If you have a new TV, perhaps one of the new High Dynamic Range-enabled (HDR) TVs from Samsung or a 4K OLED TV from LG, you are probably looking forward to quenching that new video thirst you experienced at Best Buy or Costco when you first experienced their gorgeous clips. These demos show jaw-dropping detail, often accompanied by panning and zooming, with deep rich colors that make you feel like your TV is a window into a new world. But you are only part way to that goal once you replace your old flat screen. Unless your new TV has Roku TV built-in, then you need to purchase a Roku to receive Art Stream Videos in your home or place of business.
With the exception of the Roku Streaming Stick and Express (see below), Rokus are black, hockey puck-shaped boxes that plug into your TV via your HDMI port. Rokus have an extremely easy to use remote; shortcut buttons for running some popular apps like Amazon Video; and the top “Ultra” model also accepts voice commands. And search is a snap. However, you still need a decent Wi-Fi internet connection for receiving the signal.
Match Your Roku to Your TV. As you would expect, Rokus are available at Amazon or directly from Roku. You can also purchase Rokus at most standard retailers like Walmart or Best Buy, but you need to be careful you are getting the right one. The Roku you select must meet the minimal hardware requirements necessary to experience the type of video supported on your TV: HD (1,920 pixel x 1,080 pixel), 4K/UHD (3,840p x2,160p), and now, HDR with even higher dynamic color range (not resolution). Here’s what you need:
Roku Premiere. If you do not anticipate getting an HDR capable TV in the near future, then the Premiere is worth a look. It can play both “standard” HD and 4K/UHD. Cost is only $70 with a one-year warranty. However, since it may be a while before a significant amount of content is available in either 4K/UHD or HDR, the Premiere is the choice for the budget conscious. Bear in mind that HDR is a quantum leap in video quality over pure 4K/UHD because the higher contrast available in HDR completely trumps vanilla 4K.
TOP CHOICE-Roku Premiere+. This is the best overall Roku device for playing streaming media channels, movies, and of course, Art Stream Videos. This is mainly because this Roku is equipped to play HDR media. Of course, the Premiere+ can also access any of the thousands of programs / channels /apps (whatever you want to call them) that play on other popular streaming media devices like Apple TV. It also has a hardwired Ethernet port in case you can plug it directly into your router to get maximum speed.
The Premiere+ costs just under $100 and received 4.5 stars out of 5 in a recent review from CNet where it was rated the top streaming media device over Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and others. The Premiere+ reportedly is faster than the Premiere but we have not verified that claim.
Roku Ultra. The Ultra has all the features of the Premier+ but adds a USB port and an optical digital audio out for plugging into your home theater’s receiver. It is currently the only Roku with voice search when using the remote, although voice search is not very well done, at least yet, on Roku. The Ultra’s list cost is $130 but you can find it on Amazon for around $118. So if you are planning to get or have a home theater, the Ultra is only $20 more than the Premiere+.
Roku Stick/Roku Express/Roku Express+. These are less expensive devices designed for old fashioned Standard Definition (SD) 720p x 576p TVs and HD TVs. But if you only want to run Art Stream Videos on an HD or SD TV and are on a tight budget, then you can get by with one of these inexpensive candy bar shaped devices.
HDMI Cables. You may need to get the latest HDMI 2.0a cables to properly transmit all the HDR data from your new Roku or 4K Blu-ray player to your new HDR TV.
Wi-Fi Mesh Network. It doesn’t make sense to attach a new Roku to your new TV if it receives a weak or intermittent internet signal. (You may have tried the older Wi-Fi “extender” technology to extend your signal from your office to your den and given up on that.) The clear solution is to purchase one of the new mesh home networks from either Eero, Google, or Netgear.
This home network Wi-Fi architecture bounces the signal from a central base station to one or more satellite stations to eliminate slow, intermittent signals and dead zones. Netgear’s $300 Orbi AC3000 supports the fastest connections, but has a clunky set up and wins no design awards. Eero’s system is the most expensive at $400 for a pack of three, but has a flat out simple set up, and is aesthetically the most pleasing. Google’s Wifi costs less at $300, but has a slightly less polished interface than Eero.
Copy Protection and HDCP Compliance. Finally, if you have a first generation 4K/UHD TV make sure at least one of the HDMI ports are HDCP 2.2 compliant. Otherwise some 4K and HDR content from the Roku Premiere+ and Ultra may not play on your TV. You can find out which port(s) are HDCP 2.2 compliant by by plugging your Roku HDMI cable into different HDMI ports on your TV to see which one plays the 4K/HDR content.
HDCP 2.2 is the new copy protection standard that makes copying videos difficult or impossible for average folks. The HDCP copy protection standard should satisfy the majority of artists who are concerned about possible theft of their artwork from TVs. (Copyright protection will be the subject of a subsequent Blog.)
All this being said, Art Stream Videos does not yet (as of Q2, 2017) support native 4K/UHD, let alone HDR. Art Stream Videos will support 4K/UHD in the near future – the biggest bottleneck is ensuring our artists and galleries provide images of their artwork at these higher resolutions, and enough of our customers have these TVs paired with the appropriate Roku.