Roku Ultra (2022) Review: Same Streamer, Same Price, Better Voice Remote

Roku has a new ultra streaming device for 2022, but “new” is probably a bit of a stretch. It’s really a very small refresh of the 2020 Roku Ultra, basically a new package: the Roku Ultra now comes with the excellent Voice Remote Pro. The good news? The price is the same at $100.

The bad news? Unlike Apple who updated the last year Apple TV 4K with newer hardware and a faster processor alongside one new Siri remoteRoku doesn’t actually change anything about the ultra streaming box itself. It’s still the same box from 2020.

As

  • Improved Voice Remote Pro is a welcome addition
  • Remote Finder is awesome
  • Fast app launch

don’t like

  • The Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus is $30 cheaper with similar features
  • Weaker voice assistant than Amazon and Google streamers
  • No support for Bluetooth headphones or Wi-Fi 6
  • No USB-C charging for Voice Remote Pro

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I thoroughly enjoyed the Roku Ultra when I reviewed it in 2020, and the device is still holding up two years later. But at $100, it remains a tough sell, and not just against them best streamers out of Amazon, Apple and Googlebut also compared to Roku’s extensive line of more affordable sticks and players.

Unless you really need one Streaming device with built-in Ethernetyou’re better off saving the money and getting Roku’s Miscellaneous bundles that $70 Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus. The Streaming Stick 4K’s processor isn’t quite as powerful as the Ultra’s, but it can do almost all the same tricks as Dolby Vision HDRit includes a Voice Remote Pro and costs $30 less than the 2022 Ultra.

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Despite its new remote control, the Roku Ultra still falls short of expanding what a streaming player can do. I’m still waiting for major changes to Roku’s platform that adapt to the latest streaming trends such as: B. Games and more robust language support. This update drops one element my Roku Ultra wish listbut there are four more.

Our updated report, based largely on the original 2020 report, follows below. You can Read our review of the Voice Remote Pro here.

Continue reading: Roku Ultra vs. Apple TV 4K: Battle of the high-end streaming boxes

Small changes to a familiar design

A 2020 Roku Ultra on a table.

The Ultra is the only Roku that can connect to wired Ethernet without an adapter.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite being much larger than a streaming stick, the Roku Ultra box is still quite compact. It’s made of tapered matte plastic and should easily fit in a cabinet or on a stand under your TV.

The remote finder button is on the right side of the device, and on the back there is a USB-A port, an HDMI output, and an Ethernet port. The DC connector is still proprietary, which is fine too, but it would have been nice to see USB-C in case you lose the adapter.

The included Voice Remote Pro has the same plastic finish and rubber buttons as other Roku devices, with volume and mute controls on the right. On the left is a switch to disable the always-on microphone, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack for private listening. The included earbuds are basic, but they get the job done.

I like that the remote is rechargeable, especially since Roku remotes tend to chew batteries quickly, but unfortunately it still uses micro-USB for charging and lacks a backlight. The only difference between the remote that comes bundled with the 2022 Ultra Remote and the regular Voice Remote Pro I tested is that the bottom two buttons are now for Apple TV Plus and Paramount Plus as opposed to Hulu and Sling TVs are.

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There’s Bluetooth on the Ultra, but this can only be used to stream audio from a phone, tablet or computer and not pair Bluetooth headphones. I’m not sure how useful the feature is as Roku has apps for a number of music services including Pandora, Spotify, apple music and Amazon Music, not to mention the YouTube app. If you want to connect Bluetooth headphones, you’ll need to use the Roku app on a phone or tablet.

The remote finder feature remains one of my favorite features of the Ultra and one that I wish would be in any streaming device. It gets better with the Voice Remote Pro, because while you can still tap the side button on the box, you can now instead say, “Hey, Roku, find my remote” to have the controller start beeping.

The remote has two programmable shortcut keys in addition to the pre-installed Roku options for Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, and Paramount Plus. As before, you can choose to have your last voice command repeated, e.g. For example, opening an app like Peacock, YouTube TV, or ESPN, or performing a task like finding a favorite movie or TV show.

Impressive UI, weak voice assistant

Roku Ultra 2022 Voice Remote Pro held in one hand

The remote looks pretty much the same as last year.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As you’d expect, Roku’s UI works great with the Ultra’s quad-core processor. Apps, movies and shows opened quickly and playback looked fine for 4K, 4K HDR and regular HD content on a 70-inch RCA TV as well as a 65-inch TV LG C2 OLED TV.

Though you can control the Roku with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, none of the voice assistants are built right into the device, which becomes a lot more noticeable when compared to the latest devices from Amazon and Google. Google’s Chromecast with Google TV shines in large part thanks to Assistant, and I really missed the ability to just say, “Play the Tonight Show” or “Go to the Yankees game” and have Roku automatically switch to the right app. Google does this integration well with YouTube TV and Amazon does it with Sling TV.

The UI of a 2020 Roku Streambar on a TV

The Roku interface has basically stayed the same for years.

CNET staff

Roku’s voice assistant is also dumb when it comes to knowing when events take place and couldn’t answer basic questions like when is the warriors and grizzlies game. Questions: “When is the Warriors game?” yielded results for films such as Wushu Warrior, Solar Babies and the TV show Monster Rancher. I’m not familiar with any of these titles, but that’s far from what I expected when trying to watch a basketball game.

It also struggled to understand “Play Moon Knight, Episode 1” and instead kept teasing cartoons with “Midnight” in the title.

Since Roku’s streamer already works with both platforms, it would be great if Roku added Alexa or Google Assistant support directly to the software in the future.

When it comes to playback, the Ultra is still fast when you’re asking for specific tracks. Getting the Roku to play Avengers: Endgame from the home screen took about 35 seconds on my old Roku TV, compared to just 18 seconds on the Ultra, which benefits from faster Wi-Fi chips and a better processor than that 2017 TV I compared it to (although the Ultra still doesn’t include support for the new Wi-Fi 6 standard).

Playing The Boys on Amazon Prime video took about 26 seconds on the Ultra, compared to about 39 seconds on my older Roku TV.

One thing that was slow on both the TV and the new Ultra, however, was asking the Roku Assistant to do tasks beyond title searching – from looking up a movie to switching apps. This takes a little longer than using Alexa or Google Assistant, with Roku having a standard pop-up and 7-second countdown clock in case you want to stay in the app you’re in. I still wish there was a way to remove or shorten this countdown, but there is no such option in the settings.

Strong app support with Dolby Vision and Atmos

Roku continues to impress with support for almost every major streaming service. Apple AirPlay support remains a nice perk and at least allows Apple users to stream the app from iOS and Macs, while screen mirroring remains an option for most Android users. Roku still lacks built-in Chromecast support.

Apps like Disney Plus support Dolby Vision and Atmos (which makes sense given that compatible Roku 4K TVs have had Dolby Vision support for a while), and both formats seemed to play well on the LG C2 OLED TV. Netflix, HBO Max, Vudu and Apple TV Plus also have shows and movies available in Dolby Vision and Atmos.

As with other Dolby Vision devices, if your TV supports Dolby Vision, all menus and content from the TV will be recognized as this standard, regardless of whether the actual service, film or broadcast is in premium display format. This wasn’t an issue, and non-4K HDR content (like SportsCenter on YouTube TV or baseball games on the MLB app) still looked good.

While the Voice Remote Pro makes for a better experience, here is I hope for the next Roku Ultra update is a bit richer.

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