Most Americans with broadband internet access now have a media player in their homes. Roku remains the most popular option by far but offers at least a half dozen models from which consumers must choose. With that in mind, let us explore those six options and the advantages of each.
Most Roku models are set-top streaming boxes. The one exception is the streaming stick discussed at the end of this list. The Roku Express is the most affordable option and can be purchased for less than $30. This model comes with a high-speed HDMI cable, USB power cable, power adaptor, and a simple remote with two AAA batteries. It supports up to 1080p content and provides access to the full range of channels that the Roku brand currently offers. There is no monthly subscription and a wealth of free content is available, but many channels do require a separate subscription in order to be accessed.
Roku Express Plus
Roku Express Plus—often stylized Roku Express+—is essentially the same product as the Roku Express. There is often about a $5 price difference between this unit and the basic Express, and the main difference is that the remote is a bit more advanced. It looks similar and has the same buttons but it supports voice controls that allow you to change channels from the comfort of your couch. The Plus also features an analog AV cable that can be useful if connecting your Roku to an older television.
Roku Express 4K and Express 4K+
We mentioned six products in the introduction but will actually discuss them more in all. One reason for this is that Roku has introduced the Roku Express 4K and Express 4K+. These are essentially the same products discussed above and are similarly priced but now feature support for 4K and HDR video.
Which should you choose? All things being equal, we would recommend the 4K editions for better forward compatibility. The non-4K models will eventually be phased out. In the meantime, you are likely to see some aggressive deals as retailers seek to clear out stock. If the prices are the same, select a 4K model, but if you do not need 4K support yet, you are probably better off snagging a deal.
Roku Premiere and Premier+
According to the Roku website, Premier and Premier+ seem to be on their way out as well. These were offered as alternatives to the Express and Express+ prior to the 4K Editions. The processor here is stronger than the Express models but not the Express 4K models. In this price range, we would recommend the 4K models unless you find a deal that is too good to pass up.
The Roku Ultra was the original model that Roku released to support 4K and HDR. But you should note that there are some rather significant differences between the Ultra and the Express 4K+. This product features a more advanced remote with parental controls and customizable shortcuts. It also has an Ethernet port in addition to Wi-Fi and has a USB connection for local playback. The Roku Ultra also supports Dolby Vision and other advanced features that you will not find on the Express models. It’s best partnered with high speed internet at home especially with movies in HD.
Roku Ultra LT
The Ultra LT—which we presume stands for Ultra Light—is essentially an Ultra but with a few features dropped and a price tag that is $20 less. The dropped features include Bluetooth, the shortcut buttons, and the USB port for local playback. The Ultra is a great choice if you would not use those.
Roku Streaming Stick Plus
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K and 4K+ take the place of the non-4K sticks. These are not set-top boxes but USB flash drives that insert into a USB port on your television. The greatest advantage here is portability, but for home use, the setup boxes are preferable because they are notably snappier.