(Pocket-lint) - You can probably see the thought process taking place around a table at Roku HQ: what would you get if you take the Roku Express - the company's cheapest device - and combine it with the Streaming Stick+?
The answer is the Roku Premiere, a device that has a small receiver box like the Express, but offers the same quality as the Streaming Stick+. It neatly slots between the two in terms of price, making it one of the cheapest streaming devices that will give you access to 4K HDR (that's Ultra-HD high dynamic range) content.
If your TV doesn't support the streaming service you want - like Disney+ - then getting a device like the Roku Premiere might be your best bet to open that door.
Design and setup
- 35.56 x 83.82 x 17.78mm, 37g
- HDMI 2.0a connection
- Micro-USB for power
The Roku Premiere is a compact set-top box. It's so small that the folds in the accompanying HDMI cable mean that it struggles to sit flat - it's just not heavy enough to flatten the cable, that's how small it is.
Being diminutive has its advantages, because it doesn't take up much space. The remote works via IR (infrared), however, so you need to be able to see the front of it, for line-of-sight operation, and it comes with an accompanying piece of double-sided tape with the idea being that you could stick it to the side or bottom of your TV.
Certainly, you can't have it far from your TV if you plan to use the accompanying HDMI cable, because it's not very long. If you're connecting to your TV you'll then have to make sure you have a long enough Micro-USB cable to power the Roku too - so there are some set-up considerations. It feels as though the best option would be to connect directly to an AV receiver, but we don't all have that luxury.
Once this small box is connected, there's very little to do in terms of setup - you really just have to connect it to your Wi-Fi network before you then have to sign into the services that you subscribe to or have access to. The Roku Premiere will test your display and automatically adjust your output settings, the only other thing you might have to do is adjust the settings on your HDMI input on your TV.
The connection and setup is essentially the same as the Roku Express, while the interface is the same across all the Roku devices, which makes using it nice and easy.
Roku OS and supported services
- Easy-to-navigate menu
- All UK catch-up services
- Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+ apps
The Roku interface uses big, bold icons for the different services that it offers, with the remote letting you quickly jump through and select what you want to watch. It's great that it's not over-complicated and it's not always trying to offer you content that you don't want to watch - it's a lot more direct and to the point.
Having a proper user interface (UI) gives the Roku an advantage over the likes of Chromecast, but it's a similar position to Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K in that it's fairly easy to get to what you want to watch. The remote has a couple of buttons to take you directly to services and predictably these are the most common services that you might want to use: Netflix, Spotify, and so on.
In most cases you'll have to sign into the services that you want to use - and for most that means you'll get resume play from other devices. For example, Netflix knows where you are and what you have watched, so when you open up the service on your Roku, the same applies. That's now true of UK catch-up services like BBC iPlayer - meaning it's a lot smoother to catch-up on your favourite British series.
There is a wide range of content available and one of the new and attractive additions is the Disney+ app, offering the latest streaming service to get up and running. Once you've signed in, you're good to go with the latest content from Disney.
The same applies for Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, Now TV (for Sky content in the UK), Hulu, Starz, Showtime, HBO Now and plenty more.
One of the big strengths of the platform is the universal searching that it offers - it will search for TV or movies across those services, so you can see whether you'll be able to get it from an existing subscription or how much it might cost you.
One of the things we like about Roku is how solid the platform is. It doesn't freeze or falter, it seems to be able to serve up your content with very little fuss.
Performance and supported quality
- 4K HDR
- Dolby Atmos
The Roku Premiere supports a wide range of the latest standards for TV delivery. On the vision front it will give you up to 4K (3840 x 2160p) at 60 frames per second (if needed), while it also supports HDR10. This means that it gets the 4K HDR label to cater for high dynamic range content - but it doesn't offer the most comprehensive supports in that regard.
Missing from the list is the dynamic HDR10+ standard that's appearing in some quarters, although we've not actually seen any streaming content in this format. Rakuten TV will be supporting it, but we're probably a few years away from that really being a problem. The other big standard that's not supported is Dolby Vision.
Dolby Vision is, like HDR10+, a dynamic standard designed to give you a better experience than the basic HDR10. It's supported by Netflix and Amazon Video, as well as Apple TV. Of course, you'd need to have a TV with a Dolby Vision-capable panel if you wanted to benefit from that - in which case you'd be better off with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
The lack of these two dynamic HDR formats on a streamer at this price isn't a huge deal in our opinion. While they are notionally better than normal HDR, you do at least have some support. In the main, though, it's the 4K resolution and additional colour potential from HDR that really shines.
In terms of performance, this will depend very much on your Wi-Fi network. We've found the Roku Premiere to quickly move through the bitrates to offer top quality quickly. That depends on the source - as in some cases you can't immediately identify what quality you're watching, as there's no universal set of stats that you can access on the Roku platform.
In all cases you'll need a TV that supports these formats too. There's no harm in connecting the Roku Premiere to your 1080p SDR TV, because it will still look great - you just won't be getting the 4K HDR out of it.
On the audio front, there's support for DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Atmos, although these are via passthrough so you'll need something to decode that. If you happen to have an Atmos-enabled AV receiver then great, you'll benefit from great audio when streaming supported content.
The Roku Premiere is a great little streaming set-top box, offering some of the latest streaming standards, support for a wide range of content with excellent performance, making it an easy recommendation.
The question still remains as to whether you actually need this type of set-top box. While those with a smaller TV might benefit from the addition of the streaming services Roku offers (and the Roku Express provides it at a cheaper price), most 4K HDR TVs will be smart TVs and offer access to all the services that this box supplies anyway. That might mean that you're buying the Roku Premiere as a stop-gap - a device to offer a couple of services that your TV doesn't.
However, the advantage of using something like the Roku Premiere is that even if you do have some services natively on your TV, it's just easier to access them all on one device. That's why we're using Roku all of the time, because its user interface is just so clean and easy.
As a cheap streamer with wide support it's hard not to recommend the Roku Premiere. It's one of the cheapest ways to get 4K HDR streaming content onto your TV, including Apple TV services, Disney+ and more.
This review was first published in 2019 and has been updated to reflect additional services and market context.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
The Fire TV Stick 4K is a little more costly than the Roku Premiere, but thanks to regular sales, you can probably snap one up for a similar price. It offers slightly wider format support with Dolby Vision (if you have a DV TV), but very much offers the same great access to a wide range of TV services.