We talk about hidden features and hidden gem shows all the time around here, but the Roku Voice Remote Pro falls under the category of hidden upgrade. I was reminded of this fact when I saw a complaint online about how at least one person wished they could get better control over their Roku remote's buttons.
Specifically, author Sophie Vershbow tweeted that she "would pay good money to customize the streaming channel buttons on [her Roku] remote." Since I cover this stuff for a living, I had a response already keyed up in my head, and I recommended she check out the Roku Voice Remote Pro.
While the Roku Voice Remote Pro doesn't do exactly what Ms. Vershbow is asking for — one can safely assume Roku's made a pretty mountain of pennies off the sales of those specific buttons on her TCL Roku TV remote — it offers the next best thing. And then some.
The Roku Voice Remote Pro is more than its name suggests
You might see the name Roku Voice Remote Pro (currently $29 at Amazon ) and think, "oh it's just for the smart home crowd."
The voice controls in this remote, which is supported by the best Roku devices, may be its least interesting feature. Roku puts the "Pro" in Voice Remote Pro with the 1 and 2 buttons you see on the remote.
Those buttons may not make sense out of context, but once you set the remote up, Roku will explain their use. The 1 and 2 buttons can be programed to open your favorite app, helping Ms. Vershbow and many others by not limiting them to the pre-set buttons for the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus.
You can also set those buttons up for other options, such as changing frequently-adjusted settings and opening a playlist.
Personally, this option makes the Roku Voice Remote Pro the only Roku remote I want, as I use far more than just those apps. YouTube, for example, is probably my No. 1-used Roku app, now that I canceled Sling TV. (I'll program that button to another option once I pick my new service to replace Sling TV.)
The 1 and 2 buttons also prove to be easy to set up. All I did was highlight those apps on the home screen, hold down the 1 or 2 button for 5 seconds, and now I've got my own shortcut button.
It's a good thing the Roku Voice Remote Pro has other great features
While Ms. Vershbow can't reprogram or re-label her remote buttons, I bet she might be a little frustrated at the notion of two customizable buttons costing $29 (or less if the Roku Voice Remote Pro is on sale). Which is why I bring up my second favorite feature: the Roku Voice Remote Pro doesn't use batteries. You simply recharge it.
This means you save money on buying one-less pair of AA batteries, and you just need to have to either hold onto the remote's included USB charging cord, or keep your own micro-USB cable around.
Oh, and the Roku Voice Remote Pro's voice controls have one neat use case
Like all of you, I lose my remote. And this is why I can actually appreciate the hands-free voice controls in the Roku Voice Remote Pro.
With that little side switch turned on, you can get your remote beeping by simply saying "Hey Roku, where’s my remote?" aloud — provided you're within shouting distance.
Voice commands also allow you to turn your TV on, adjust its volume and control playback.
Outlook: Consider spending a little for a better Roku experience
After having used the Roku Voice Remote Pro, I can't imagine using a Roku without one. Which is a shame since all Rokus that are less expensive than the $70 Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus don't include it.
Oh, and it even has a private listening headphone jack, so you can plug headphones (Roku includes a pair) into the remote — so as not to disturb others around you.
That said, you only need to spend $30 today to make tomorrow's Roku experience better. As much as you might balk at that, with all the money we spend on streaming services, a little investment here only makes sense.