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10 Roku tips and tricks you wish you knew before now

Streaming services have gained popularity as some major movies and TV shows premiere on these services. People are cutting the cord in favor of Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+ and more.

If you have a newer smart TV, you can download and install most major streaming services right out of the box. Older TVs and those without smart technology can still bring you the latest content via streaming players. All you need is an HDMI port. Tap or click here to check out the differences between Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV and Chromecast.

You can buy standalone Roku streaming boxes or television sets with Roku built-in. Roku has been around for a while and has added many new features over the years. Even if you’ve been a user from the beginning, you’ll probably pick up some new tricks from our list below.

1. Roku Zones

Think of Roku Zones as categorized lists of your favorite TV shows and movies. Simply type a search term such as action, comedy, news, sports, holiday, family, music and more to see a collection of related content.

Related: YouTube tricks and tips you’ll wish you knew sooner

Here’s how to use Roku Zones: Head to the Search menu on your Roku home screen. Then type the term you’re looking for. For example, type “Action” for the Action Zone or “Music” for a Zone full of the top music channels on the Roku platform.

You can also use Roku Voice on a voice remote or the Roku mobile app to discover Zones. If you’re looking for news just say, “show me the news.” It’s that easy.

2. Use your phone as a remote

Download Roku’s Official Remote Control mobile app to turn your smartphone into a remote control for any Roku device. You can search for and play content, use voice commands and plug in headphones for private listening. The app is available for free for both iOS and Android.

3. Control with Alexa or Google Assistant

Take control of your Roku devices with virtual assistants. You can pause, rewind, fast forward, search for content, launch channels, browse categories and more.

Before using Alexa or Google Assistant for Roku, your streaming device must be running Roku OS 9.1 or higher. Your Roku device checks for an update every 24-36 hours, or you can manually check for a software update if needed.

To set up the Roku skill for Alexa:

  • Open the Alexa app and tap the Menu hamburger icon, then select Skills & Games.
  • Search for “roku” and select the skill, then tap the Enable button.
  • Sign in to your Roku account.
  • Select the Roku devices you wish to use with Alexa.
  • Select Continue, then follow the prompts to return to the Alexa app.
  • Select the Roku device you would like to use with Alexa, then select CONTINUE.
  • Choose the Alexa devices you wish to use with the selected Roku device.
  • Select LINK DEVICES.

To set up the Roku Action for Google:

  • Launch the Google Home app and tap the plus icon.
  • Tap Set up device.
  • Select Have something already set up?
  • Tap the magnifying glass icon and search for “roku.”
  • Select Roku.
  • Sign in to your Roku account.
  • Select the Roku devices you wish to use with Google.
  • Select Continue and follow the prompts to return to the Google Home app.

4. Display content from your phone

There are various ways to get content from your phone to your TV using your Roku device:

  • Play on Roku lets you share music, photos, and videos stored on your smartphone or tablet to your Roku device. You’ll need the Roku app to use this feature.
  • AirPlay streams movies and videos that you are watching from your Apple device to your Roku.
  • Screen mirroring projects your Android and Windows device’s screen to your Roku.
  • Casting lets you view movies and shows you are watching on your phone or tablet to your TV through your Roku.

5. Roku Search

Roku Search includes more than half a million movies and TV episodes across more than 500 streaming channels. You can use the search function from the onscreen keyboard or the keyboard in the Roku mobile app. You can also do a voice search from the mobile app or a Roku Voice Remote.

6. Private listening

Private listening lets you listen to your TV on headphones connected to your phone or tablet. You’ll need the Roku app for your iOS or Android device to use this feature. Up to four mobile devices can be connected simultaneously for private listening.

Here’s how to activate and use Private listening:

  • Open the Roku mobile app.
  • Tap Remote from the navigation bar.
  • Tap the Headphone icon to activate private listening.

Once private listening is activated, adjust the volume to a comfortable level and put on your headphones. When you want to deactivate private listening, tap the Headphone icon again.

You can activate and deactivate private listening if you have wired headphones by plugging in and unplugging your headphones when the Roku mobile app is already open.

7. Guest Mode

Guest Mode lets visitors log into your Roku account on their devices without affecting any settings or having permission to make purchases. This is useful if you’re out of town and have guests staying over.

Guests can select a sign-out date so they’re automatically logged out when they leave, or they can sign out at any time during their stay.

To set up Guest Mode on your Roku device:

  • Go to Settings, then select System.
  • Select Guest Mode, then Enter Guest Mode.
  • Enter your PIN, then select OK.

Related: Roku is cracking down on private channels (and banning porn streams)

8. Play games

You can play games directly on your Roku device. Add them as you would any channel. You can check out a list of games here. Browse the classics such as Solitaire, Snake and Ping Pong.

To add a game to your Roku device:

  • Go to Streaming Channels and select Games.
  • Choose the game you want and select Add Channel.
  • Your installed games will appear on your home screen. Play them using your remote control.

9. Check Wi-Fi strength

Are you having issues watching content with your Roku device? It could be a problem with your Wi-Fi. There’s a secret to checking up on this. Roku has a hidden menu that lets you check your device’s Wi-Fi signal strength.

To view the menu, grab your Roku remote and press Home five times, then press up, down, up, down, up. Once you have the information, you can determine if the problem is with your Roku or router. The solution could be as simple as moving the two devices closer together.

10. Instant replay

Did you miss something in a show or movie? Perhaps you were watching a baseball game and wanted to see if a pitch was in the strike zone. Roku has an instant replay feature that rewinds the last 10 seconds of whatever you’re watching. The Instant Replay button on your Roku remote looks like an arrow going in a circle.

The instant replay also displays captions. You can turn this on and off by going to Settings > Captions > Captions mode.

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