How to Play 4K MKV Files on Roku

How to Play MKV 4K Video Files on Roku In the Highest Possible Quality

What Is An MKV File?

MKV stands for Matroska Multimedia Container. Matroska, a Russian word for a series of small, brightly painted dolls where one fits within another and these fit inside another. Since mkv is an open standard free container that can hold an entire collection of media, the name fits it well. An mkv file which is also the name of the file extension, holds a lot video information which can use many different codecs.

It can also contain many different audio tracks, that also can use many different codecs. It can also hold captions along with metadata as well. The MKV multimedia file container is just one of many different file types that do the same thing but to this day remains a very popular and useful container for media.

Others media files you may have heard of which are known by their file extension are MP4, M4V, WMV, MPG. The bad news, because of the wide range of media available, not every media player supports playing every mkv file fully including Roku. This is true especially if the MKV file contains MPEG2 Video. Only the Roku TVs can play MPEG2 Video. Roku media streamers can't but they can still play certain MKV files and will also play MP4, H.264 and MOV files as well. Roku 4K media players can also play h.265 content which is a more efficiently compressed version of a video file so it does not use as much data. This is a good thing now that data caps are becoming more of a concern.

Audio Files

Roku will also play a wide range of audio files. It will support AC3 audio and DTS via HDMI passthrough, they also play MP3 and AAC, 2 channel audio files.

What Happens When I Want to Play a File My Roku Won't Support

Plex comes to the rescue. Plex is media software that can do on the fly transcoding. It will automatically take a file that would not play directly on your Roku or other media device like a tablet or phone and transcode it into a format that plays perfectly.

 To use Plex you with your Roku, you need both their Roku channel and their server software running on a media server or NAS that is powerful enough to support transcoding on the fly. Your videos will play directly and stream in real time so no lengthy conversions that require special software. Plex needs some pretty decent hardware to run on for it do transcodes.

If you only want to transcode to one device as at a time, than you can get by with a less powerful processor in your media server or NAS. Multiple streams being transcoded to multiple devices take much more grunt and a Dual Core or Quad core Intel X86 CPU is highly recommended for these applications so you don't have buffering or delays when you are trying to stream a file.

Set Up Plex for Transcoding

If you have not yet installed Plex software or added the Roku Channel you can do so here. Plex can be setup for on the fly transcoding by accessing these features in Settings > Server > Transcoder in the Plex Web App.

Access The Plex Web App

Open a browser window and go to When you are setting up transcoding, you have several options to choose from:

Transcoder quality

These settings will have a direct influence on the quality and amount of processing power used when transcoding your media. 
Choose from: 
Automatic - The Server will select from the other three options and choose the best one automatically 
Prefer Higher Speed Encoding - Videos will be lower quality, but faster transcodes. Better for lower power servers.  This could cause more buffering on older slower computer or NAS equipment. 
Make my CPU Hurt - This gives you the best quality with slower transcodes and highest CPU usage. You need a very fast Intel Processor with multiple cores to get the best results with this setting.

Using Plex is probably the easiest way to watch mkv encoded media files on Roku.  Besides playing your media files, Plex like Kodi can be used to watch a lot more content on your Roku. Just add channels or add-ons to Plex  and this will give you access to many more files.

 - Here are some add-ons to make Plex much more useful!

 - Best Media Server for Plex

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