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The 2022 edition of the Roku Ultra remains a compelling media streamer, especially now that it comes with a Voice Remote Pro for hands-free voice control.
Roku Ultra Specs
|HDR||Dolby Vision, HDR10|
Roku hasn’t updated its top-of-the-line Roku Ultra media streamer itself for 2022, but you now get a Voice Remote Pro with it for the same $99.99 as the previous model. That’s a significant upgrade, as the remote (previously a $30 accessory) adds hands-free voice control and a convenient headphone jack to the mix. The Ultra’s voice features still don’t compete with those of the Alexa-enabled Amazon Fire TV Cube ($119.99), however, and you can also get virtually everything the Roku Ultra offers with the $69.99 Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, minus Ethernet and USB ports for wired network connections and playing media off of USB drives. Depending on your needs, those two options are probably slightly better choices if you’re looking for a 4K-capable media streaming device.
A Familiar Box, Now With a Voice Remote Pro
The 2022 Roku Ultra is identical in features and specs to the one we tested in 2020. It’s a matte black plastic box with rounded corners that measures 1.0 by 5.0 by 4.9 inches (HWD). The frontedge has a small window for the indicator LED, the left edge has Roku’s signature purple fabric tag, and the right edge has a button for the remote finder feature. The back features HDMI, USB, and Ethernet ports, as well as a connector for the power adapter. The device is small, simple, and easy to fit under your TV or inside a media console cabinet, but it isn’t quite as tiny as the dongle-like Roku Streaming Stick, which can just hang from an HDMI port.
The Voice Remote Pro also hasn’t changed since its release in 2021. It’s a simple matte black plastic wand with a prominent purple direction pad near the top and a purple fabric tag with the Roku logo on the bottom, just like every other Roku remote. Back, Home, and Power buttons sit above the navigation pad, along with a pinhole microphone. Playback controls, two programmable function buttons, and dedicated service buttons for Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, and Paramount+ sit below the navigation pad. The right edge of the remote features a volume rocker and mute button, while the left edge sports a 3.5mm headphone jack and mic mute switch. A tiny speaker and pairing button are on the back.
The usual high-end Roku remote features are all present. For starters, the headphone jack lets you listen privately to anything you watch on the Roku Ultra (the box includes a pair of earphones). And, if you can’t find the remote, its speaker sounds a chime when you press the remote finder button on the Ultra. The remote relies on a built-in rechargeable battery, which you can charge via the micro USB port under the purple tag.
But the main advantage of the Voice Remote Pro is that it unlocks hands-free voice control. The remote has a mid-field microphone that can pick up your voice from anywhere nearby; just start your command with the phrase, “Hey, Roku.” You can direct the media streamer to search for movies and shows, open apps, and play or pause content. You even get the ability to directly control your TV, because the remote can send infrared signals to it. The mic doesn’t quite have the range of a smart speaker, so you can’t tuck the remote in a distant corner and use it reliably, but it still consistently picks up your voice when it’s within a reasonable distance.
Hands-free control is very handy for watching whatever you want on TV, but Roku’s voice features continue to lag behind voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can’t ask Roku for general information like weather forecasts or use it to control smart home devices, for instance. It’s purely an entertainment-oriented voice system.
Note that you can use Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit to control the Roku Ultra or any other Roku media streamer. Therefore, you might not even need the hands-free control capabilities of the Voice Remote Pro if you already own a smart speaker that’s compatible with any of those services.
Made for Media
The Roku Ultra outputs video at up to 4K resolution with support for high dynamic range (HDR) content, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, and hybrid log gamma (HLG). It can also output Dolby Atmos audio. The device features an 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio as well as an Ethernet port for a wired network connection.
Roku’s interface provides access to a wide selection of apps and services, called Channels. It largely covers all the major video streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Crunchyroll, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV. Twitch is the only significant omission on Roku, though that’s sadly nothing new. You might have heard that HBO Max and YouTube were missing on the Roku platform at one point, but both are currently available. Roku also offers loads of free content that doesn’t require any subscription, both through its in-house Roku Channel service and third-party ones like Pluto TV and Tubi. The Ultra’s USB port also lets you play local media from a USB drive, though you can alternatively turn to apps like Plex to access your PC-bound videos over your home network.
In addition, the Roku Ultra supports Apple AirPlay 2, which means you can stream anything from your iOS device or Mac. It also works with Miracast for Windows PCs, though Google Cast isn’t available; you need a Chromecast for that. The screen mirroring support notably helps you work around the lack of a first-party Twitch app.
A Mostly Winning Combination
The 2022 Roku Ultra is an excellent value at $99.99 now that it includes the Roku Voice Remote Pro. It’s a strong option if you want 4K streaming, hands-free voice control, and Apple AirPlay support. That said, as long as you don’t need Ethernet and USB ports, we recommend Roku’s more affordable Streaming Stick 4K+, which bundles the same remote and offers most of the same capabilities as the Ultra for $30 less. For more powerful voice control, the $49.99 Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the $49.99 Chromecast With Google TV respectively offer Alexa and Google Assistant, though neither model can be controlled hands-free; for that, we recommend the $119.99 Fire TV Cube. But it’s worth nothing that none of these options support AirPlay, so a Roku model may be a better choice if you own a lot of Apple devices.