Saturday, May 25, 2013

Roku new interface review

I received Roku interface update about a week ago. Before the update I was looking for reviews of the new interface but aside from paid "technology writers" I could not find any unbiased reviews. There are voices of criticism on Roku forums but they are quickly drowned out by the "you have no rights to criticize" crowd.

Here is my review in a few words - the new interface SUCKS! It has a few differences from the old one, mainly that is is now grid of icons versus strip of icons in the old one. The icons are much smaller and the text is smaller and harder to read. The ad on the other hand is much bigger. Ad takes up more than a third of the screen and so annoying that it prompted me to find a blocking solution.

This new interface was designed by a marketing person who has no idea about usability of interfaces on TV. Previous interface was not a usability example but it was tolerable. The font was readable, the icons were large. The new one goes against all good design guidelines, except if your guidelines are to show giant ads and piss off all users of the device.
Navigation to a given icon is now faster since one can navigate in two directions instead of one but the interface startup is slower. It also takes more memory or maybe the new software is slower over all. It affects other apps and they are slower to start and have to fetch images more often. Home button now brings you in to the menu instead of the application icon as it used to do. To navigate back to the app screen you need an extra press.
Roku tried to better integrate the app store but I think they failed. Roku store is still as ugly as ever and loads very slowly. The settings now a menu item on the left instead of an icon and has greater chance to be selected by mistake. Search is also a menu item which is an improvement as it can be reached faster.

The video, when streamed from the local server, starts faster. Positioning within the video is also seems faster. New software fixed crashes when navigating within MKV files. I only tried with one file so this conclusion may be a bit premature. When position is changed within MKV file that is streamed over HTTP, most of the time first few seconds of video is broken but audio is OK. After few seconds video recovers. Previous version locked up the box, which rebooted after watchdog is expired. The new version seems to hold up.

The new Roku interface is definitely worse than the old one. It is slower to start, icons are smaller and ad is much larger and obtrusive. The software over all seems to slow down old apps. On the other hand video navigation is faster and MKV files  play better when streamed. I am disappointed with this update and will try to figure out how to prevent Roku from auto updating in the future.

No comments: