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Recently I helped my parents set up a new 55-inch TCL TV, one notable for its 4K resolution, contrast control zones and other fancy features. I especially like its onboard Roku interface, which makes for easy access to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max.
There was just one disappointment: Unlike virtually every current-generation Roku streaming device, the TV didn't come with a voice-compatible remote. And this is true of a lot of Roku TVs, which is too bad. It's a really useful feature, especially for anyone who's not, um, super tech-savvy. (Love you, Mom and Dad!)
Good news: There's an upgrade available, and it's pretty cheap. The Roku Voice Remote is compatible with TVs from Element, Hisense, Hitachi, Sharp and TCL, and it works with virtually all older Roku devices as well. Price: Just $20 at Amazon.
The Roku Voice Remote closely resembles your current clicker. The button layout may be slightly different (especially if you're upgrading an older device), and of course there will be one key addition: a microphone button, which you press and hold to issue voice commands.
What kinds of commands? Some examples: You can tell the remote to open a particular streaming app, start a video over from the beginning, turn captions on or off, look for Tom Cruise movies and lots more. Check the Roku voice-remote help page for all the other capabilities.
The remote also has four shortcut buttons, though you won't know what they are until you actually receive the remote. There are reasons Roku doesn't specify them, and it's entirely possible they'll reflect services you don't actually use. C'est la vie; that's always been true of Roku remotes. With voice search, though, who cares? You'll now have a "shortcut" to any service that's installed.
Sound good? You might want to consider an even better upgrade, and that's the Roku Voice Remote Pro. Currently out of stock at Amazon but available for the same price at Walmart, the Pro adds some very worthwhile extras for just $10 more.
Instead of having to press the microphone button to access voice commands, you can just start talking; the Pro has hands-free controls. That's especially great for anyone who might have physical challenges.
It also allows you to find the remote if it goes missing: Just say, "Hey, Roku, where's my remote?"
More perks: The Pro relies on a rechargeable battery — no more swapping alkalines — and includes a headphone jack for private listening. (Headphones not included; plan on plugging in your favorite earbuds or the like.) There are two programmable "personal shortcut" buttons as well.
That said, I must note that there's a free option as well: The Roku app (available for Android and iOS phones and tablets) also supports voice commands. But I find that far less convenient — you have to keep your phone close at hand, locate the app, run the app, navigate to the remote tab, etc. — and convenience is the whole point. Grab the remote, press a button, bam, you're done.
What do you think?
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