The new Roku 3 and Roku 2 boxes may have the same names and nearly identical designs as their predecessors, but they have some important distinctions. Not surprisingly, this is confusing for shoppers, and it's reportedly allowed at least one Walmart store to stick buyers with the wrong item.
To recap, Roku announced two new versions of its streaming set-top boxes earlier this month: The $99 Roku 3 has a new remote control, with a microphone for voice search. The new $70 Roku 2 has a much faster processor than its predecessor, but its remote control no longer has a headphone jack built in.
For now, most major retailers are selling the old Roku 3 and Roku 2 at a discount ($85 for the Roku 3, and $65 for the Roku 2), alongside the new versions at full price. This should, in theory, be the easiest way to tell which Roku box is which.
However, CordCuttersNews reports that one Walmart store is selling the old hardware for the same price as the new version. Meanwhile, Sling TV is offering 50 percent off a Roku 3 when you sign up for three months of service, but it's actually giving people the old model while basing the discount on the price of the new one.
Because you can't always rely on price alone, the best way to figure out which Roku you're getting is to look up the model number. Roku 3's model number is 4230R for the new version, and 4200R for the old one. Roku 2's model number is 4210R for the new version, and 2720R for the old one. You can also look at what's on the box. Roku 3 promotes voice search, and has a purple "Roku" tag on the bottom of the remote, while Roku 2's new model advertises fast performance (with no mention of a headphone jack on the remote).
Why this matters: Certainly, you don't want to spend $99 on an old Roku 3 and not get your money's worth. And in the case of the Roku 2, the new model is going to be much more future-proof with its faster processor. In lieu of clearer naming schemes from Roku, you'll have to pay close attention when shopping until the old models' inventory dries up.