Roku tips and tricks: The hidden ways to improve your streaming experience

Secrets of the streamer

Roku tips and tricks
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Roku prides itself on ease of use. But just because you know how to use it doesn't mean you're getting the most out of it.

It turns out that Roku devices are filled with options and hidden features you may have missed while catching up on Game Of Thrones.

Read this: The best streaming sticks

But what are these secrets, and how do you enable them? We've collected some of the best tips and tricks and put them here. Enjoy.

Change your screensaver and theme

The Roku theme is filled with purple, and the screensaver can be an interesting way to find new things to watch – but they can also get very old very quickly. However, you can change them up. Roku gives you a number of different options to choose from.

To change your screensaver or theme, just head to the Settings option in the main menu – you'll see options for both Theme and Screensaver. Head into either. If you've got a 4K Roku, like the Streaming Stick+, you'll also be able to look at 4K screensavers. There are also show-specific screensavers and themes. So if you're heavy into Star Trek or Twin Peaks, your entire Roku interface can let people know.

The best Roku tips and tricks

Use Roku search

Your Roku is a portal to a number of streaming apps – more than most other streaming sticks. Luckily, Roku's universal search is quite good. You'll be able to look for specific actors, movies and TV shows, and it'll go through all available services, even Netflix. You'll get to see what's available where, too.

Even better, all of this works with Roku's voice search. You just have to press and hold the mic button on your remote. It also works in the Roku companion app, for that matter – though we've found voice search to be the best blend of speed and convenience.

Turn on Automatic Volume Leveling

Volume in movies or TV shows can be inconsistent. Sometimes you're watching an action movie and there's a loud explosion, so loud that you have to turn the volume down, and then the dialogue is way too low, so you have to turn it up again. It's an annoying cycle, and Roku has a way to fix it.

While you're watching something, press the star button on your remote and then go to Volume mode. You'll be able to switch between off, night mode and leveling. Leveling will even things out so there's no disparity, while night mode will turn down the volume on action scenes and increase the dialogue volume.

Mirror and cast

The Roku is at its best when it's streaming from an app, but there are other abilities up its sleeve. For instance, it's essentially a Chromecast. You'll be able to stream services like YouTube, Netflix and more via your smartphone or Chrome browser just as you would on a Google Chromecast.

You can also mirror your phone's video, music and photos. So if you've got people over and want to show off some vacation photos or video, or just want to stream some Music, AirPlay-style, you can go ahead. All you need is the companion app on your phone.

Play some games

You don't always need to use your Roku to watch things – if you need a change of pace you can play some games. Now, you're not going to be able to run Skyrim or anything like that, but you will be able to get your game on.

You'll need to head to the streaming channel store on your Roku. From there, you'll find a Games section. Here, you'll be able to download classics like Tetris to play at your leisure. They'll get added to your home screen as channels, and you can use your Roku remote to play them (just make sure to turn it to the side to do so).

The best Roku tips and tricks

Arrange your channels

When you download a whole lot of channels, things might get a bit cluttered. That's both a pro and con of how Roku arranges channels. It's like the iOS home screen, and it'll just keep scrolling down and down and down.

You may want to arrange things so that your most-used apps are up at the top, while the stuff you use less often is at the bottom. This way, you'll use your time more efficiently. To tidy things up, just press the star button while you've selected a channel. You'll then see a Move channel option. Select that and then move your channel to a new location.

Learn some replay tricks

On your remote, you'll see a little arrow arranged in a counter-clockwise position. This is the replay button, and its purpose is to rewind about 30 seconds. This way, you don't have to pause and do it manually.

Even better, if you want to use it to catch up on some dialogue you missed, you can add in captions during the replay only. In Settings, head to Accessibility and then Captions mode. Then choose On replay.

Private Listening Mode

This is arguably Roku's best feature. Sometimes you and your partner don't like watching the same shows. Or one of you is tired and the other wants to watch a movie. Normally, you'd have to put it at a low volume, turn on the captions and hope they don't wake up.

With Private Listening Mode, you don't have to worry about that. If you've got a Roku Ultra, just pop some headphones into your remote's headphone jack. If you've got another streaming device, open up the Roku app and head to the Remote tab. There's a button with a pair of headphones in the lower right corner. Tap that and you'll activate Private Listening Mode.

Roku Private Channels

Roku might have a lot of available channels to stream, but it doesn't have everything. There are plenty of channels available for Roku that aren't, well, officially official. They can range from adult programming to betas to apps that might not have been approved for one reason or the other.

You can access any channel on Roku as long as you have the direct URL to that channel, however, and a lot of them are listed at Roku Guide. You'll find a number of options available there.

The best Roku tips and tricks

Guest Mode

If you're an Airbnb landlord or you've got guests coming over a lot, you may want to allow them to use their own streaming credentials on whatever apps they use. However, you then need to remind them to log out so that the next person doesn't use their subscription.

Unless you enable Guest Mode, which will automatically log out your guest when they leave. Just head to System in the Settings menu and then enable Auto Sign Out. Also, make sure you've got a PIN enabled on your Roku by going to this site. From there, just let your Guest know that they just have to enter the date they're leaving. After midnight it'll sign them out of all their apps.

Use the 4K Spotlight channel

It can be hard to find 4K content, especially since a lot of streaming services don't really differentiate in easy-to-understand ways. That can be good for convenience's sake, but it can be annoying if you bought a 4K TV and want to try out something that's definitely 4K.

Roku's 4K Spotlight channel is a good way to discover some stuff. Unfortunately, it only brings in stuff from FandangoNow, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, but that's still a pretty good selection of stuff to watch. Most of them, however, are rentals.

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