Roku’s new user interface—only skin deep


I’ve been a longtime Roku user and I’ve been anticipating the long-overdue overhaul to the user interface. Today, my Roku’s auto-update kicked in and I’m now formally “enjoying” the new Roku UI.

“Enjoying” is a loaded term.  Unfortunately, while the interface is a much-needed (actually desperately needed) upgrade, it pains me that the updated UI doesn’t go beyond app navigation.  The really great thing about the Roku is the apps.  You can have Pandora, Amazon Prime streaming, popcorn, and more for all your content needs.

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But what good is having all the apps if the UI is a complete frustration?  Netflix, for example, is arcane and unmanageable.  Streaming content comes across looking like standard definition for 30 seconds or more.  And what you’re able to see on screen is sorely limited.

All this is in contrast to the limited apps, but far more elegant user experience of the AppleTV.  The interface is clean, consistent, fast, and incredibly easy to use across every single app.  Netflix just works and works well every time.  There’s no streaming of content that looks all pixilated and you have many ways to view and review your content choices.

I love using media servers and media content delivery platforms to stream music.  They are smart, easy to use, flexible, and provide a central clearinghouse of content.  It pains me that after all these years developers still don’t get it: having a product that offers more perceived choices but offers a terrible experience doesn’t have longevity.  While the Roku’s new UI is a step in the right direction, it’s only skin deep.  If the Roku wants to be a serious long-term competitor, then it needs to address the terrible and inconsistent experience with its apps.

Until that happens, I’m just going to continue enjoying content on my AppleTV.