Devices range from the advanced Roku Ultra, which recently got some nice upgrades, to the affordable Roku Express, which you can snag for just $30. Roku also makes some of its own soundbars and speakers, which make it easy to build an all-in-one entertainment setup. We’ve spent hours over the course of months testing these devices side-by-side to help you find the right one for your home.
Best Roku Overall
Roku’s lineup can be confusing, and there are two streaming devices at the top of our list that are very similar. The first is the Roku Express 4K Plus. This small box sits next to your TV and is the cheapest Roku device that offers full 4K HDR streaming support, which generally makes it our favorite. Yes, it lacks Dolby Vision, but we tend to think that this isn’t too big of a deal, as the service only works with compatible TVs and doesn’t offer any real difference in picture quality over other HDR formats. All 4K TVs with HDR support multiple HDR formats and you most likely won’t be missing out on anything by skipping Dolby Vision.
That said, there are certain times of the year when the Roku Express 4K Plus isn’t the best buy. That’s because the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is often on sale for less and is therefore the better option. The Streaming Stick 4K is almost identical to the Express 4K Plus — the only difference is the shape of the device and the fact that the Streaming Stick 4K offers Dolby Vision support, which is what makes it slightly more expensive. We don’t recommend spending more money on something with Dolby Vision, but don’t be afraid to grab the Streaming Stick 4K when it’s the cheapest option.
Best Roku’s of 2023
The Express 4K Plus is one of the cheapest streaming TV options with 4K HDR. (Even if your current TV doesn’t support those formats, your next one probably will.) Thanks to the AirPlay update, this Roku device is one of the least expensive ways to connect your iPhone or other Apple device to your TV. It lacks Dolby Vision support, but we think most people will be fine without that.
This Roku streaming device is normally cheaper than the company’s Streaming Stick 4K and other 4K HDR streamers, so it’s usually our top Roku pick. It’s a great choice for those looking to get the most out of streaming without breaking the bank. Roku Express works with popular voice assistants Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is a very close runner-up to the Express 4K Plus. It has most of the same features as our top choice, but also includes Dolby Vision support. Normally we don’t think that Dolby Vision is worth the extra cash, but if you prefer the streaming stick design — or feel like Dolby Vision is important — the Streaming Stick 4K is an excellent choice. If you’re debating between the two, our advice is to grab whichever model is currently cheapest.
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Roku’s most expensive streaming box is more than twice the price of our top streaming device pick, but maybe you’ll appreciate its extra features enough to want the upgrade. The 2022 model still costs $100 and is nearly identical to previous versions, except it now comes bundled with the Voice Remote Pro.
But if you really love the remote and want to save a little money, you could try Roku’s other bundle, the $70 Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus, which also includes the Voice Remote Pro. The Streaming Stick 4K’s processor isn’t quite as beefy as the Ultra’s, but it can do nearly all the same tricks such as Dolby Vision HDR, and it costs $30 less than the 2022 Ultra.
Otherwise, the Ultra continues to deliver Dolby Vision video, faster responses than the Streaming Stick 4K, improved Wi-Fi and a wired Ethernet port — particularly welcome if your home Wi-Fi is overloaded.
Looking for an audio upgrade as well as a new Roku? Check out the Streambar. This compact soundbar plugs into your TV’s HDMI ARC port, improving the sound for all of your sources from cable boxes to game consoles. The best part of this Roku player is that it’s also a 4K HDR-capable Roku streamer itself. We’ve found the Streambar easy to set up, and it sounds good for the size, particularly with dialogue. If you want stronger bass, however, consider adding Roku’s wireless subwoofer ($180).
The Voice Remote Pro isn’t a streaming service player, but it can give your Roku streaming device a nice boost. The Voice Remote Pro adds new features like a rechargeable battery and a 12-foot midfield microphone. The latter is particularly useful. You can say, «Hey Roku, find my remote,» and the device will beep so you can find it if it’s lost under the couch cushions.
It now comes bundled with the 2022 Roku Ultra, but can be purchased separately and paired with any compatible Roku device.
This is the one and only Roku model we don’t recommend. Frankly, there are better entry-level streamers from Google and Amazon. We think that the Chromecast with Google TV HD is by far the best choice for a $30 HD streamer. It’s speedy and offers a remote that doesn’t need line-of-sight to work and can seamlessly control your TV’s power, volume and inputs. It also comes with a built-in button to access Google Assistant. Even the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite offers a better value than the Roku Express. At least the remote on that model includes built-in voice search and control powered by Alexa.
The good thing about the HD-only Roku Express is that it can use all the apps on Roku’s platform. But the included Roku TV remote is the bare-bones IR option that lacks Roku remote voice controls and requires you to point at the tiny box. It also won’t control your TV’s power, volume and inputs, so you’ll also need your regular TV remote. And to add insult to injury, the Express doesn’t come with a power brick in the box. You’ll have to provide your own, or plug it into your TV’s USB port in order to power the device. It’s best to just avoid this model, if you can. Either spend a little more to upgrade to the Express 4K Plus or grab the Chromecast with Google TV HD for the same price as this one. We promise you’ll be glad that you did.
How we test Roku devices
Every Roku we review receives hours of hands-on testing. Typically, this involves installing the device on multiple TVs, evaluating the setup process, adding popular streaming channels and using the product as if it were our own. We use all of the major features available and note how they stack up against other Roku models in the company’s lineup. To do this, we hook up multiple Roku streaming devices to the same TV so we can switch back and forth easily to compare the experiences.
Our metrics that we look at to rate a device include hardware design, distinctive features that differentiate models, remote capabilities and design, overall ease-of-use, effective layouts and design, search capabilities, privacy settings, the number of apps and their performance and the overall speed and reliability of the system.
Aren’t all Rokus kind of the same?
Yes and no. All Roku devices run the same software and therefore have the same access to onscreen search, channels, settings and layouts.
Roku models differ when it comes to the physical shape of the device, its ability to offer playback at various resolutions and HDR formats — such as 4K and Dolby Vision — as well as the extra hardware features on the device itself along with the remote included in the package.
For example, the entry-level Roku Express is a small box that plugs into your TV, but sits beside it. The device can access all of Roku’s content, but it only offers playback in standard 1080p HD, not 4K. Additionally, the remote is very basic and can’t turn your TV on and off. The remote also lacks other advanced features like voice control or remote finder capabilities. If you’re looking for 4K streaming, access to Dolby Vision, or a more powerful remote, you’ll have to choose a more advanced Roku.
Do I need a separate Roku if I have a Roku TV?
No, you don’t. Roku TVs come with the Roku operating system baked into the system. This means that you’ll be presented with the Roku interface the second you hit the power button.
Roku TVs also come with Roku-branded remote controls. Depending on your TV model, you will either get a Simple Remote or a Voice remote. Both will allow you to fully navigate your TV, but Voice remotes have a microphone button for voice activation. If you feel like you want to upgrade your remote experience, you might want to check out the Voice Remote Pro listed above.
Will I be able to access all of my streaming services on my Roku?
Mostly likely, yes.
Roku is known for having a huge selection of streaming channels and has positioned itself as a service-agnostic platform. As a result, it offers all of the most popular streaming services, including Hulu, Disney Plus, Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Showtime and Starz, among others. But it also has channels from smaller services and providers that are not available on every platform. For example, certain cable providers, such as Spectrum and Comcast Xfinity, tend to offer their apps only on select streaming platforms, and Roku is almost always one of them.
Chances are high that if you’re looking for a specific streaming app, Roku will have it.
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