Roku devices provide one of the simplest ways to stream on your TV, and there’s a variety of different devices to choose from to cater to different needs. However, all that choice can make it difficult to pick the right one. That’s why we’ve put together this Roku buyer’s guide, so you know which Roku to buy.
In this guide, we’ll dive into a bit of Roku history and explain the different Roku device releases. Then we’ll break down each current Roku device — including its features, functionality and pricing — to help you decide which one is the best Roku device for your needs. You can read our Roku beginner’s guide if you want to learn about Roku first.
Which Roku to Buy: Picking the Best Roku Device
There’s a long history to dive into about when Roku, Inc. was founded in 2002; the Roku founder, Anthony Wood, serving as the Vice President of Internet TV at Netflix in 2007; and the first Roku model being introduced in May 2008.
We won’t go into all the details here, but — long story short — the first Roku device was developed in collaboration with Netflix. For a longer version, you can read our dedicated Roku history piece.
Since its beginning, Roku has grown significantly and currently has around 43 million users. Through its growth, Roku now offers an assortment of streaming devices to suit different people’s needs, and you can stream a ton of content from various online services.
Roku media players are easy to use, and they’re great for any cord-cutter. You can get access to both free and paid content from thousands of channels and streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, Disney+, ESPN and even its own streaming channel, The Roku Channel.
The beauty of it is that you’re not tied to a monthly fee or contract (read more in our Roku pricing guide and check out our guide to the best Roku free channels).
Many Roku devices are similar in appearance and some of the older Roku devices are still sold on sites such as Amazon, so you need to read the small print to make sure you’re buying the correct one. That fine print will differentiate features from one another, too, such as whether it streams in HD or 4K resolution.
On top of Roku’s newest addition, the Roku Ultra, there are other devices in the lineup as well. If you’re in need of a whole new TV setup, then the Roku TV could be the answer.
Additionally, you might want to invest in one of Roku’s audio devices and experience awesome sound while streaming your favorite show or movie from the built-in player.
Whatever your needs, we’ll help you choose the best one for your setup and budget with our comparison of Roku devices. Just so you know, all Roku devices receive automatic software updates.
The Roku Comparison Quick List
- Roku Express ($29.99): Cheapest Roku, not 4K, perfect for first-time streamers or those with a low budget
- Roku Premiere ($34.99): Same as the Roku Express but supports 4K and HDR (as do the rest)
- Roku Streaming Stick+ ($39.99): Most portable option, long-range wireless receiver, Roku Voice remote with private listening
- Roku Ultra LT ($79.99): Extended wireless, ethernet port, expandable storage, Voice remote with private listening; doesn’t include HDMI cable
- Roku Ultra ($69.00): Best performance, ethernet and best wireless, Dolby Vision, Bluetooth
- Roku TV ($219.00): Best as a whole TV upgrade, smart TV features; fewer features than the Roku Ultra
- Roku Streambar ($99.00) and Smart Soundbar (Price not available): Best for improving sound, Dolby Audio, Bluetooth; the Streambar is more compact, while the Smart Soundbar is more expensive
Compare Roku Streaming Devices: Which Roku Do I Need?
In this section, we’ll compare Roku models so that you understand the features and what setup each device is best for. We’ll also point out the cost so that you can make sure it fits in with your budget. Just to clarify, though, regardless of which Roku device you choose, you’ll still be able to stream the same content.
1. Roku Express
The Express is Roku’s cheapest streaming device. It has a simple design and is so small you can fit it in your pocket. Its compact size and the included adhesive strip makes it easy to hide away at the back or bottom of your TV.
It’s a perfect option for first-time streamers with a simple setup: just plug it in, connect it to your WiFi, create an account and start streaming. Adding channels to the Roku Express is easy, and the remote even has handy shortcut buttons for popular streaming services.
The Roku Express comes with the remote, an HDMI cable, adhesive mounting strip, USB cable and power adapter — you can power it via your TV’s USB port or a wall outlet. It’s a great option if you’re a streaming newbie, on a low budget or you want to add a Roku to a second TV.
However, if you can stretch your budget a bit further, you might want to opt for a different Roku (such as our next selection, the Roku Premiere). That’s because the Roku Express is not a 4K streaming device — it can only display video in HD up to 1080p.
Plus, you only get a Roku Simple remote, whereas other models include a Voice remote that lets you use voice commands to control some aspects of the Roku and also use voice search. That said, you can purchase the Roku Voice remote separately, or you could opt for the Roku Express+ instead, which has the same specifications but includes a Voice remote.
Price: $29.99, find it on Amazon
2. Roku Premiere
The Roku Premiere is basically the same as the Roku Express, except it can stream up to 4K resolution and supports HDR. So if you have a 4K Ultra HD TV, it could be worth spending a little extra for better performance. You can also make use of Roku’s 4K Spotlight channel, which is a roundup of movies and shows that are filmed in 4K Ultra HD.
With that in mind, the Roku Premiere is a great choice if you’re new to streaming, but want to have a better resolution from the get-go.
You get the same accessories and easy setup as the Roku Express, with the exception of a Premium HDMI cable. Without getting too technical about it all, if you want to stream 4K or HDR successfully, you need to ensure that your TV has an HDMI port that supports HDCP 2.2 — and that goes for any of the 4K-compatible Rokus.
Like the Roku Express, you get the Simple remote, but there is a Premiere+ option that includes the Roku Voice remote.
Price: $34.99, find it on Amazon
3. Roku Streaming Stick+
Next in line is the Roku Streaming Stick+, which — as the name implies — is a “stick” Roku about the same size and shape as a flash drive. Unlike the other Rokus, the Streaming Stick+ plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port, rather than having a separate HDMI lead, and it’s powered by a USB cable that plugs directly into your TV.
All of that makes it a great option for portability. You could take it on vacation, to a friend’s house or on a business trip. So long as you can power it, you’re good to go. The other benefit of the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is that it tucks nicely behind your TV with no annoying wires on display, which is perfect if your TV is wall mounted.
Like the Roku Premiere, the Streaming Stick+ allows you to stream in HD, 4K and HDR. Additionally, the USB power cable has a built-in long-range wireless network receiver, which gives you four times the range and ensures your streaming experience is smooth. That’s especially good if your TV isn’t near your router or if you’re connected to a hotel’s WiFi.
The Roku Streaming Stick Plus comes with the Roku Voice remote, and you also get a power adapter and extender cable, in case you need to plug it into an outlet. There’s also a Roku Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition, which upgrades the remote to the Enhanced Voice remote, with a headphone jack and a set of earbuds for private listening.
Price: $39.99, find it on Amazon
4. Roku Ultra LT
The Roku Ultra LT is a notch up from the other Roku devices, making it a better choice for heavy streamers and primary TVs. With the Ultra LT, you get extended wireless for a stronger connection, but you also have the option of connecting the Roku via an Ethernet port to ensure you have a smooth streaming experience.
The Ultra LT can stream content in HD, 4K and HDR. It also comes with the Enhanced Voice remote and the earbuds to go with it. However, unlike the previously mentioned Roku devices, you can’t power the Roku Ultra LT from your TV’s USB port. It comes with a standard power adapter for your wall outlet.
That said, you do get a micro SD card slot for storing additional channels. Although that may sound like overkill, if you add lots of channels to your Roku, it may automatically free up space by removing channels that you don’t watch much. By adding a micro SD, you can add more channels without that worry.
You get the Voice remote with private listening with the Ultra LT. Weirdly, though, Roku doesn’t provide an HDMI cable, so you’ll need to source that yourself. With that in mind, it might be better to go for the next option on our list, the Roku Ultra.
Price: $79.99, find it on Roku.com
5. Roku Ultra
The Roku Ultra is like the Ultra LT on steroids. It’s Roku’s most powerful and fastest streaming device, having a responsive interface and launching channels quicker than ever. It’s the best option if you’re after top performance. Like the Ultra LT, you can connect to the internet via an Ethernet port or wirelessly, but the Ultra’s wireless has 50 percent more range.
It can stream content in HD, 4K, HDR, as well as Dolby Vision for a totally cinematic experience — though your TV must be compatible — and can accommodate three-dimensional audio effects through a Dolby Atmos–compatible sound system. Plus, it includes Bluetooth, which allows you to stream your favorite music and more straight to your TV.
You don’t get a micro SD card slot, but you do get a USB port that you can use to connect an external hard drive and display your own photos or videos on your TV.
It also includes the Roku Enhanced Voice remote and earbuds, except this remote also has personal shortcut buttons that you can set up. Plus, the device has a lost remote finder, so if your remote has gone AWOL, all you need to do is press the button on your Roku player and the remote will make a sound (spoiler alert: it’s probably between the sofa cushions).
With all of the Roku Ultra’s features in mind, it’s without a doubt the best Roku for anyone wanting to totally cut the cord. It can certainly be a replacement for cable or satellite, or be a setup for a home theater, and it has a standard power adapter so it’s ready to become a permanent fixture. Plus, the Roku Ultra does come with the Premium HDMI cable.
One thing we should note, though, is that we’re not talking about the 2019, 4670R model. We’re talking about the latest and greatest, Roku Ultra 2020, model 4800R. Lots of places are selling the older model, which is fine, but if you want the best performance, you need to check the model number. It won’t specifically say “2020” on the box.
Price: $69.00, find it on Amazon
6. Roku TV
Now that we’ve got the standalone players out of the way, we come to the Roku TV, which is Roku’s answer to a smart TV. It has a built-in Roku player, but like other TVs, you can connect cable, satellite, consoles or anything you would connect to a regular TV. It’s a great option if you’re already looking to upgrade your TV.
It’s easy to set up, and the user interface is simple and responsive. You can customize your home screen tiles so that your favorite channels and services are at the ready. Plus, you can add labeled input devices to the tiles so it’s easy to switch to, say, your game console.
You get the Roku Simple remote with the quick-access buttons — so no voice commands — but the Roku TV makes it easy to search for specific titles, actors and more. Plus, like any other TV, you can adjust your picture settings to how you like them.
When it comes to buying a Roku TV, though, there are too many options for us to list. For starters, they’re made by lots of different brands, such as TCL, Hisense and Sharp, and come in a variety of screen sizes and picture qualities. That’s not even mentioning the varied prices. Which one you choose depends on your budget and where you want to use it.
Price: $219.00, find it on Amazon
7. Roku Streambar & Roku Smart Soundbar
Roku has also dived into the soundbar section, with its Smart Soundbar released in late 2019. For 2020, though, we have the Roku Streambar. Now, you might be wondering why we haven’t given them their own section. That’s because they’re broadly similar.
The biggest difference is size. The Smart Soundbar is more than 32 inches long, whereas the Streambar is less than half that. Roku has managed to pack all of the Smart Soundbar’s great features into a more compact device, making it easier to fit in smaller spaces.
Both the Roku Smart Soundbar and Streambar are great options if you want to upgrade your TV’s sound while also benefiting from a Roku player. They’re an all-in-one device, so you don’t need to fiddle with extra wires or worry about not having enough connections in your TV.
You can stream in HD, 4K and HDR — not in Dolby Vision, but you do get the advantage of having cinematic sound with Dolby Audio through four speakers. Plus, they have different sound modes and speech clarity levels, helping you achieve crisp sound while also lowering loud commercials automatically. You can even play music via Bluetooth or by connecting an external drive via the USB port.
Granted, it doesn’t have the punch of the Roku Ultra, but if you don’t mind that and you’re more interested in better sound, then a Roku Soundbar could be a great option. Plus, both the Smart Soundbar and Streambar are compatible with Roku’s wireless speakers and subwoofer, which we’ll get to later.
The Roku Streambar’s specs are similar to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, like the long-range wireless, for instance. You do get the added option of connecting via an Ethernet port, but you will need a USB adapter to do so, which is sold separately.
Both soundbars are simple to set up, requiring your TV to have an HDMI ARC or optical output for sound. In the box, you get the Roku Voice remote, a Premium HDMI cable, an optical cable and a power adapter. You can mount either soundbar to a wall, but you’ll need to buy the hardware separately.
$99.00, find it on Amazon
Price not available, find it on Amazon
Other Roku Accessories
Now that we’ve listed all of the Roku streaming devices, we thought we should give the Roku accessories a mention. We’ve already discussed the three types of remote you can buy — Simple, Voice and Enhanced Voice — but there’s also a Roku mobile app.
The app turns your phone into a second remote control and allows voice search, taking away the need to invest in a Voice remote if you don’t already have one. Plus, you can connect your headphones and listen privately, and you can cast content from your phone straight to your TV (also see our guide on how to cast to Roku from iOS, Android and Windows 10). Roku devices are also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Roku has additional surround sound products, too, which we’ll talk about now.
1. Roku TV Wireless Speakers
The Roku TV Wireless Speakers are a great addition for cinematic sound, and they’re calibrated for true surround sound. However, they’re not compatible with all of Roku’s players. You need a Roku TV for these bad boys. Additionally, you can add them to your Smart Soundbar or Streambar for even better sound.
It’s easy to set them up, and because they’re wireless, you’re not going to be left with cable trails. You can mount them on your wall or speaker stands, too. You get the Roku Voice remote, as well as the Roku Touch tabletop remote, which allows you to control everything from a nearby room. That’s great for when you’re streaming music, which can also be done via Bluetooth.
Price: $144.87, find it on Amazon
2. Roku Wireless Subwoofer
Lastly, we have the Roku Wireless Subwoofer. The 10-inch 250W loudspeaker is the perfect accompaniment for delivering punchy bass. It’s compatible with a Roku Soundbar or a Roku TV with the Roku Wireless Speakers to complete a full-range surround system. However, it won’t work with a stand-alone Roku player or the Roku TV alone.
Once again, you’re not going to be tripping over wires because of its wireless connectivity, and you can place the subwoofer pretty much anywhere so long as it’s within 30 feet of your TV. You don’t need an extra remote control — you just carry on with your current Roku remote.
Price: $179.99, find it on Amazon
Final Thoughts: Best Roku Device?
Which Roku you should choose really depends on your needs and budget. That sounds like a bit of a cop-out, considering this guide is supposed to help you decide between the best Roku devices, so let us explain.
If you’re a first-time streamer, your budget is low or you simply want a second Roku for another TV, then the best option is the Roku Express or Roku Premiere. Considering that the Express doesn’t support 4K streaming, though, the Premiere is the better option.
That said, the Streaming Stick+ is also a contender in that department. Sure, it’s a little pricier, but its long-range wireless and the addition of the Roku Voice remote makes it a better package. Its long-range wireless receiver also makes it the best option if you’re traveling.
On the other end of the scale, if you’re looking for the best features and specifications, and your budget stretches that bit further, then the Roku Ultra is the one for you. As it’s the newest Roku, it’s loaded with Roku’s leading features and technology, and it will give you the best streaming experience of them all. Plus, with a compatible TV, you can enjoy Dolby Vision.
Lastly, if you want to bundle a Roku player with great sound, then both the Smart Soundbar and Streambar are a good option. They just don’t include all the features of the Roku Ultra.
We hope our guide has helped you to decide which Roku to purchase, but whichever one you choose, setting up a Roku is easy. Plus, if you want to access channels or services that aren’t available in your region, our best VPN for Roku guide can help.
If you’ve already taken the plunge, why not let us know which device you decided on in the comments below? Would you recommend it? Is there anything you dislike? We’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thank you for reading.
- When you start looking into the different Rokus, it can be daunting. The main take-home is that the Roku Express does not support 4K Ultra HD, while all the others do. The Roku Streaming Stick+ is the best for portability, and the Roku Ultra is the best for performance. The Roku Smart Soundbar and Roku Streambar are great if you want to bundle a player with surround sound.
- Roku offers three remotes with its products: the Simple remote, the Voice remote and the Enhanced Voice remote.
- The Roku Ultra 2020 came out on Amazon on October 15, right around Prime Day.