I’ve already spoken at length about how Roku makes my favorite streaming devices, but there’s no hiding the fact that they aren’t perfect. Especially where the remote is concerned.
Well, there may be some good news coming, because it looks like Roku is testing a brand new kind of remote. One with customizable buttons on the front and a built-in battery.
The Roku Voice Remote Pro was posted over on Reddit and spotted by The Streamable, and looks remarkably similar to the one that comes with the Roku Ultra.
That means you get customizable shortcuts, TV controls, a headphone jack for private listening, and a mute button. Crucially you also get a rechargeable battery, which hasn’t been done before, “Hey Roku” voice commands and a lost remote finder.
The question is what’s going to happen to the branded buttons on the front. The artwork posted on Reddit shows that those buttons do exist, but there’s no branding on them at the moment. They’re one of Roku’s most annoying features, but it doesn’t look like they’re going away anytime soon.
How do I know this? Because the small print at the bottom of the screen says “Channel pre-set buttons vary.” That suggests they won’t be blank, as the image suggests, so you will still have to deal with accidentally hitting a button that asks you to download Sling, or some other service you don’t care about.
Instead of adding extra buttons, Roku should let users reprogram the branded buttons, while also leaving them blank. But we don’t always get what we want.
So far the Roku Voice Remote Pro is only available to members of the company’s Early Access Program, and will set people back $30. That’s the same price as the entry-level Roku Express, for those keeping score. The small print also says that only 2,000 of them will be sold, and according to Reddit the offer page has already been taken down.
That means you won’t be getting one of these anytime soon, even if you are already a Roku early access member.
Would you buy one of these for yourself? It’s probably rather appealing if you have a cheaper Roku device, like the Express or Premiere, assuming they are compatible. That said if you have a more expensive Roku streamer you’ll likely have a lot of these features already. You’ll just end up paying an extra $30 for a rechargeable battery.
Frankly, I couldn’t tell you the last time I changed my Roku remote’s batteries, and I tend to use it quite a lot. But then again it’s not like you’re going to have to make a decision in the foreseeable future. And at least it shows Roku is willing to improve, and make sure its products are the best they can be.
Shame about the branded buttons, though.