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

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May 12, 2022
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May 12, 2022
Roku Ultra (2022) Review: Same Streamer, Same Price, Better Voice Remote
Roku Ultra (2022) Review: Same Streamer, Same Price, Better Voice Remote


Roku has a new Ultra streaming device for 2022, but “new” is probably stretching things a bit far. It’s really a very minor refresh of the 2020 Roku Ultra, basically a new bundle: 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, which last year updated the Apple TV 4K with fresher hardware and a faster processor alongside a new Siri Remote, Roku isn’t actually changing anything about the Ultra streaming box itself. It’s still the same box from 2020.

Like

  • Improved Voice Remote Pro is a welcome addition
  • Remote finder is awesome
  • Speedy app launching

Don’t Like

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

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I very much enjoyed the Roku Ultra when I reviewed it in 2020 and the device still holds up two years later. But for $100, it remains a hard sell not just against the best streamers from AmazonApple and Google, but also compared with Roku’s extensive line of more affordable sticks and players. 

Unless you really need a streaming device with built-in Ethernet, you’re better off saving the money and getting Roku’s other bundle, the $70 Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus. The Streaming Stick 4K’s processor isn’t quite as beefy as the Ultra’s but it can do nearly all the same tricks like Dolby Vision HDR, it includes a Voice Remote Pro and it costs $30 less than the 2022 Ultra.


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Despite its new remote the Roku Ultra still doesn’t do enough to push the capabilities of what a streaming player can do. I’m still waiting for sizable changes to Roku’s platform that adjust to the latest trends in streaming, such as gaming and more robust voice support. This update crosses one item off my Roku Ultra wish list, but there are four more.

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

Read more: Roku Ultra vs. Apple TV 4K: Battle of the High-End Streaming Boxes

Small tweaks 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

Although it’s much bigger than a streaming stick, the Roku Ultra box is still quite compact. It’s made of tapered matte plastic and should be easy to fit in a cabinet or on a stand under your TV. 

The remote finder button is on the right side of the device and the back has a USB-A port, HDMI output and Ethernet port. The DC power port is still proprietary, which is also fine but it would’ve 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 side. On the left is a switch to disable the always-on mic 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 through batteries quickly, but unfortunately, it still uses Micro-USB to charge and lacks backlighting. The only difference between the remote bundled with the 2022 Ultra remote and the regular Voice Remote Pro I reviewed is that the bottom two buttons now are for Apple TV Plus and Paramount Plus as opposed to Hulu and Sling TV. 


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There is Bluetooth on the Ultra, but this can only be used for streaming audio from a phone, tablet or computer and not for pairing Bluetooth headphones. I’m not sure how useful the feature is, given how 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 need to use the Roku app on a phone or tablet. 

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

The remote also has two programmable shortcut buttons in addition to the Roku preloaded options for Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and Paramount Plus. As before, you can set to repeat whatever your last voice command was, such as opening an app like Peacock, YouTube TV or ESPN or doing a task like searching for a favorite movie or TV show. 

Impressive interface, weak voice assistant

Roku Ultra 2022 Voice Remote Pro held in a hand

The remote looks pretty much exactly like it did last year.


Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Although you can control the Roku with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, neither voice assistant is built directly into the device, something that becomes much more glaring when comparing it with Amazon and Google’s latest devices. 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 the Roku automatically switch to the proper app. Google does this integration well with YouTube TV and Amazon does it with Sling TV.

A 2020 Roku Streambar's interface on a TV

The Roku interface has remained basically the same for years.


CNET staff

Roku’s voice assistant is also dumb when it comes to knowing when events are happening and couldn’t answer basic questions like what time the Warriors and Grizzlies game is. Asking, “What time is the Warriors game?” brought up results for movies like Wushu Warrior, Solarbabies and the TV show Monster Rancher. I’m not familiar with any of these titles but this is far from what I was expecting when trying to watch a basketball game. 

It also had a hard time understanding, “Play Moon Knight, Episode 1” and instead kept pulling up cartoons with “Midnight” in the title.

As Roku’s streamer already works with both platforms, it would be great to see Roku add support for Alexa or Google Assistant directly to the software in the future. 

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

Getting it to play The Boys on Amazon Prime video took about 26 seconds on the Ultra, compared with roughly 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 searches — from looking up a movie to switching apps. This takes a bit more time than using either Alexa or Google Assistant, with Roku having a default pop-up and 7-second countdown clock in case you want to stay in the app you are in. I still wish there were a way to remove or shorten this countdown but no such option exists in Settings.

Strong app support with Dolby Vision and Atmos 

Roku continues to impress with support for nearly all major streaming services. Support for Apple AirPlay 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 such as Disney Plus support Dolby Vision and Atmos (which makes sense as compatible Roku 4K TVs have had Dolby Vision support for a while), and both formats seemed to play fine 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 are recognized by the TV as that standard regardless of whether the actual service, movie or show is in the premium viewing format. This wasn’t a problem and non-4K HDR content (such as SportsCenter on YouTube TV or baseball games in the MLB app) still looked fine. 

While the Voice Remote Pro makes for a better experience, here’s hoping the next Roku Ultra update is a little more substantial. 



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