Roku’s forthcoming Voice Remote Pro is a fantastic rechargeable solution that kicks disposable batteries to the curb. But for everything I love about it, it still has one major flaw: its charging port.
I’ve long felt that set-top box makers should introduce better charging standards to their remotes so that they can work harder, last longer, and send fewer batteries to the landfill. I often hear streamers say they use rechargeable batteries in their Roku remotes, which is fantastic. But if folks are not, and particularly when using Roku’s quiet listening headphone jack, Roku’s remotes are notorious for their ability to chew through battery at a wild rate. That’s not especially great news for consumers’ wallets, and definitely not where it concerns our catastrophic e-waste problem.
With the Roku Voice Remote Pro ($US30 ($39)), however, the company has opted for a rechargeable voice-controlled remote that the company is calling its “best remote yet.” And in many respects, that’s true, despite the remote maintaining the same form factor as other Roku remotes. The Voice Remote Pro gets roughly two months of power on a single charge with typical use, and it’ll fully recharge within 2 to 3 hours. This should very much help with the battery drain problem, though I did not have the opportunity to run extended tests for battery life in an exclusively quiet-listening environment.
I think many die-hard Roku users will love this remote, particularly if they’ve already had their eye on another premium Roku remote for a while and especially if any number of the features I’ll get into below stand out. But for everything I love about this remote in the time I’ve had with it, the thing that irks me about it the most is its microUSB charging port.
It is 2021, and I’d argue gadget makers have little excuse not to defer to a more universal USB-C standard. This is the very same reason that while I adore the Apple TV remote (I know, I know), I hate its proprietary charging standard. (Death to the Lightning cable, I say!) I’d love to see more manufacturers embrace the USB-C universal charging standard for newer gadgets — remotes being no exception.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t even need an entirely new remote every time we upgrade our streaming box. But the very least we can do is cut down on cable and battery waste where possible. And a universal charging standard for gadget makers would no longer necessarily require a new power cord in every box.
That said, there is a lot to love about this new remote. One of the best things about it is the thing that the similarly rechargeable Apple TV remote lacks: an on-device chime to help find it when it’s lost between the cushions or hiding under a throw. Prompt the voice assistant by asking, “Hey Roku, where’s my remote” to easily activate the ringer. You can also use the Roku mobile app to activate the feature should your remote be super lost.
The remote’s mid-field mic can hear you from roughly 3.66 m away, but you’ll have more success with hands-free commands if it’s situated closer to you than to the source of your TV’s sound. If a passively listening remote freaks you out, Roku included a switch on the side of the remote to easily disable hands-free functionality.
Additionally, a pair of programmable buttons allow users to add their own shortcut keys if the included streaming buttons don’t happen to include their most frequently used apps (on-remote streaming buttons include Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV). Pre-loaded streaming buttons tend to be a little contentious, but at least Roku is offering some options for additional programming here.
The remote will become available on Roku’s site at the end of May in the U.S. and in U.S. retailers in June for Roku TV models, Streambars, and player models from 2017 and later. Roku products are not currently available in Australia.