The Roku 3 and the Now TV Box are both made by the same company (Roku) and let you do similar things. They’re small, ashtray-sized devices that plug in to your TV via an HDMI socket. They both give you access to a world of free and subscription on-demand services and channels.
The Roku 3 costs £99 and the Now TV Box costs a tenner. So what’s different? Why is one box nearly ten times the price of the other when they more or less do the same thing? Why should you buy a Roku 3 over a Now TV Box?
Roku 3 Specifications
- Cost: £99
- Dimensions: 89 mm x 89 mm x 25 mm
- Apps Available: BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Demand 5, Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Sky Store, Now TV, Revision3, Vimeo, Crunchyroll
Two immediately obvious advantages the Roku 3 has over the Now TV Box is ports, namely an Ethernet port and a USB connection.
This means you can connect your Roku 3 directly to your broadband router if your WiFi signal is weak for a more stable and reliable streaming. The Now TV Box is a WiFi-only proposition.
Many will no doubt find connecting to your router over WiFi more convenient than trailing lengths of Ethernet cable across the living room floor but at least with the Roku 3 you’ve got the choice.
The Roku 3 is a dual-band WiFi device whereas the Now TV Box is just single-band. This means the Roku 3 is less susceptible to interference and streaming video over WiFi should be a smoother process.
The USB port, found on the side of the Roku 3, also means you can connect an external hard drive and access any media files on your TV.
The Now TV Box, with a bit of coaxing, will let you stream your own media files on your home network, but only wirelessly. This requires a bit of tinkering and home networking know-how that’s a few rungs above simply plugging in an external hard drive.
Again, if you’ve got WiFi signal issues at home, this isn’t going to be as good as a direct, wired option.
Whether you like being totally wired or entirely wireless, another trump card the Roku 3 has up its sleeve is Netflix.
Despite the Now TV Box coming with access to the Roku Channel Store, some of the services – like Netflix – aren’t present.
You get things like BBC iPlayer and 4oD as well as Vimeo, Sky News and Crunchyroll, but Netflix is out. Bizarrely, you don’t get YouTube either, something which you can get on the Roku 3.
You can pin a number of shortcuts to your Roku 3’s home screen, adding more capacity for channels with a microSD card should you run out of space.
Finally, the Roku 3 supports 1080p Full HD video streams, whereas the Now TV Box’s maximum output is 720p HD (1280 x 720).
Now TV Box
- Cost: £10
- Dimensions: 84 x 84 x 24mm
- Apps Available: BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Demand 5, Now TV, Crunchyroll, Revision3, Vimeo
The Now TV Box isn’t as powerful or versatile as the Roku 3. But that’s might not be a problem, especially if your broadband service is too creaky to handle Full HD streams.
If you just want a box that streams BBC iPlayer to upgrade your pre-switchover non-smart TV, then this is probably the best £10 you’ll ever spend.
It even comes with its own HDMI cable, which when you consider how stupidly expensive those can be, makes that £10 price tag even more of a bargain.
As well as iPlayer, you can also 4oD, Demand 5 and ITV Player is coming soon as well. If you’ve got an older Freeview TV, then getting a Now TV Box gives you much of what you’d get with a YouView box for a fraction of the price.
As well as giving you free catch up content, the Now TV Box comes with access Sky’s paid-for Now TV library. Now TV comes in three flavours, Entertainment, Movies and Sports.
The Entertainment Pass (£4.99/month) which currently gives you access to shows including Game of Thrones, True Detective and Klondike plus other shows from Sky 1, Sky Arts and Sky Atlantic.
The Movies Pass (£8.99/month) lets you pick from films that are currently being shown on all 11 of the Sky Movies channels. A Sky Sports Pass (£9.99/day) lets you tune into Premier League football games and Formula 1.
Of course, all of this content can be access on the Roku 3 as well, through a separate Now TV app.
If you want to turn your Now TV Box into a home media hub, then you can do this too. It’s not as easy as it would be with a Roku 3, and you’ll need to spend time changing settings and getting everything set up properly. It’s not rocket science and it’s something we’ll explain in detail in a future feature.
Roku 3 vs Now TV Box: Verdict
Costing just a tenner, the Now TV Box remains excellent value for money. It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get catch-up and on-demand content on your TV.
If streaming PSB catch-up content if what you’re after more than anything else then the Now TV Box will sort you out.
If you want a bit more, namely Netflix as well, then something like the Roku 3 might be more suitable for your tastes.
Both devices let you access your own content but the more expensive Roku 3 is arguably better suited to this, owning to the presence of a USB port and easier access to services like Plex, a media server which will let you remotely access files stored on your PC. While you can do this on the Now TV Box too, the Roku 3, is undeniably better suited for this kind of thing.
Then again, it is nearly ten times the price, so you’ll need to decide if convenience, versatility plus access to Netflix and YouTube is worth shelling out an extra £89 for.