I have been using the Roku Soundbar with remote speakers for about a year. The speakers are by far the best part. They connect immediately and provide excellent surround sound. Plus the built-in Roku means significantly fewer wires. We have most streaming services including YouTube TV.
Unfortunately, Google and Roku are in a spat. Let’s face it, Google is using their vertical integration to bully Roku. It’s a classic monopolistic power play. Both Roku and Google are emailing me telling me it’s the other guys fault. Either way, there is a risk that YouTube TV may be removed from Roku. (As of this writing it still works.)
So I wanted to hedge my bets and look at alternatives. Besides Roku, options are either Apple TV or Google Chromecast. Google was significantly cheaper, so I went their $50 Chromecast with YouTube TV.
Spolier: Roku lost. Sadly, it wasn’t really that close.
Roku did an amazing job with the hardware. However, the problem with Roku is that doesn’t really do a good job with the software. There is no unified UI. The search is unusable. I’ve tried it before and it never comes up with the right answer. Additionally, the Roku voice control is fairly useless. I never use it.
On the other hand, Google TV has a really compelling interface that brings together all of my services. It really feels like I just have one mega service. The voice control, Google Assistant, is a revelation. I am not a voice control person in general. When I tried it, all I can say is that it just worked. We were watching the Warriors and told it “fast forward 2 minutes” and it was quick, responsive and accurate. It doesn’t allow “skip commercials”. Oh well.
The big problem is that switching would be rewarding a bully (Google). The lesson for Roku is that you have to innovate and focus on the user experience. UX dominates the winners and losers at the end of the day. On the downside, the Chromecast is an extra wire AND I really don’t want to give the monopoly my vote. If the UX was even close, I would stick with Roku and consider a different service over YouTube TV. (I am still considering it)
A smart feature of a television would be to have a USB port that could power a chromecast or other device.
I’m discovering new features of the Chromecast each day. Nice job on the UX. Roku, you have some copying/designing to do. Also, I hope your lawyers can get them slapped with some fines or even break up their monopoly. Good luck!