Roku Device Features, Settings & Updates

Help configuring Roku device settings, using Roku OS features such as screen mirroring, adjusting display type and audio settings, using Guest Mode, and assistance with software updates.
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trekkeriii
Level 10

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

Is the Roku USB port even USB 3.0? I didn't think it was anyways. I don't see it in the specs.
http://trekkeriii.com/Roku_PHP_list.php
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rogalskij
Level 7

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

I don't think it is USB 3.0 as then it would seem that they would have to abide by the USB 3.0 power standards.  I think it is USB 2.0 but I don't have any data to back that up.  Anyone know for sure if that is the spec?
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atc98092
Level 17

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

How is it defective by not powering your drive? Very few devices provide sufficient power for external hard drives. The USB spec itself is only 500 mA, which isn't enough for most drives. USB 3.0 bumps that to 900 mA, but the Roku doesn't have USB 3. Roku suggests you use a powered hub to power the drive. External 3.5" hard drives can draw 1 A or more.
Dan
Roku Stick (3600), Ultra (4640), Ultra (4670), Premiere (3920), Insignia 720p Roku TV, Sharp 4K Roku TV, Nvidia Shield, Windows 10 Pro x64 running Serviio and Plex on a wired Gigabit network.
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tanguero
Level 7

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

atc98092: "Very few devices provide sufficient power for external hard drives."
Huh? That would mean that external hard drives powered off USB would just not work most of the time? That would not be a very good business strategy for the drive manufacturer, would it? Obviously, this is not a true statement, unless you're talking about drives designed for a higher USB standard plugged into a lower one (which also DO work most of the time--no USB 3.0 drive has ever given me a problem plugged into a USB 2.0 port on my computer). And I doubt that Roku is still designing to USB 1.1 (well, not intentionally anyway Smiley Happy).

atc98092: "How is it defective by not powering your drive?"
A USB 2.0 port that doesn't power a USB 2.0 device is NOT defective? When I've tried with different devices by different manufacturers? Perhaps you didn't read my original post well, but:

1. USB 2.0 spec requires the host end to supply AT LEAST 500 mA MINIMUM.
2. USB 2.0 spec requires a USB hard drive to consume no more than 5 "units" of power where each unit is 100 mA, i.e., 500 mA MAXIMUM.
3. Roku states on this page (some others had questions on this)
https://support.roku.com/article/230160 ... usb-drive-
that their port supports "approximately" 500 mA (making it "approximately" USB 2.0 I guess and certainly not USB 3.0) and suggests on that same page that it is a USB 2.0 port (without coming right out and stating it)--it would need to have at least USB 2.0 speeds to support HD video data rates. You see on that same page how previous versions of Roku boxes support significantly higher current, so this downgrade is as mysterious as it is disastrous.
4. No good engineer would ever design to the minimum on something like this so if the spec says 500 mA you'd design to at least 600-700, maybe 750 mA to make sure to get USB 3.0 as well, at a trivial additional cost.
5. Even if USB 2.0 hard drives routinely exceed the 500 mA maximum that they're supposed to draw (I admit it's surprisingly difficult to find specs on this, so perhaps the hard drive manufacturers are hiding something too), Roku is still not off the hook in my book. The USB port on this device has the sole function of being connected to external drives for playback of media. For video media any modern device MUST include support for USB 3.0 hard drives (pretty much any portable drive you buy these days is a USB 3 drive even if you want to connect it to a USB 2.0 port). The fact that it was neither designed nor tested to work with a host of popular USB 2.0 hard drives, let alone USB 3.0 is just pathetic.
6. One of the ONLY differences between Roku Premier+ and Ultra is the USB port, and they couldn't get that right? Shame on them.
7. Oh, and if you're thinking of a >2TB hard drive (and who isn't for video collections considering the small price increment for a 4TB external drive?) double-forget it. Even with a powered hub or whatever, Roku won't support GPT partitioned drives (which all drives over 2 TB must have), only MFT (which is what most drives up to 2 TB will ship by default).

Like I said, the whole Media Player addon appears to be a poorly designed kludge, both the hardware and the firmware. Really they should offer a recall exchange on all the Ultras, considering that's most of the alleged value added of that model, and should be replaced by an UltraV2 that has a functional USB 3.0 port properly tested with USB 3.0 drives and with at least 1A of current capability. The firmware mods to expand the formats that can be played and to provide GPT support can be done "over the air" (and really do need to be done)

BTW, I still love my Roku, just miffed at the broken USB and indignant at the poor engineering (OK, and the lack of an analog audio output too, but that's another topic ... at least it was not advertised as having one).
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atc98092
Level 17

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

Well, we'll just agree to disagree. USB ports, particularly 2.0, are only required to provide 500 mA. Sure, the spec says minimum, but for most USB uses it's more than enough and manufacturers don't usually design beyond the minimum requirements. Many external hard drives require more power than that. Think a moment. Inside a hard drive you have two primary things consuming power: the rotational motor and the stepping motor to move the read/write head. The stepping motor I'm sure draws little power, but the rotational must spin up a large mass of platters and maintain their rotational speed at all times. Continuously operating electric motors are very efficient, but there's still a minimum amount of power required. Most external hard drives are right at the 500 mA level, and depending on brand and size can far exceed that amount. Many external drives specifically provide their own power supplies because they know the drives require more than the spec provides. And there are many USB 2.0 devices that require more than 500 mA. That is simply the level that the specification requires to be available at each port. I'm not going to read though the entire specification, and it is certainly possible I have some detail wrong. But I would be very surprised if the 2.0 standard says a device cannot require more than 500 mA, because they do exist. Every external HD I've ever purchased or used came with its own power supply.
.
In no way would I fault any device manufacturer for not providing enough current at the USB port to power a device that needs more than the minimum, unless they specifically state that the ports will support it. My last work laptop would not even provide enough power to charge my iPad 2. But that's not Dell's fault. Roku says what their supported power levels are, and if you have a device that needs more you use a powered USB hub. Which also provides the ability to attach more than one drive. 
Dan
Roku Stick (3600), Ultra (4640), Ultra (4670), Premiere (3920), Insignia 720p Roku TV, Sharp 4K Roku TV, Nvidia Shield, Windows 10 Pro x64 running Serviio and Plex on a wired Gigabit network.
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RokuMarkn
Level 7

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

That's the whole point of specifying an amperage in the specification, so device vendors don't have to guess about how much power a USB source will supply, and source manufacturers don't have to guess about how much current a device will draw.  A USB 2.0 drive which draws more than 500 mA is not meeting the specification.  That's not to say they don't exist, but they shouldn't claim to be USB 2.0 compliant unless they also provide a separate power supply.

--Mark
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tanguero
Level 7

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

> Every external HD I've ever purchased or used came with its own power supply.

Well, that explains most of your responses.

For the rest of us, here are articles to some more helpful information.

1. How to Fix the Roku Ultra USB
http://cordcuttersnews.com/%EF%BB%BF%EF ... ultra-usb/

They point to "many complaints" in Amazon and other online reviews on the Ultra about the USB problem. (It's real, it's frequent, those in denial notwithstanding.) Claims they contacted Roku, who in turn claims that it "should work" with all USB 1 and 2, and on "some" USB 3. (My experience is that it works on NO USB 2 nor 3, but I could have got an even more marginal device.)

2. My Roku Ultra does not detect my external HDD drive
https://roku.zendesk.com/hc/en-ca/artic ... -HDD-drive

Main value to this article by Roku support is that it states that a powered USB hub WILL address the problem. This is far from self-evident since a USB hub needs to have drivers that support it on the host device, so it's positive that Roku explicitly states that it does (but I still won't believe it until someone confirms that it worked on their Roku Ultra).

3. How to use Roku Media Player to play your videos, music and photos
https://support.roku.com/article/208754 ... and-photos

Main value to this article is that it lists all the video formats supported by Roku players (boils down to H.264 in .mp4, .mkv and .mov containers, and H.265 for 4K in the same containers, along with VP9 in .mkv). Still missing way too many to be useful, as far as I'm concerned. The Help menu in the Roku Media Player app also gives you a blurb about all supported video formats and file systems (but does not mention USB 2 vs 3 and power issues).

4. Why does my Roku® streaming device not recognize my external USB drive?
https://support.roku.com/article/230160 ... usb-drive-

Main value to this is that it lists the power output of the USB ports for Roku devices that have them. They go as high as 1500 mA for one of the Roku TVs. The Roku Ultra (surprise, surprise) is the lowest at an alleged 500 mA. From the non-TV products, the Roku 4 is the highest at 900 mA.

5. Roku Device Comparison Chart (PDF)
https://image.roku.com/ww/docs/compare- ... -en-us.pdf

More complete than the one off the main Roku home page since it shows the older Roku 3 and Roku 4 products too. The main takeaway from this is:
-> Maybe consider the Roku 4 instead of the Roku Ultra.
You (a) save $30 over the Ultra (b) get 900 mA on the USB port rather than 500 mA (c) get all the features of the Ultra (according to the chart) except Night Listening Mode (a loudness control, basically) and Dolby Audio™ decode via HDMI® and optical. I say "maybe" because, the Roku 4 is larger and has a fan (which no doubt allowed it more luxury in powering the external USB too), and I'm not sure what else the Ultra does better that may not be in the comparison chart. If I had to do it again, I'd probably get the Premier+ rather than the Ultra or Roku 4 and a separate media player for playing off hard drives.

As it is clear that the USB port on the Roku is useless for me, I won't be researching this any more, and so won't have anything more to add to this discussion. If someone can confirm that (a) a powered USB hub does indeed work with the Ultra and (b) allows drives to be used that couldn't be used before and (c) whether multiple drives connected simultaneously to the hub in fact show both show up on the Roku Media App user interface so that videos from either drive can be selected, I am sure that would be helpful information to many (not, unfortunately, including me, since too many of my videos are in formats not supported by Roku).
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tanguero
Level 7

Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

Oh, discovered another workaround which, while it doesn't solve the multiple USB problems, might be helpful as an alternative. And that is to use Plex (see www.plex.tv). Short explanation below:

Basically Plex is, one the one hand, (free) media server software that runs on your PC, so any hard drive you would want to plug into your Roku Ultra (if it worked) can of course be plugged into your PC and put on the list of Plex's media folders to make accessible via the server.

What is of course needed at the Roku end to complete the story is a Plex client App, which fortunately IS available on the Roku Ultra (and other models I assume), and it's free too. So you run Plex on your Roku, you magically see all your Plex folders shared via your PC to browse on your Roku and you play the one you want. Works with videos, music and photos. Both devices are normally on the same home network (on the same router, essentially), and the transfer is over your WiFi LAN (where you probably have tons of extra bandwidth anyway). But they don't even have to be and you make your server accessible via the public Internet as well if you want to!

Other goodies like the Plex server automatically (if you let it) changing the format of video or audio to match what the Roku supports, and trying to do it intelligently to minimize server CPU load (which somewhat gets past the Roku's limitation on supported video formats as well). The short time I've tried it, it all works very well indeed! I almost feel like I have to thank Roku for screwing up the USB port on the Ultra to force me to explore other options and hence discover Plex. The Plex media server is great, as is Roku's support for it (give credit where it's due ...).

Plex also has clients available for Android and iOS phones (not free in this case, but it's the first Android App I actually paid for, $5), but since this is a Roku forum I won't go more into the non-Roku aspects of Plex.
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Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

I have a Roku 3, I also have Kodi on a Raspberry Pi 2 and a Plex server in my loft. These serve all my needs. I gave up trying to play local media on the Roku.

Steve
Roku 3, Roku LT & Roku 1, Kodi running on Raspberry Pi 2, Plex Server.
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Re: USB hard drive for Roku Ultra

I had to send my Ultra back to Amazon. It was a deal breaker when my external hard drive that worked perfectly well on a Roku 3 wouldn't work on an Ultra.
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