If your Roku Internet speed is poor, or you think it might be inadequate, there are some things to do about it. Here’s how to run a Roku Internet speed test and how to interpret the results it gives you.
The key to managing your Roku Internet speed is knowing what constitutes good or poor speed. Sometimes we overestimate how much bandwidth we actually need to stream, and what seems like poor speed may be a different problem.
What is the best Internet speed for Roku?
How many MBPS do I need for Roku? Smart question, and it’s not super easy to get an answer.
The absolute minimum you need is 512 kilobits, but Netflix recommends a minimum of 1.5 megabits. For DVD-quality video, you need 3 megabits per screen that’s watching simultaneously. HD video, needs 5 megabits. For full HD or 3D video, you’ll need around 7 megabits, and for 4K video, you need 20 megabits.
So the FCC’s minimum speed requirements for broadband is adequate for multiple screens of HD video streaming, though if you’re streaming more than three screens, you may not have much left over for other use.
At the time I write this, a 4K TV costs less than $250. At that price point, more and more people will want to stream 4K video. If all you have is a 25 megabit connection, that’s only enough for one 4K screen and one HD screen at the same time.
Now that you have some idea what good looks like, we can figure out if your Roku Internet speed is poor, and what to do about it.
The Roku Internet speed test
Recent Roku software versions (at least from version 9.00) include a built-in speed test. From the main menu, navigate to Settings > Network, and select Check Connection. After a few minutes, your Roku will display a status screen, telling you whether the check was successful or unsuccessful. Assuming it succeeded, select OK. The network screen will give you the results, including your status (connected or disconnected), connection type, signal strength (if on wireless), your IP address, gateway, MAC address, and most importantly, your Internet download speed.
Keep in mind the Internet download speed your Roku reports will probably be lower than what your ISP advertises. Your Roku isn’t checking link speed or theoretical bandwidth. It’s connecting out to Netflix and measuring how quickly it can get data from Netflix. This gives you a better idea of your real world performance than just a raw link speed. Link speed is potential speed, but if you’re like me, you care more about what your hardware delivers, not what it might be able to deliver.
I have a gigabit connection, but if you look at my results, you’ll see I’m getting 80 megs. I’m fine with that. Why? My Roku only has a 100-megabit network port, so it’s never going to get any more than that. Plus there’s some overhead involved in connecting up with Netflix, so I’m probably not going to get a full 100 meg. I’m getting about 80 percent of what’s possible, and that’s OK. Anything above 20 megabits per device is just bragging rights.
What to do if your Roku Internet speed is poor
If your Roku Internet speed is poor, the question is whether the problem is your Internet provider or your local network. The first clue is right there on your network status screen. If you’re on wireless, how’s your wireless signal strength? If your signal strength is poor, it doesn’t matter how fast your connection from your ISP is, because your wireless is the limiting factor.
See if moving your device helps at all. Sometimes moving the device around a bit can make a difference. If your router has external antennas, position one antenna straight up and down and one side to side. I know some people hate how that looks, but having one antenna in each position does improve signal strength.
If your router has both 2.4 and 5 GHz networks, try moving your Roku to the other one. One may do a better job than the other of reaching the room where you keep your Roku.
If your phone, tablet or laptop have trouble in the same room, that’s a good indicator that you don’t have adequate wirelsss strength. Try adding a wireless repeater somewhere between your Roku and your router.
Test your Internet speed independently of your Roku
It’s also not a bad idea to get a second opinion of your speed. Load the Speedtest.net app on your phone or computer. Use the app rather than the web site for the most accurate results, because with high-speed connections, I’ve gotten some pretty wonky results with the web site. Run the test with the app and compare the results with what your Roku is getting. If you can, run the test within line of sight of your router to see how much of a difference that makes.
You’ll get a better idea of what your ISP is capable of with a wired connection, but if your Roku is on wireless, your results on wireless are a more useful test.
If you get speeds significantly below what you expect even with a computer, contact your ISP and ask them to run a line test.
Buffering isn’t necessarily a speed issue
What if your network test is good but your Roku still buffers all the time? That’s more likely a heat issue than a bandwidth issue. Here’s how to fix Roku heat issues.
What to do if you can’t make your Roku Internet speed fast
If your Roku has a wired Ethernet port, consider using that port. In one room where I had trouble getting a good wireless signal, I purchased a $45 powerline networking kit and used powerline networking to get around the problem. Just plugging the kit in without thinking about it, I got a 16 megabit connection. I was able to boost my powerline speed above 68 megabits with some testing and moving stuff around. That speed won’t impress anyone, but it’s more than enough to stream 4K video. I also have a couple of game consoles plugged into it, so the better speed improves the gaming experience too.
I ran dedicated Ethernet cable where I could. In many houses, wiring for Ethernet isn’t as hard as it sounds.
You can also consider upgrading your wireless network. You have several options, ranging from under $25 to over $300, depending on your budget and level of ambition.
Improve signal quality with a wireless repeater
Simply adding an inexpensive Wi-Fi range extender (also known as a repeater) somewhere between your Roku and your router may be enough to make the signal usable. A TP-Link N300 range extender is adequate for older networks (300 megabit and slower wireless) and costs less than $25. A TP-Link AC range extender can give better speeds on newer networks that use the 802.11ac standard. The price on AC range extenders varies with speed. A 750-megabit extender can cost only slightly more than an N300 extender, while a top-end 1200-megabit extender may cost closer to $50. You don’t need to go top-end just for streaming video, but if you’re concerned about phones, tablets and laptops too, those will take advantage of a faster connection.
Improve signal quality with mesh networking
I thought my home wifi was pretty good until a neighbor showed me his Google Wifi mesh system. He distributed a 3-pack throughout a house the same size as mine, and he gets connection speeds above 300 megabits throughout the house. My speeds top out at around 200 megabits and in some rooms drop into the low 20s.
The mesh is expensive, at over $250, and you get lower overhead and better speed if you plug each of the wifi points into a wired connection so your devices can use all of the wireless bandwidth. But even if you buy a three-pack and just let the three points operate over wireless, you’ll get much better range and more consistent speeds than you get with a traditional router, and more than enough speed to keep your Roku happy.