Yes, we’re really reviewing ‘pro’ streaming remotes now.
Roku sent me their latest Voice Remote Pro for their streaming boxes, HDMI sticks, and streaming soundbars to review.
I expected the $ 30 remote come with some sort of Roku device when it ships earlier this week. I had told Roku that I hadn’t owned any of his streaming boxes in years and assumed that since they sent me a remote, it would come with a streaming device to test it out. The Voice Remote Pro came alone.
Roku says he’ll try to send me a device to pair him with, but there’s no guarantee. So here we are – that’s my take on Voice Remote Pro because somehow the bar for streaming box remotes is so low (hello Siri Remote!) That companies are trying to sell. to people one better, more “pro”. No, I don’t need to pinch you. You do not dream. Pro remotes are now a thing. But just how “pro” is Roku’s Voice Remote Pro?
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From a button-to-body ratio, the Roku Voice Remote Pro packs them all on the front, sides, and back. Let’s count all the buttons (and switches and ports) shall we?
To the left
- Hands-free voice control switch: press this switch and the remote control microphones will listen to voice commands. You can use a “Hey Roku” command to control your Roku and TV or end up with “Hey Roku, where’s my remote?”
- 3.5mm Headphone Jack: Plug in a pair of wired headphones for private listening. Headphones are not included with the remote as they are with Roku streaming devices.
Starting from the top and going down:
- Start button
- Back button
- Home button
- 4-way directional pad with OK button (so five buttons in total)
- Instant replay button
- Voice search button
- Star button: displays options such as closed captions and audio settings
- Rewind button
- Play / pause button
- Fast forward button
- 1 button: programmable voice control button
- 2 button: second programmable voice control button
- Netflix button
- Disney + button
- Hulu button
- Sling TV button (future remotes will have an Apple TV button instead)
On the right
- Volume rocker button (two buttons, one for the loudest and one for the quietest)
- Mute volume knob
On the back
Very good! How many buttons / switches does the Voice Remote Pro have? 24 buttons and a microphone on / off switch. Plus two ports (headset and micro USB).
That’s a lot of buttons. The soon-to-be-phased Siri Remote has seven buttons on the front, and Amazon’s Alexa Voice Remote for Fire TV has 16 buttons (19 if you want to count the directional ringtone as four). Google’s Chromecast with Google TV remote has 12 buttons (15 if you’re counting the directional ringtone as four). And Apple’s new Siri remote has 13 buttons.
Does the Roku Voice Remote Pro have too many buttons? It’s halfway between button infested television and cable remotes that trigger my mild koumpounophobia (fear buttons). Steve Jobs would have suffered from koumpounophobia which is why he kept the original four-button Apple TV remote (seven if the directional ring counts as four) and removed product buttons wherever he could (iPod shuffle without button nobody?). A remote control is supposed to have buttons so that you can control things just by pressing buttons, especially in the dark. By this definition, the Voice Remote Pro has enough buttons and not enough of them at the same time. Where’s that YouTube button (ah, Yes)? Then there’s the matter of Roku inking a deal to replace the Sling TV button with an Apple TV button; mine didn’t come with one, but newer ones will, meaning you should wait for it if you prefer that instead.
Does the Roku Voice Remote Pro have too many fucking buttons?
As for the quality of the buttons … The buttons on the front of the remote all have a rubberized feel. Some buttons like the dedicated streaming service buttons and the power button are slightly concave while the others are slightly convex. These are really pretty buttons and under my fingers each button makes a slightly different depression sound when pressed. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it seems like a detail to me that makes these buttons more satisfying to push.
The buttons on the right side are hard plastic, as is the body of the remote. They look, feel and sound like cheap buttons if you are familiar with cheap plastic buttons that thump when you press them. They’re louder when pressed and aren’t as nice as the buttons on the front of the Roku voice remote. I have no real feeling about the microphone switch on the left side. It slides up and down – it works and doesn’t bring me highs.
What I don’t like at all is the micro USB port! Because I have nothing good to say about products that still use micro USB in 2021. I understand the savings with micro USB instead of USB-C, but can we just pass up the micro USB? Let’s move on so I can throw out my micro USB cable tray. At least there’s a micro USB cable included in the box and it’s not a thin, flimsy cable either – it’s reinforced. Unfortunately, there is no AC adapter, so you will have to provide one yourself.
Not very professional
You would think that 70 years after the original TV remote came out, we would have somehow perfected remotes by now, right? How a company, let alone Apple, could screw up a remote to control video so poorly the redesign is celebrated? Oh, be a fly on the wall in the industrial design labs of all these companies!
What I do know is that the Roku Voice Remote Pro is a solid remote with some really good buttons. It’s not the prettiest or top-of-the-line remote – the new Siri remote seems to be winning this award – and it’s questionable if it really needs all those buttons. But do you, the eventual owner of a Roku compatible, need this “pro” remote control?
Maybe … if you want hands-free voice commands, a rechargeable battery, and two programmable voice control buttons. Or buy one if you’ve lost or broken your Roku remote or want a second. (Who am I to judge you?) Are these three features worth $ 30? Maybe, if you’re some sort of remote snob who demands more of your clicker. Most people probably don’t need it – this remote is little more “pro” than the one that comes with a Roku streaming device, which works great.