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I tried Roku's new line of low-cost smart home products. There's only one minor drawback

Roku wants to go beyond your television and into your home, and this new smart bulb and smart outdoor plug from Roku arrived just in time for the holiday season.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Roku products on a table

Just three of the devices from the new Roku Smart Home line.

Maria Diaz | ZDNET

The smart home market is officially flooding with new products. The recent launch of Matter, a new connectivity standard for smart home devices, has undoubtedly boosted this growth, as it promises to make smart homes work more painlessly than they have in the past.

One of the big-name players diving deeper into the smart home game is Roku, widely known for its streaming devices. If you're familiar with the "cut the cord" movement, then you've very likely heard of Roku, and maybe even own one or two. The company sells streaming sticks and devices, as well as smart televisions and, just recently, smart home devices.

Also: The best Roku devices and TVs

As an owner of several Roku devices, I was intrigued when I learned of Roku's smart home line, particularly of its partnership with Wyze for its security camera lineup. My Wyze Cams were one of my first security cameras and they're still going strong today, despite some hiccups along the way. 

Let's take a look at Roku's offerings.

Roku Indoor Camera 360

Roku Indoor camera 360
Maria Diaz | ZDNET

This pan and tilt indoor camera rivals some of the most popular on the market. It's a wired camera that features motion detection and tracking with its pan/tilt mechanism and works with Wi-Fi. 

Roku partnered with Wyze to release this new line of indoor and outdoor security cameras, just in case you were wondering why its new Roku Smart Home cameras look so similar to Wyze's. And, though Wyze has had past issues with security risks, Roku says its new line of products feature user data encryption and two factor authentication, among other security measures.

Also: This $50 camera proves you're probably overspending for your smart home

Having already played around with the SwitchBot Pan/Tilt camera 2K, I decided to test these out and see how they did versus one another. 

SwitchBot Pan/Tilt vs Roku 360

Note that these photos were taken a couple minutes apart, so the puppy is closer to the camera in the SwitchBot screenshot.

Maria Diaz | ZDNET

I've used WyzeCams for years, so I found it familiar to see the same video platform within the Roku Home app. In video quality, the Roku indoor 360 camera and the SwitchBot Pan/Tilt 2K camera were both pretty even with SwitchBot having a slightly better, cleaner look. The lens on the Roku camera is wider, which makes up for the larger coverage area, even though it's 1080p and the SwitchBot one is 2K.

However, the performance of each camera was completely different. The SwitchBot camera was a lot slower than the Roku camera, both loading the image in the app and at tracking the motion of my puppy. It was also choppy in motion tracking when compared to the Roku camera, which made much smoother and quicker movements to track the pup.  

Also: Eufy's security cameras send data to the cloud without consent, and that's not the worst part

I really like how the Roku indoor camera 360 performs as a pet camera. The feed loads quickly in the app, and it makes fast movements to track objects in motion. You can add local storage with a MicroSD card, but it only supports up to 32GB and does require a Roku Home subscription for cloud storage.

Roku Smart Bulb SE

Roku smart bulb SE
Maria Diaz | ZDNET

This A19 smart bulb is a Wi-Fi-capable bulb that can reach up to 1100 lumens of brightness, equivalent to a 75W light bulb. I really loved that this smart bulb can stay bright even in rich colors, which is always a challenge for color-changing bulbs. 

Since I work remotely, I keep this bulb in my home office to serve three purposes: 

  • Have it turn red to let others know when I'm in a meeting
  • Background lighting for my videos, especially when combined with my strip lights
  • Extra lighting

The Roku Smart Bulb SE is pretty reliable for everyday use. I haven't had many issues with it, other than it occasionally takes a few seconds to connect to the app on my phone. 

Also: How to set up motion-triggered smart lights as an Alexa routine

It's also fairly responsive, but it does take a couple of seconds for the color change to happen after I make the command on my phone. This isn't an issue for me, personally, just something to consider. 

This color smart bulb is only $9.88 for one at Walmart, or $17.88 for a pack of two, so it's very affordable among smart light bulbs.

Roku Outdoor Smart Plug SE

Roku outdoor smart plug SE
Maria Diaz | ZDNET

This outdoor smart plug from Roku comes at the best time: Right when the holidays are approaching and many are looking to set up string lights outside. I'm always a fan of holiday decorations and lights inside and outside my home, so I love a great outdoor smart plug.

I keep string lights in the backyard year round, and I use them with a Feit outdoor smart plug. An outdoor smart plug was a must for these lights because there isn't a door near the outdoor outlet so we'd have to walk around the deck to plug them in each time we want to turn them on. It also allows us to easily control the lights when taking the dog out each night and during the early morning hours.

Also: How I made my home smart on a budget

Every day, one of us simply asks the kitchen Alexa to turn on the lights in the backyard on our way out, making it extremely convenient compared to the alternative. Roku's smart plug can serve the same purpose and more.

The coolest thing about this Roku smart plug is that it features energy monitoring. I love a smart plug that shows me energy consumption and this is able to show me how much my 200ft of string lights that spend hours on each night consume.

Also laudable, this Roku outdoor smart plug is only $14.88 at Walmart. That's a pretty good deal for energy monitoring, IP64 weatherproof, individual outlet control for the two outlets included, dusk-to-dawn sensor, scheduling, and, best of all, no hub required. 

Bottom line

It'll be an interesting run for Roku in the smart home world, considering it's already one of the most popular streaming device makers around. The Roku Smart Home collection is sold exclusively at Walmart and the Roku website, and the prices are comparatively affordable. 

Roku's decision to debut an entire line of smart home products at Walmart is likely an effort to make smart home tech more accessible to consumers that aren't the typical target audience for smart home companies. Having someone shopping the electronics aisle randomly grab a smart plug to try it out on their Christmas tree is part of getting new smart home customers.

The only minor drawback is that these devices are all Wi-Fi, which means you'd be adding several devices to your network, which could result in overloading it. This is why a lot of smart home companies make their devices with Zigbee and Z-wave, but those, of course, require a separate hub.


What are the other Roku smart home devices?

The Roku Smart Home line has pretty much all you would need to get started on a smart home journey. You can find indoor and outdoor smart plugs, wired and battery video doorbells and chimes, color and white smart bulbs and strip lights, and indoor and outdoor cameras. 

The security camera lineup is the richest line of products from Roku Home. There are indoor cameras like the Roku Indoor Camera SE and Roku Indoor Camera 360 SE. The outdoor options include a battery and wired outdoor camera, as well as a floodlight camera

Do I need a subscription to use Roku Home?

Roku Home does offer a subscription for cloud services, which makes sense as Wyze does the same fro its cameras. You can skip the subscription, and simply have access to live streaming, motion and sound alerts, smoke and CO detection when applicable, and risk a five minute delay between events. Most, if not all, cameras also have an SD card slot, giving users the option to add a memory card to store video clips locally. 

A subscription plan costs $3.99 a month (or $39.99/year) and features person, package, vehicle, and pet detection, video clips stored in the cloud for 14 days, event filtering, and no delay between events. However, this cost is per camera, which can quickly add up. There's also the option to buy a "Plus" subscription plan, which costs $9.99 or $99.99 a year for up to 99 cameras.

Are Roku cameras affordable?

The Roku smart home line is more affordable than other smart home options; the Roku Indoor Camera SE, for example, costs $26.99 (and you could get two for $49.99), compared to the Wyze Cam v3, which is popular for being one of the most affordable ones, which is $29.99. However, the Wyze Cam is for both indoor and outdoor use.

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