I have a Roku 3 and have been using Rokus for three generations now. However, in the last year I’ve been getting more and more “Loading, Please Wait” messages. I’m even using Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi, to have the best connection. At first I thought it was my internet provider, or network traffic, or even an example of net neutrality breaking down. I stream Netfix, HBOGo, Warner Archive, Amazon and HuluPlus. I was mostly getting the loading message from HBOGo and Warner Archive, but then it started with Amazon too. Amazon even automatically refunded my rental fee when a western I was watching timed out too often.
Then I made an interesting discovery!
I got the idea of streaming from my computer that’s also attached to my TV—I use it as a DVR for over-the-air TV. Bingo. Everything streamed perfectly, at the highest resolution, plus the picture looked richer in colors. Evidently, a computer with a Athlon X2 processor and 4 GB of memory, with a PCIe video card does a better job decoding streaming television than the Roku. So maybe it’s not the internet or my provider? Speedtest.net does tell me I get 19.43 Mbps download and 1.92 Mbps upload on my U-Verse connection, which is pretty good. But that’s to a test site and not to a streaming server.
On the other hand, my Roku 3 seems to have no trouble streaming with Netflix. Is it the hardware or the servers the Roku is streaming from?
The Roku does have a dual processor, but only 512 MB of memory. This might explain why the Amazon Fire TV has 2 GB of memory and a quad processor. I would buy the Amazon Fire TV to give it a try but it doesn’t support several Roku channels I depend on. Using the computer is great for viewing films and shows without the dreaded “Loading, Please Wait” message, but instead of channels I have to go to individual web pages, each with their own different kinds of controls. I have to use a wireless keyboard that doesn’t work as conveniently as the Roku remote, and that’s a pain-in-the-ass.
The Roku is an excellent system for viewing internet TV—I’d hate to see it crap out. My biggest headache using the Roku is watching Warner Instant and HBOGo. And some people do have trouble with streaming Netflix, even with fiber optic connections, like this story. The solution this user found was to use a private VPN that circumvented congested internet routing. This makes me wonder if my Roku 3 is somehow using different routes than Chrome on the PC, or if internet providers can detect Roku traffic and treat it different.
Like I said, I’ve been a faithful Roku user for years, and love it. Maybe there’s something wrong with my Roku 3, but checking Google I see other people have this problem too. And it does seem to be somewhat internet traffic related. I usually don’t see the “Loading, Please Wait” during the day time, mostly during primetime, especially on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. So it appears the Roku 3 works well if things are just right. My guess, as more and more people use these streaming services because of the popularity of Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire, traffic and server demand will get tight. Adding a bit more horsepower, memory, and maybe a better video GPU, might process the bulging traffic in a more efficient manner. I expect the Roku 4 will have specs similar to the Amazon Fire TV, or top them, to fix this problem. That is, unless internet providers aren’t throttling traffic from devices like the Roku.
This is a technical mystery beyond my ability to decipher. I recommend people having “Loading, Please Wait” issues with their Roku, or other small streaming device, try plugging their laptops with HDMI connectors to their television and see if they get better streaming via a computer.
My guess is demand for internet services is always growing and we’re always going to see breakdowns at the weakest link in our technological chain. Right now, for me, it’s my Roku when it’s connecting to the most used servers on the internet. We might be pushing the limits of what a $99 device can do. I wonder if the Amazon Fire TV costs more to make than what it sells for? Or is the solution for Warner Instant and HBO to add more server capacity and pay for better peering?
JWH – 7/22/14