The new Voice Remote Pro is a killer upgrade to your Roku TV
You won't believe you've gone without these features up to now
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Roku is beloved by many for its brilliantly simple and intuitive interface. From its affordable streamers to its premium TV partnerships, Roku software and hardware is reliable, intuitive, and impressively adaptable across its growing line of devices. In fact, it’s my favorite smart interface. But when it comes to TVs, Roku’s adorably minimalist remote can sometimes be a bit too simple. There are no number keys to navigate broadcast or cable TV or the litany of free Roku channels, for instance, and no keys to swap between HDMI inputs either.
The all-new Roku Voice Remote Pro—supported on all Roku TVs and any of its streaming devices made after 2017—doesn’t fix all these complaints. But with impressive voice control, USB charging that lets you say bye-bye to batteries, and best of all, a remote finder, this new add-on remote is a big step up from remotes of Roku TV past. Here’s why it’s well worth its $29.99 asking price
Impressive hands-free control
As a product reviewer, opinions are my livelihood, and here’s one that may (or may not) be controversial: Most voice control systems stink. For the most part, I don’t use it at home except for product evaluation, and up to now, the only time I’ve used it on my Roku TV is to sidestep the onerous point-and-click hassle when searching for streaming content. That’s all changed thanks to Roku’s new hands-free control system, which allows you to initiate any playback command by simply saying “Hey, Roku.”
In just a few short days, I’ve found myself using the feature for all sorts of scenarios: searching for content, sure, but also pause/play when my hands are full (or when I’m too lazy to seek out the remote), navigating playback, and even turning the TV off and on (the latter is handy when you’re walking into the room). My favorite, though, is rewinding and fast-forwarding shows in specific chunks—it’s way faster than doing it by hand, and because some sites like Hulu continue playback of shows a few minutes back, I can get to the proper place in seconds without so much as sitting up.
So far, the response has proved relatively accurate as long as you’re in range (Roku claims 12 feet but it’s more like six if you don’t want to raise your voice), and you’ll also want to keep the mic on the remote’s topside pointed up, or you may need to shout. The system is also very conversational—there’s no waiting for a beep, and it responds to multiple phrases for the same command.
It’s not a perfect system, of course. Most notably, trying to continue a show where you left off from the Roku home screen on some apps—again I'll single out Hulu—can be hit or miss as the software just doesn’t seem to know how to find your “recently watched” spot. The system can also occasionally get hung up on the start screen for some apps, asking you to pick your profile.
Still, none of this is the fault of the remote, it’s essentially just what you’ll get with Roku’s traditional voice remote, but with the added convenience of hands-free control.
Remote finder is a godsend
There are few things more useful in the world of home entertainment than a remote finder. The amount of time I save not searching through the couch cushions for the remote may not amount to a new hobby or that novel I never wanted to write, but it’s an absolutely joyful addition to my day-to-day life. I can honestly say I get little mini waves of joy each time I hear that “ding” when the remote is discovered. And this happens a lot for me as, for whatever reason, I tend to take the remote along to the kitchen or the office for my little excursions during TV time
While the finder feature isn’t new to Roku (the Roku Ultra has it, for instance), it’s a huge addition to my Roku TV setup.
The only knock on this feature is that, as with voice control, if the remote is too far away or buried too deeply in the cushions, the command won’t always be received. But there’s an easy fix here, as you can still easily use the remote finder with the Roku app. This is also a great solution if you prefer to keep the Voice Remote Pro's microphone slider in the Off position for privacy (though, of course, this turns off hands-free voice control).
In testing, the app solution worked with the remote all the way in my back bedroom. So, as long as you can hear the alert, you should be able to find that little scamp wherever it’s hiding.
The programmable keys are very handy
As noted above, while Roku TV remotes are incredibly easy to use, they’re far from comprehensive. The hotkeys, for instance, can be something of a crapshoot—see the “AT&T Now” button on my 2017 TCL 6-series remote. Thankfully, not only does the Roku Voice Remote Pro come with three out of four of my favorite apps, including Disney Plus, Hulu, and Netflix but, like some of Roku's other devices, it also includes two programmable keys to fill in the gaps.
Labeled simply “1” and “2,” the keys can be used as hotkeys for your favorite TV inputs or your favorite apps that aren’t already included on the remote (I chose HDMI 1 and HBO Max respectively). But that’s just for starters. Programmable with “Hey, Roku” commands, the keys can be used for virtually any command you can think of for supported apps.
Say you want a hotkey to launch Friends on HBO Max? No problem. (It’s pandemic times, no one is judging). How about a Frozen button (or whatever the kids are murder-watching these days) on Disney Plus? Easy to do, and easy to change when you’re at your breaking point. It’s also great for less tech-savvy folk, allowing them to just click one button to go to their preferred content or favorite channel without having to navigate through menus and apps.
While I wouldn’t mind a four-pack of these babies on board, programmable hotkeys are a great step up.
Forget the batteries, and let the baby sleep
Like some of Roku’s top devices, the Voice Remote Pro comes with a headphone input for enjoying your TV in solitude without disturbing the fam (headphones not included). And perhaps best of all when it comes to hardware, you’ll never have to worry about buying batteries again thanks to the USB charging (though I do wish it was USB-C for easier compatibility).
Seriously, how did it take us this long to get USB remotes? Thankfully, Big Battery is finally losing ground, as we’ve seen two of the bigger names in entertainment, Samsung and now Roku add rechargeable power for TV control. Samsung’s new option even offers solar charging—you know, the same features your calculator had circa 1987—which would have been nice to see in Roku’s addition.
That said, at $30, I’m not complaining and I’m excited to step further into a world where the letters AAA only signify free towing.
Should you buy it?
Yes, especially for Roku TV owners, this is an easy decision
With excellent voice control, USB charging, a brilliant remote finder, and other handy options pulled from Roku’s top remotes, the Roku Voice Remote Pro is an instant add-to-cart. If you’ve got a Roku TV, especially one with an aging remote, this is a particularly great way to step up a level, trading a middle-of-the-road remote for one that feels more premium, all for just under $30. Up to now, you’d have to upgrade to the $100 Roku Ultra to get these features.
If you’ve already got one of Roku’s other devices equipped with a remote that features a headphone jack and/or a remote finder, this is a less enticing add-on—especially considering the fact that it costs a significant percentage of what you’ve already paid for said device.
But for anyone with one of the affordable Roku TVs with a more basic remote, those looking for something with charging capabilities and excellent hands-free control—and especially those in need of accessibility features—the Roku Voice Remote Pro is a fantastic addition to the family and well worth the investment.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.