In a world where no one seems to pay for cable anymore, streaming players are king. Roku is one of the most popular brands for streaming devices, and the company has made huge strides in what it offers since 2008 when the first Roku streaming player was released.
However, because the company offers so many unique options, it’s difficult to know exactly which Roku Model you should buy. We’ll clarify the major and minor differences between Roku’s offerings and help you decide which streaming player is right for you.
What All Roku Devices Have to Offer
With all of Roku’s devices, you’ll be able to make the most out of the Roku mobile app. For instance, you get automatic software updates, the “Stream Big, Stream Green” environmental promise, and private listening capabilities. Every device is also compatible with Apple AirPlay, Apple Home, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa.
Roku Express and Express 4K+
Retailing at $29.99, Roku’s Express device is the cheapest the company has to offer. With the Roku Express, you’ll gain access to tons of free, live, and premium HD content, some of which come through separate apps that may require a paid subscription. Among this content, there are over 300 free live TV channels and original movies and shows on The Roku Channel.
You can customize the home screen after you hook up the Roku Express to your TV, placing your favorite and most-used channels front and center. Then, controlling your TV can be done via the Roku mobile app or with the included remote with simple buttons and shortcuts to popular channels.
For only $10 more, there’s the Express 4K+ device, which offers content in vivid 4K resolution with HDR10+ instead of just HD on the regular Roku Express. This slight difference in price is even more worth it with the included Voice Remote, which lets you give voice commands to control the TV. Either of these Express devices are great for new Roku users.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K and 4K+
Roku’s 4K Streaming Stick retails for $49.99 and lets you stream a large collection of free, live, and premium TV content within minutes of unboxing it. All you have to do is plug it into your TV, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, and start streaming. And with its redesigned long-range Wi-Fi receiver, you can stream content two times faster in rooms that are far away from your router.
As with any streamed video content, picture quality is important. As the device names imply, Roku’s Streaming Stick 4K and 4K+ put up a 4K picture that’s sharp and vivid, powered up with Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
The remote control is the biggest difference between the 4K Streaming Stick and the 4K+ Streaming Stick—and the reason for a $20 price hike.
The 4K version has a Voice Remote that lets you control the TV with physical buttons or your voice. The 4K+ comes with Roku’s Voice Remote Pro, which has the same controls as the other remote, but it’s also rechargeable and has a headphone jack for private listening, personal shortcut buttons, and a lost remote finder feature.
The Roku Ultra is the company’s fastest, most powerful streaming device. Retailing at $99.99, the Roku Ultra is powered by a quad-core processor, which allows for a speedy user interface and channels that launch within seconds. Although you can stream over Wi-Fi fairly quickly, you can also wire up with Ethernet for an even faster connection.
You can stream loads of content from Roku’s selection of free, live, and premium TV channels, including many free originals on the Roku Channel. As long as you have a compatible 4K-capable TV, your content will look bright and sharp with 4K resolution, Dolby Vision, and HDR10+. Plus, the Roku Ultra is also equipped with Dolby Atmos audio technology, or you can listen via Bluetooth headphones and Roku’s private listening feature.
Unsurprisingly, Roku pairs its best remote—the Voice Remote Pro—with its fastest streaming device. This remote has a micro-USB port for its rechargeable battery, hands-free voice controls, a headphone jack to connect wired headphones, Bluetooth to connect wireless headphones, and a lost remote finder feature. You can also set personal shortcuts on the remote for your favorite channels.
Roku Streambar and Streambar Pro
If you’re looking for a streaming stick and a soundbar to enhance your TV setup, Roku’s Streambar and Streambar Pro combine those two devices into one. You’ll be able to stream all the free, live, and premium 4K TV content that Roku offers while also upgrading your sound quality.
Both the Streambar and Streambar Pro are equipped with Bluetooth technology, so you can use the speakers to get crisp dialogue in movies and TV shows or to fill the room with your favorite songs. The initial setup is super simple. You can customize your preferences after setup to automatically lower loud commercials, boost the voice volume, and even experiment with unique volume modes.
If you find that the sound experience with the Streambar or Streambar Pro just isn’t enough for you, Roku offers a Wireless Bass unit and Wireless Speakers that you can add for fuller, more immersive sound.
With the Streambar, you can control your TV and the speaker with Roku’s Voice Remote. The Streambar Pro’s remote lets you do this as well, but it also comes with personal shortcut buttons, a headphone jack for private listening, and a lost remote finder via the mobile app. Then, both devices have private listening via Bluetooth if you have a pair of wireless headphones you want to use.
Besides the remote control features, the Streambar and the Streambar Pro differ in price and speaker setup. Roku’s Streambar retails at $129.99 and has four 1.9-inch full-range speaker drivers, while the Streambar Pro retails at $179.99 and has four 2.5-inch full-range premium speaker drivers that deliver a richer overall sound.
Which Roku Model Should You Buy?
Because Roku’s famous features—free content on The Roku Channel, private listening via the mobile app, and an easy-breezy user interface—are available on every device the company offers, you really can’t go wrong with any of Roku’s streaming players. The biggest difference among each of Roku’s devices is the form factor.
The Streaming Stick is your best bet if you want a device with no wires for your mounted TV. The Streambar or Streambar Pro is great if you have the room and the desire for a soundbar and a streaming player rolled into one. Roku’s Ultra is the best classic player the company has to offer, but if its $99.99 price tag is too high, the Roku Express or Express 4K might be more up your alley.