Roku’s streaming video product lineup has never been as robust as it is right now. From the super-affordable Roku Express to the Streambar Pro that combines a best-in-class streaming experience with a high-quality soundbar, Roku has a wide array of streaming sticks, boxes and speakers to choose from.
Whether you’re bingeing a new series on Netflix or watching Harry Potter for the umpteenth time, we break down all of the different options in Roku’s lineup to help you decide which streaming product is best for you.
The best Roku streaming device: Roku Ultra
The Ultra set-top box is Roku’s most powerful and capable streaming product, and it’s our pick for a streaming device. It offers 4K HDR and Cinematic Dolby Vision streaming, along with Dolby Atmos for any compatible sound system — essentially, the latest standards for the best picture.
But it’s the performance where the Ultra ultimately shines brightest — like quickly loading channels, switching between shows and, most importantly, streaming your video.
Included in the box is everything you need to get started: an HDMI cable, a Voice Remote with wired headphones, batteries and a power adapter. This Voice Remote in conjunction with the Ultra itself enables a handy locator function in case you misplace it.
The best soundbar and streamer: Roku Streambar Pro
Roku’s Streambar Pro is a full-size soundbar and advanced streaming player combination. That means you get full 4K streaming of your favorite shows or movies, plus an easy-to-install soundbar. It’s our top pick for a soundbar, thanks to its performance in the audio space.
We appreciate that it sounds better than most TV speakers and for under $200 does an excellent job creating virtual surround sound, easily mimicking directional audio without the extra home theater speakers. Its four 2.5-inch full-range drivers produce a full range of sound, fit for taking in action flicks like “Captain America: Winter Soldier” or listening to clear dialogue on the evening news.
Since the Streambar Pro is also a streaming player, it supports all major visual standards (think HDR and Dolby Vision), and you get everything you need in the box, including a voice remote with TV controls, a power cable, an HDMI cable, wired headphones and an optical cable. Those headphones can be plugged into the remote for a private listening experience.
What you need to know about Roku streaming devices
Roku’s device lineup is expansive, so you’ll want to consider what TV you’ll be using it with and how much you want to spend. Devices range from $30 to $180, with the more expensive Roku products better suited for higher-end 4K TVs with features like Dolby Vision.
Once you decide whether you want a streamer that works with more basic HD or higher-quality 4K, it’s good to know that every Roku device runs Roku OS, giving you access to thousands of streaming services. We’re fans of the interface for its easy navigation, support for popular industry standards and agnostic approach with smart home services — and each device comes bundled with a remote and works with the mobile app for ease of control.
Roku’s entire lineup also features smart home integration, allowing the streaming device to use Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s HomeKit for all your home automation needs.
Other Roku products to consider
The Roku Express is the cheapest and simplest streaming device in Roku’s lineup — it’s best for older TVs without 4K and for those on a tight budget. The small box is capable of streaming 1080p HD content from your favorite services like HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.
At this price point, you can’t expect the best performance, but although the Express shows some occasional slowdowns when switching between channels, you won’t notice a thing once you’re streaming a show. Like all Roku devices, you’ll get software updates for the Express, so even at this price, you’ll still get access to future features and capabilities.
The Express comes with an HDMI cable, a power adapter and cable, a basic Roku remote and batteries.
If you’re after a 4K streaming experience at a budget price, consider upgrading to the Express 4K+. For $10 more it delivers better performance, has faster Wi-Fi and supports up to a full 4K picture with HDR. You also get a Voice Remote, which lets you control playback and navigate the experience without lifting a finger.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K looks like a giant thumb drive that plugs directly into an open HDMI port on your TV. Just connect the power cable and you’re good to go.
Even if you haven’t yet upgraded your TV, it’s hard not to recommend the $50 Roku Streaming Stick 4K to everyone as a simple and affordable way to future-proof.
The Streaming Stick 4K supports full 4K resolution, with HDR and Dolby Vision for improved color on a compatible TV. Like the Ultra, the Streaming Stick 4K has dual-band Wi-Fi for a more reliable connection to your wireless modem. That should translate to less buffering and more consistent streaming. You’ll also get the Roku Voice Remote, which includes buttons to control your TV’s volume and power.
Want to add an upgraded remote to the package? For $20 more you can get the Streaming Stick 4K+, which offers an identical experience with the Voice Remote Pro (also sold separately to pair with any Roku device for $29.99). Not only can you recharge this remote via USB instead of AA batteries, but it includes a remote locator function. Just say, “Hey Roku, where’s my remote?” and it will start beeping for easy retrieval.