The Roku Voice Remote Pro is interesting. Not since the Apple TV 4K's new Siri remote did a streaming device have a remote that was sold separately and had a fair amount of interest for it.
But that's all it was for me, buzz and chatter. I knew it was a good remote, as my colleague Kelly Woo reviewed it and the Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus that includes it. Once Roku finally added it to the Roku Ultra (which I was already a fan of), my interest rose again, and I decided to investigate.
Getting the Roku Voice Remote Pro (which is $29 at Amazon (opens in new tab) ) in my hands, I immediately was thrown off by the lighter weight. But, honestly, my initial reaction was mostly — to put it politely — nonplussed. Weeks later, as I start testing another streaming device in my spare time, I've started to miss the Roku Voice Remote Pro's best features.
If you're wondering "how interesting can a remote be?" Allow me to explain.
The Roku Voice Remote Pro's best feature isn't voice-powered
To be blunt, I believe Roku is burying the lead when it comes to the Roku Voice Remote Pro (which is supported by the best Roku devices, including the recent Roku sticks and devices and all Roku audio products). Yes, you can talk to it (more on that later) without clicking a button. For me, the 'Pro' in the Voice Remote Pro is all about the 1's and 2's (and, no, I'm not talking about turntables).
A close inspection of the Roku Voice Remote Pro will highlight two buttons that aren't self explanatory: the 1 button and the 2 button. These buttons are for programmable shortcuts. You know how every Roku and Fire TV remote has branded buttons for popular apps such as Netflix?
Well, the 1 and 2 buttons let you make your own shortcuts. For me, this is huge because I rely on YouTube and Sling, two apps that don't have branded buttons. Now, all I had to do was highlight those apps on the home screen, hold down the 1 or 2 button for five seconds, and now I've got my own shortcut button.
Other programmable shortcuts include setting a sleep timer, enabling and disabling closed captioning and launching Roku's live TV view.
The Roku Voice Remote Pro's other big feature saves money
Sure, you probably spend $30 (or less if it's on sale) to get the Roku Voice Remote Pro, but it will start saving you money. That's because it's a rechargeable remote, so you no longer need to buy batteries to keep it charged.
This is arguably environmentally friendly as well, but I don't think replacing one plastic remote with another will get you a badge of honor from Captain Planet. The Voice Remote Pro charges from its bottom side, where it has a microUSB port. I'd have loved this to be USB-C, but that's for another year I guess.
This also makes the 2.9-ounce Voice Remote Pro a little lighter than its its predecessor, the 4-ounce Roku Voice Remote. This isn't a huge deal, but the Voice Remote Pro does feel nice in the hand.
The Roku Voice Remote Pro's voice controls are nice but I rarely need them
Fortunately, I don't lose my remote that often. Or at least I didn't during the last month or so. But when I did, I fixed my solution easily by simply saying "Hey Roku, where’s my remote?" aloud. A short beep or two later, and I've figured out what sofa cushion or book my remote was 'hiding' under.
You can do other stuff with the voice commands — turn the TV on, adjust volume, control playback — but I feel silly when I talk to tech, so I limit this for the rare situation where I'm already feeling like a goober.
Bottom line: the Roku Voice Remote is worth it
So, for $30, you can 1) save time and 2) save some cash in the long run? For me that's an easy sell. Sure, if you bought a Roku Ultra that has programmable buttons, there's less incentive to make this decision. But for everyone else? I'd do it.
But, to be frank, the ability to actually customize the Roku remote is a huge deal. It's been in previous versions of the high-end Roku remotes, but combined with all of the above features, this is the perfect way to upgrade your streaming experience.
In fact, I wish Apple would take a queue from Roku on this. Its new Siri remote is a good upgrade, and since Find My support is already expected in the new Apple TV 2022 remote, I'll add something onto my wish list. A customizable "App" button, that lets you open the one app you can't live without? That's be great, Apple.