stephen Lovely is a longtime cord cutter and Roku user! We welcome him as a guest blogger to share his best Roku tips. Read more from Stephen at Cordcutting.com.
One of the best things about Roku devices are their simplicity: you plug it in, activate the device, and you’re off and streaming. If you know how to press a button, you know how to use a Roku player or Roku TV, and you never need to learn much more about it.
But you can learn more about it, and a little familiarity with Roku’s slightly less obvious (but still quite intuitive) features can go a long way. Having spent the last few years of my life playing with streaming players over at my internet home base, Cordcutting.com, I’ve developed a fond spot for a few Roku features that I think you’ll love. Here are 5 things you should be doing to get more out of your Roku devices.
- Customize your home screen
You probably know that you can move the Roku channels around on your home screen – or, at least, you tried it once but never did it again. You’re busy, and you’re used to clicking past that channel you rarely use to get to the stuff you binge on daily. Enough is enough! Take a moment and customize your channel order by hitting the * button and selecting “Move Channel.” A few minutes of work will make your Roku experience that much more streamlined for your next streaming session.
And while you’re at it, why not tailor your home screen’s look to your personal tastes? Install themes to change the vibe (you’ll find them in the Roku Channel Store under – what else? – “Themes“). You can also add a screensaver (those are also in the Channel Store, under – you guessed it again – “Screensavers“). And if none of the existing screensavers appeal to you, you can create your own using pictures stored on your mobile device – through the Roku mobile app (this is one of the Roku features you should really be using today, you know). There are also a few free Theme and Screensaver options in Settings (from the Roku home screen go to Settings > Themes or Screensavers).
- Use the Roku mobile app
This isn’t the first time that I’ve sung the glories of the Roku mobile app. The Roku mobile app for iOS and Android includes content discovery features, a full list of your channels (tapping one loads it instantly – just like the shortcut buttons on the physical Roku remotes, only with far more options and customized to your own channel list). Best of all, the app can be used as a regular Roku remote, with a directional pad and all that.
On top of that, the Roku mobile app can be used for private listening (the TV audio will come out of your mobile device’s headphone jack, making it easy to watch content late at night without waking anyone up) and voice search. So while I have nothing but love for the new Roku remote, which lets you control the power and volume of your TV, I remain loyal to my Roku mobile app.
- Stream free movies and TV shows on The Roku Channel
Roku’s new name-brand channel is pretty great. The Roku Channel (U.S. only) offers a selection of streaming movies, including titles from existing ad-supported streaming services like PopcornFlix. The ad load is light, so there’s absolutely no reason not to expand your streaming library a bit by adding The Roku Channel to your channel lineup.(titles are subject to change)
- Watch your own content
Not everything on your Roku player or Roku TV needs to come from a streaming service. You can also watch your own videos, view your own files, and listen to your own music.
This is especially easy on the Roku Ultra or Roku TV models, each of which feature a USB port that allows for the addition of an external storage device. Use the Roku Media Player channel to navigate the folders and files on your USB storage device, and select compatible media to display or play it.
If you don’t have a Roku device with a USB port, you can still use the Roku mobile app (there it is again!) to cast your phone’s local videos, images, and music to your Roku device. You can also stream local content from another device using media server apps – like Plex, which has a great Roku channel.
- Own more than one
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a way to get more out of a Roku device – it’s more of a way to get more out of the Roku platform. So, how does the Roku platform benefit you? Well, it means that the Roku interface looks and feels exactly the same no matter what Roku device you’re on. And your channels will be on each and every Roku device you own, because your Roku account keeps track of all that sort of stuff – it’s not just stored locally on your device. If you activate a new Roku player or Roku TV, your current Roku channels will appear on it as long as you link it will your existing Roku account. So if you own a Roku Streaming Stick in one room and want to buy a Roku TV for another room, linking them to the same Roku account makes a ton of sense. All your content will be on both, and you can even quickly switch back and forth on the Roku mobile app to control whichever one you choose.
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