Larry Press: Problems with the New Roku 3? (analysis)

Written by Larry Press

Larry Press tries out the new Roku 3 and investigates reported problems with the device. Sensitivity is likely one of them. Analysis, review. — I had an old Roku XD in my bedroom, but when Roku  added PBS, it turned out the PBS programs were incompatible with my XD. The explanation of the incompatibility is interesting in its own right — see this discussion and this post from Roku for details.

I had gotten my money’s worth out of that old Roku. But the newer Roku 3 model had a remote headphone feature and a faster processor, so I ordered one. When it arrived, I installed it and settled back to watch TV. But I was sad to see that it went through the menus more slowly than the older XD model. Plus, I began seeing pauses for buffering, which I had never seen with the XD. I checked the signal strength using inSSIDer and saw that it vacillated around -60 dBm as shown in this two-minute sample:


It was not robust, but the old Roku XD had functioned well with that signal. I began to wonder, Could the new Roku radio be less sensitive than the old one? I had been meaning to return my ISP’s Wi-Fi router/radio, so I purchased a new one and was happy, but surprised, to discover that the Roku 3 worked well with it. I checked the signal strength with the new router/radio and found that it was more stable over time: roku3problems2

And, as shown in this overlay, it was a little bit stronger:


Neither is a “five bar” signal, but my old Roku works with either. I may have gotten a bad Roku 3 (Roku is willing to exchange it, but that would leave me without TV for a week or so) or it may be that the radio in the newer model is less sensitive. Regardless, it would be helpful if radio sensitivity were included in product specs and reviews — by Roku and any other Wi-Fi device manufacturers.

For, I’m Larry Press.

Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here at He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at


  • Sounds like an issue with your signal and doesnt seem fair to bash Roku for an issue that doesnt seem to be theirs. Yes sensitivity would be nice to see in the spec sheet. If Roku will exchange the 3 why not use the XD while you wait for an exchange?

    • The signal was good enough for my old Roku, laptop and Chromebook, but not the new Roku. Sorry for the late reply — I just saw your comment.