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Best Roku devices 2021


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By Henry T. Casey

Here are the five best Roku devices for your entertainment center, recommended based on functionality and price

Included in this guide:

The best Roku devices are pretty fantastic ways to stream, and Roku just shook up its lineup by updating the best streaming device (the Roku Streaming Stick Plus) to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K (and there's a 4K Plus model too). 

Roku was one of the first big brands to develop a stand-alone streaming player, and now it's the top streaming platform in the industry, with Amazon Fire TV nipping at its heels. But, like any other product with a decade-plus history, Roku's lineup has gotten a little tangled, and has maybe one too many devices. We also just reviewed Roku's new Express 4K Plus, which made it to this list as the best Roku device under $40.

Roku's elegant menu system puts apps (and not ads) first, and offer everything from inexpensive Full HD streaming, to premium 4K picture quality coming straight out of a soundbar. As long as you pick one of the best Roku sticks or players, you will get snappy streaming at a competitive price. 

And while Roku typically has every single streaming service of note, a spat with Google currently has pulled YouTube TV out of the Roku Channel Store. It didn't delete the app off devices, though.

Roku sells sticks and boxes, budget gear and premium players, and even soundbars and speakers. Heck, there are even Roku TVs, but that's a conversation for another day.

In this guide, we've singled out six Roku devices for different scenarios. This isn't to say that other Roku devices aren't worthwhile, but this is at least where you should start your search. Depending on what kind of TV you have, how fancy you want your remote to be, and how much money you want to spend, here are the  best Roku devices for your entertainment center.

1. Roku Streaming Stick 4K

The best Roku device overall


Size: 3.7 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches

Max Resolution: Up to 4K UHD at 60 fps

Ports: HDMI, USB

Remote: Voice Remote

Device Type: Stick

Reasons to buy

+Excellent 4K HDR quality+Dolby Vision, finally+Snappy perfomance

Reasons to avoid

-No Dolby Atmos-Amazon offers better live TV

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K replaces our previous pick for the best Roku device, the Streaming Stick+. While it's not a huge leap over that model, it keeps everything we loved and fixes one of the biggest flaws of its predecessor by adding Dolby Vision. Roku has also added a new quad-core processor in the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, for what it claims provide 30% faster app boot times. That's a bit hard to measure, but the Roku Streaming Stick 4K felt snappy and fast enough. Major apps opened within 11 seconds. 

Now that the stick supports Dolby Vision (along with HDR10/+), you can stream all your shows and movies just as beautifully as anything else. The picture plays in crisp UHD image quality. However, the device is lacking on audio standards, missing the spatially-focused Dolby Atmos sound technology. The standard remote works fine, but if you want the superior Voice Remote Pro, check out our write-up of the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ below.

Read our full Roku Streaming Stick 4K review.

2. Roku Ultra (2020)

The best premium Roku device


Size: 4.9 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches

Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160

Ports: Ethernet, USB

Remote: Enhanced voice remote

Device Type: Box

Reasons to buy

+Great performance+Inventive remote control+USB port

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive-Almost nothing new from last year's model

The Roku Ultra is expensive, but true to its name, it will give you the most comprehensive Roku experience that money can buy. As with other high-end Roku devices, you get thousands of channels, full 4K resolution and extremely fast navigation. But with the Ultra, you also get an Ethernet port for a steadier Internet connection, as well as a USB port to provide your own videos and music. 

Also, the 2020 Roku Ultra is a bit faster in places (though you might not notice it all the time) and offers improved wireless streaming range. The voice-enabled remote includes two programmable buttons, as well as a headphone jack for private listening, and a handy "remote-finder" feature if it gets lost in the couch cushions.

Read our full Roku Ultra (2020) review.

3. Roku Express 4K Plus

The best Roku device under $40


Size: 3.3 x 1.5 x 0.7 inches

Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160

Ports: None

Remote: Network Voice remote

Device Type: Box

Reasons to buy

+Excellent 4K HDR performance+Decent navigation+Improved remote

Reasons to avoid

-Awkward design-No Dolby Vision or Atmos

Getting crisp 4K streaming at under $40 is rare, and always comes with a caveat or two. The new Roku Express 4K Plus fixes one of the big annoyances of the Roku Premiere it replaces, by giving you a better remote. This remote doesn't require a direct line of sight, so you can point it in whichever direction you please. That upgrade, plus fast performance and UHD streaming makes the Roku Express 4K Plus a great option for those trying to get a 4K Roku (and all the apps that it comes with)  at the lowest price.

That said, we still have two reasons to consider paying a little more. Its design is a little too light, so you might spend a minute fiddling with it to have it lie flat on a surface — making the Streaming Stick Plus' easy-to-use design even better by comparison. Also, there's no Dolby Vision or Atmos Audio, but some might not see that as worthy of going higher up the price-chain. The Roku Express 4K Plus won a Highly Recommended award in the 2021 Tom's Guide Awards for Best Streaming Devices.

Read our full Roku Express 4K Plus review.

4. Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus

The best Roku device packaged with the best remote


Size: 3.7 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches

Max Resolution: Up to 4K UHD at 60 fps

Ports: HDMI, USB

Remote: Voice Remote Pro

Device Type: Stick

Reasons to buy

+Dolby Vision+Voice Remote Pro is a great upgrade+Speedy performance

Reasons to avoid

-Lacks Dolby Atmos-Not a big upgrade from previous model

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus is slightly faster and more powerful, is finally capable of playing high-quality Dolby Vision and comes with the excellent Voice Remote Pro. It has everything we loved about the previous model, the Streaming Stick Plus, with a bit more juice and features.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus delivers all the ultra-HD streaming, video quality and speed that anyone could need, along with a wonderfully simple OS, and at a very reasonable price. And it comes with the excellent Voice Remote Pro, which won the 2021 Tom's Guide Award for Best Streaming Device Remote. It's got a rechargeable battery, an optional always-listening function and two customizable buttons. 

Read our full Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus review.

5. Roku Express

The best cheap Roku device


Size: 3.0 x 1.5 x 0.8 inches

Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080

Ports: None

Remote: Standard IR remote

Device Type: Box

Reasons to buy

+Improved design+Good performance+Customizable interface

Reasons to avoid

-Too light to sit still-Imprecise remote

The Roku Express has come a long way since its first iteration in 2016. Back then, the device was underpowered and inconveniently designed. Now, the Express is a worthwhile investment for 1080p TV owners who want the simplest streaming solution. At $30, the Roku Express is the cheapest streaming player from a major manufacturer, and you get plenty of features for that price. In addition to thousands of streaming channels and a highly customizable interface, you can access voice search and private listening through a smartphone app. The only big downside is the standard IR remote, which doesn't always always work as well as it should.
Read our full Roku Express review.

6. Roku Streambar

The best Roku device that's also a speaker


Size: 14.0 x 4.2 x 2.4 inches

Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160

Ports: Optical audio, HDMI, USB

Remote: Voice remote with TV volume and power controls

Device Type: Soundbar

Reasons to buy

+4K streaming+Clear, loud sound+Compact design

Reasons to avoid

-Bass could be stronger-Lacks Ethernet port

When you want the excellence of the Roku platform, but your TV doesn't have the strong sound you want? Well, the Roku Streambar is a great solution that's often on sale. It's design won't take up too much space on your counter top or entertainment center, but also provides quality sound with both loudness and clarity. Its bass leaves something to be asked for, though, but that's not a problem for most TV. And this way, you can combine your streaming device and soundbar into the same package, and save more space.
Read our full Roku Streambar review.

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.


Many of Roku’s streaming devices are on sale for Labor Day weekend, making this a great time to score a new streaming player, sound bar, or smart TV for your home.

The timing of the sale also means that we’re likely about to see some new device announcements coming from Roku. Last year, we got an announcement about a Roku Streambar and an improved Roku Ultra in late September, with the new hardware launching in October. In 2019, Roku launched several new devices. In September, the company opened pre-orders for a new Roku Ultra and a smaller version of the Roku Express. Later that month, the Streaming Stick+ HE was available for pre-orders, exclusively at Best Buy.

Based on the timing of those releases and the sale on devices across retailers this week, it’s likely that we’ll be learning about new Roku hardware soon, just in time for releases before the holidays.

In the meantime, here are some of the best deals on Roku products right now:

Roku Ultra

Buy it on Amazon for $79, down from $99.99

Buy it at Best Buy for $79.99, down from $99.99

With USB and Ethernet ports for the ultimate connectivity, the Roku Ultra is for users that truly love to consume entertainment in their “me time” and have a quality viewing experience while doing so. Packed with key features like Dolby Vision, headphones for private listening, Bluetooth streaming, a lost remote finder and a voice remote with personal shortcut buttons for one-touch control, it’s guaranteed to do it all. 

Roku Streambar 4K

Buy it on Amazon for $99, down from $129.99

Buy it at Best Buy for $99.99, down from $129.99

Packed with premium sound and streaming quality, the Streambar has a built-in 4K streaming player, so you can watch what you love and hear it all with great sound at the same time.

Roku Streaming Stick+

Buy it on Amazon for $35.99, down from $49.99

Buy it from Best Buy for $39.99, down from $49.99

The Streaming Stick+ is portable, so users can easily plug it into the back of their TV at a hotel or Airbnb to access their favorite movies and TV shows from Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and more. Enjoy brilliant HD, 4K, and HDR picture quality, plus a voice remote with TV controls.

Roku Express 4K+ for $29

Buy it on Amazon for $29.00, down from $39.90

Buy it at Best Buy for $29.99, down from $39.99

Start streaming in brilliant 4K picture and vivid HDR color with Roku Express 4K+. The fast wireless performance gives you a smooth streaming experience, even with multiple streaming devices connected to your network. Use the included voice remote to power up your TV, adjust the volume, and control your streaming so you don’t have to juggle remotes. 

Hisense 43 Inch LED Roku TV

Buy it on Amazon for $299.99, down from $379.99

Along with a 1080p high-definition LCD screen, you’ll find a powerful full array LED backlight at work creating a sharper, more colorful picture. Start streaming your favorite shows, access your cable box or HDTV antenna and even fire up your gaming console–all from the simple home screen.

TCL 55 Inch 4K UHD Roku TV

Buy it at Best Buy for $429.99, down from $499.99

The 4-Series Roku TV delivers stunning 4K picture quality with four times the resolution of Full HD for enhanced clarity and detail, as well as endless entertainment with thousands of streaming channels. High dynamic range (HDR) technology delivers bright and accurate colors for a lifelike viewing experience. In addition, your favorite HD shows, movies, and sporting events are upscaled to near Ultra HD resolution with 4K Upscaling.

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New 4K Roku Streaming Sticks announced, along with Roku OS 10.5 and more



  • The new Roku Streaming Stick 4K has been announced.
  • It includes a faster processor and better Wi-Fi performance compared to the older Streaming Stick Plus.
  • The company is also rolling out a new OS update with many new features.

There’s no doubt that streaming media on mobile devices, smart TVs, and set-top boxes continues to become more and more popular, Roku, who helped to start this entertainment trend over 10 years ago, is now refreshing its popular streaming stick hardware for the fall and holiday shopping season. Today, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K was announced, and it contains some pretty powerful hardware inside its small case.

Read more: Roku was nearly a part of Netflix

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K includes a new processor that is 30% faster than the one inside the older Roku Streaming Stick Plus. That should allow for better overall performance and faster loading of Roku apps. In addition, the Wi-Fi hardware inside has been improved so it can connect to your wireless router over a longer range and still be up to two times faster for connecting speeds. The new streaming stick also not only supports up to 4K resolutions for TVs but throws in support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus.

It also comes with a standard Roku voice remote, so you can use it to voice commands like searching for new movies or TV shows, or launching a Roku app. It can also be voice-controlled by linking it to devices that support Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It support’s Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit for controlling the stick via Siri. It goes on sale in the US for $49.99 sometime in mid-October.


Roku is also introducing the Streaming Stick 4K Plus. This is the same hardware as the Streaming Stick 4K, except that the standard voice remote is being replaced with the more advanced Roku Voice Remote Pro. It includes features like an embedded rechargeable battery (charged via a USB cable), a lost remote finder, two programmable buttons, and more. The Streaming Stick 4K Plus will cost $69.99, which means you are saving $10 off the Voice Remote Pro, which normally costs $29.99 on its own. It also goes on sale in the US in mid-October.

One other minor new addition to the Roku hardware lineup is the Roku Ultra LT. This is the Walmart exclusive version of the 2020 edition of the Roku Ultra set-top box. The LT version includes most of the hardware features of the current Roku Ultra, including a faster processor, additional storage, an Ethernet port for wired networks, Bluetooth-supported audio streaming, and more. The LT model will lack the USB port for local playback, and it also won’t have Dolby Atmos Decode support. Also, the included remote won’t have a remote finder feature or programmable personal shortcuts. It will go on sale sometime in the coming weeks at Walmart stores, and via, for $79.99.

Finally, from October 1, 2021, to January 14, 2022, anyone who buys any new Roku device will be able to snap up a 30-day free trial of HBO Max. The trial is for new subscribers only and the offer must be redeemed by January 22, 2022.

Roku OS 10.5: Lots of changes under the hood


Along with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, the company will be rolling out a new update to its streaming OS in the coming weeks and months. Roku OS 10.5 won’t have any major changes to its familiar user interface, but there will be some notable additions. One thing users can do on the Roku home screen is to install a new tile showing the live TV options available on the company’s own Roku Channel. This tile will take users directly to the over 250 channels of entertainment, news, and sports that are set up similar to Pluto TV’s channel lineup.

Read more: Best Roku channels

Many of Roku OS 10.5’s improvements come on the audio side. For example, the Roku mobile app will be updated so that users can control audio features on a connected Roku device or smart TV, including night mode, automatic volume leveling, and speech clarity. That way, users can make adjustments without having to go directly to the settings section of their Roku device.

Also, people who use wireless headphones for Roku’s private listening feature can make adjustments via their smartphone when connected to the Roku mobile app. By using a smartphone camera, those users can measure the distance between themselves and the TV. This allows the new advanced A/V sync feature to fix any audio delays between the TV and the wireless headphones.


Owners of one of Roku’s smart soundbars will be able to take advantage of the new 10.5 OS update. The soundbar can now become a center speaker for a 3.1 or a 5.1 wireless speaker set up for a better home theater audio experience. Speaking of which, one of Roku’s TV partners, TCL, will release a Roku TV Wireless Soundbar in October. It can connect to any Roku TV and will offer great sound and automatic A/V syncing as well. It will cost $179.99. We should have more info on this soundbar from TCL itself closer to its release.

Roku is also adding some new voice command features. It will soon support searching and launching shows via voice from apps like Netflix and Spotify. In related news, the OS update will allow users to voice search and play music, podcasts, and video podcasts. They will be able to find those results via a “music and podcast” row. Also, voice commands can be used to complete device setup, along with adding things like emails, passwords, and PIN info without having to navigate through virtual keyboards with your remote. Roku is also adding a Voice Help section in its settings menu for people who have questions about these features.

Finally, the Roku mobile app will be updated to include its own Home tab for fast access to the latest content available on the OS. Users can also access the app to place any movies and TV shows they want on the Save List so they can watch them at another time.

Roku Channel growth and more


During our presentation of the new Roku Streaming Stick 4K and the software updates, we also got briefed on Roku’s current business from Mark Ely, the company’s Vice President for Retail Product Strategy. Roku is still the biggest streaming TV platform in the US, with 55.1 million active users. It also has over 15 TV hardware partners that install the Roku OS in their televisions. Recently, Amazon launched sales of its own branded smart TVs with its Fire TV OS installed. However, Ely told us Roku does not currently have any plans of launching its own branded televisions.

Read more: The Roku Channel – Everything you need to know

The company’s own Roku Channel, which offers free ad-supported content, also continues to grow in terms of users and content. It now has over 40,000 movie and TV episodes to watch, along with a constantly expanded number of Roku Originals. That includes more unreleased content from the now-defunct Quibi service, along with an upcoming two-hour holiday-themed continuation of the canceled NBC musical show Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

Unfortunately, Ely didn’t give us an update on Roku’s current spat with Google over YouTube TV. The popular live TV service was removed from Roku for new users in late April 2021 after channel renewal talks broke down.


Roku Express (2021)|Set Up \u0026 Review|Watch Before You Buy

Roku today announced the Streaming Stick 4K, the company’s latest streaming device. Priced at $49.99, the new product replaces the popular Streaming Stick Plus, which has long been a go-to recommendation as one of the best streamers for under $100.

The new hardware improves on the old with features like Dolby Vision HDR and speedier performance. It now boots up 30 percent quicker and has a long-range Wi-Fi receiver that delivers speeds that are up to twice as fast. Roku says the device can intelligently optimize bandwidth and streaming performance based on your network conditions. Like its predecessor, the Streaming Stick 4K supports Apple’s AirPlay 2 and HomeKit and can also be tied into Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant smart homes.

Image: Roku

As usual, the Streaming Stick 4K plugs directly into a TV’s HDMI port and can be neatly hidden from view. Roku includes a voice remote (with TV controls), which has support for push-to-talk voice commands. If you prefer hands-free controls for finding something to watch, you can step up to the $69.99 Streaming Stick 4K Plus. This time, the “Plus” means you’re also getting the Roku Voice Remote Pro, which has a rechargeable battery and mid-field microphones that allow the remote to pick up your voice searches or commands even when it’s sitting on a table. Those voice controls include the ability to easily locate the Voice Remote Pro should it get lost in the couch cushions or go MIA elsewhere in the living room.

Separately, Roku also announced today that it’s adding the ability to create a 5.1 surround system using a Streambar or Streambar Pro, two pairs of its Roku Wireless Speakers, and a Wireless Subwoofer. (Previously, you were limited to just the soundbar, sub, and rear surrounds.) In this setup, the soundbar acts as a dedicated center channel and lets the front left and right speakers provide more immersion.

Image: Roku / TCL

And on the subject of soundbars, TCL will be releasing a Roku TV Wireless Soundbar for $179.99 in October. As the name suggests, it’s designed to be paired with a television that runs Roku’s software. If that’s the case, you get integrated soundbar controls in the TV menus, automatic audio/video sync, and more flexible placement since you don’t need to worry about running a cable from the soundbar to your TV.

Roku says the Streaming Stick 4K is due to arrive at US and UK retailers in mid-October and will come to Canada as well as Mexico and other Latin America countries in the coming months. The Streaming Stick 4K Plus will also be available from and all major retailers in the US in October.

Aside from these hardware announcements, Roku also shared some new features that are coming to its Roku OS with the update to version 10.5. My colleague Catie Keck has covered those here.


Roku hardware new

Roku updated its posh Ultra model with stronger Wi-Fi, a faster system overall, and the ability to stream in Dolby Vision, a feature we noted was lacking in its predecessor. The Ultra has all the features we've talked about so far, like dual-band Wi-Fi and voice search. It also has an Ethernet port for more stable wired connections, a headphone jack on the remote so you can watch TV shows in private while other folks sleep (the new version comes with Roku-branded headphones rather than JBL ones, but they are surprisingly decent), and a host of other small features like a USB slot and a remote finder.

There's also Night listening mode, which levels out audio so explosions in movies won't wake the whole household, and the remote has two programmable favorites buttons, which make it super easy to quickly launch YouTube or another app. It's worth noting that it lacks support for HDR10+, unlike the top streaming devices from Google and Amazon. It's unlikely you'll notice this, or own a TV and speaker set that takes advantage of these high-end features. 

Apple TV 4K VS (2019) Roku Ultra -- 4K Streaming Showdown!

Roku announces three new products and Roku 10 OS software update

Roku recently added three new products to its lineup: the Roku Express 4K+, Roku Voice Remote Pro and Roku Streambar Pro. The remote is currently available for purchase, while the Express 4K+ and Streambar Pro are available for pre-order and expected to ship in May.

Roku also announced its latest free software update, Roku OS 10, which is being made available on devices like streaming players, audio products and Roku TV models. Apple AirPlay 2 is already available on select 4K Roku devices, but the new software update equips additional HD Roku streaming devices — like the Roku Express and select HD Roku TV models — with the ability to stream, control and share content from iPhones, iPads and Macs. Compatible Roku devices also support HomeKit, which allows users to control Roku devices using Siri or the Home app on Apple devices.

Additional features of Roku OS 10 include automatic Wi-Fi network detection, which recommends the optimal wireless network band to use with your device during setup and while you’re using it. The software update also provides devices with Instant Resume, which allows users to return to the place they left off when they relaunch select streaming channels. Automatic game console configuration is included on Roku TVs with the new update — this feature detects select game consoles when they’re plugged into the TV’s HDMI port and configures its settings to optimize video game performance.


New Roku products for 2021

Roku Voice Remote Pro

The Voice Remote Pro has a rechargeable battery and allows you to control your TV with your voice. The voice command capability lets you adjust the volume, pause and play and mute the TV. Also built into the device is a lost remote finder. You can ask, “Hey Roku, where’s my remote?” and the device will play a sound to make recovering it easier. Another notable feature is the remote’s private listening capability. You can plug wired earbuds (not included) into the remote and privately listen to the TV without disturbing family members or roommates. While you can pair the remote with Roku’s own In-Ear Headphones, the remote also works with any wired earbuds.

Roku Streambar Pro (pre-order)

Soundbars enhance your TV and movie experience and are an easy way to upgrade your TV’s built-in speakers, according to Shopping’s resident tech writer. Roku’s latest release re-enters the soundbar space with a device that features four internal speakers and Dolby Atmos technology. The device includes a “Virtual Surround” setting that enhances the audio experience by making dialogue clearer and quieting loud commercials. Additionally, the Streambar Pro also comes with Roku’s Voice Remote Pro.

Roku Express 4K+ (pre-order)

Replacing the two-year-old Roku Premiere, Roku’s new player offers an affordable way to enhance your TV’s picture quality. Compatible with HDR10 and HDR10+ TVs, the device provides 4K HDR streaming to optimize picture resolution and color. The device supports Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2, HomeKit and Google Assistant. It comes with the Roku Voice remote.


Zoe Malin

Zoe Malin is a digital editorial intern for Select on NBC News.

Kala Herh

Kala Herh is a former digital editorial intern for Select on NBC News. 


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Roku upgrade guide: Should you buy a new box?

Of all the companies making streaming TV devices today, Roku is the most prolific, having released more than two dozen streaming players and sticks over the last eight years.

With so many Roku players in the wild, the decision on when to upgrade can be daunting. I’m generally in favor of keeping what you have for as long as you can tolerate it; but if you’re curious what you’re missing by holding out on upgrading to a new Roku, here’s a rundown.

Do you want the latest apps?

The best Roku for most people

All Roku players that launched in 2010 or earlier are no longer receiving firmware updates, app updates, or new app releases. By sticking with one of these “Classic” Roku models, you’re missing out on countless new apps, including some major streaming services such as PlayStation Vue, Starz, HBO Now, and CW. Consider upgrading if you’re not getting all the content you care about.

Roku models missing out: Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100 and 2000), Roku HD-XR (N1101), Roku XD (2050), and Roku XDS (2100).

Do you want universal search and watchlists?

“Classic” Roku players aren’t just lacking new apps. They’re also missing new features like universal search and Roku Feed, which lets you keep track of new TV episodes and movie price changes across multiple streaming services. All Roku players produced after 2010 include these features, both on the device itself and in Roku’s mobile apps.

Roku models missing out: Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100 and 2000), Roku HD-XR (N1101), Roku XD (2050), and Roku XDS (2100).

Rokus compared 2017Jared Newman

Do you have multiple Netflix users?

Many older Roku models—including any that launched in 2012 or earlier—run an outdated version of Netflix that doesn’t support profiles. That means users can’t get individualized recommendations or access to “Kids” mode. Avid Netflix users might want to upgrade, if only to cut down on wasted time browsing through irrelevant content.

Roku models missing out: Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100, 2000, and 2500), Roku HD-XR (N1101), Roku XD (2050 and 3050), Roku XDS (2100), Roku LT (2400, 2450, 2700), Roku 2 HD (3000), Roku 2 XD (3050), Roku 2 XS (3100), Roku Streaming Stick MHL (3400, 3420), Roku 1 and SE (2710), and Roku 2 (2720).

Roku UltraJared Newman

Have you upgraded to a higher-end TV?

The right choice for hardcore Apple fans

Some older Roku players don't support full high-definition video (1080p); they're limited to high definition (720p) or standard definition (480p). The newest players start at full high definition (1080p), and some support 4K (2160p) resolution and HDR (high dynamic range). If you care deeply about picture quality and have a television that supports these formats, it’s time to consider an upgrade.

Roku models missing out (limited to 720p HD or SD): Roku N1000, Roku SD (N1050), Roku HD (N1100, 2000, and 2500), Roku LT (2400, 2450, and 2700), and Roku 2 HD (3000).

Roku models missing out (limited to 1080p HD): All Roku players except Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra. (Premiere+ and Ultra also support HDR.)

Roku models missing out (limited to 4K without HDR): All Roku players except Roku Premiere+, Roku Streaming Stick+, and Roku Ultra.

Does your remote feel finicky?

Many early Roku remotes—and some current ones—use infrared instead of radio frequency to communicate with the box. This requires line of sight, which precludes you from mounting the Roku behind the television or hiding it inside an entertainment center cabinet. IR can also be unreliable at long range. (The only upside to IR-enabled Rokus: They’ll work with lower-end programmable universal remotes, such as Logitech Harmony models that don't support RF.)

Roku models missing out: All Roku players except Roku Streaming Stick (3400, 3420, 3500, 3600), Roku 3 (all versions), Roku 4, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

roku stick heroJared Newman / IDG

Do you want to listen privately?

Don't overlook this Roku alternative

One of Roku’s neatest features is its ability to play audio through headphones, either with a supported remote control or with Roku’s mobile app. It’s a nice way to watch action films at night without waking the kids.

Roku models missing out (lacking remote private listening): Roku 3 (4200 and 4230), Roku 4, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

Roku models missing out (lacking smartphone private listening): All Roku players except Roku Express, Roku Express+, Roku Streaming Stick (2016 and later), Roku Streaming Stick+, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

Do you lose the remote a lot?

In recent years, Roku has introduced a handy feature for the forgetful: Press a button on the box, and a siren will sound on the remote to help you find it. Unfortunately, this feature has only been available on the priciest players.

Roku models missing out: All Roku players except Roku 4 or Roku Ultra.

Do you have connectivity problems?

With a dual-band wireless router, you can get a more reliable connection on the less-congested 5GHz frequency band, but only if your device supports it. Many older Roku models only support single-band Wi-Fi, and even some recent ones don’t support the latest 802.11ac standard. Consider upgrading if your Roku’s streaming quality doesn’t seem to match your internet speed and/or your router's capabilities.

Roku models missing out: All Roku players except Roku 4, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku Streaming Stick (2017), Roku Streaming Stick+, and Roku Ultra.

rokuexpressrearJared Newman / TechHive

Could you use a speed boost?

Amazon's take on the streaming stick

Roku players have generally become much more powerful over the past few years, allowing you to scroll smoothly through menus and load apps without delay. If you’re frustrated by the performance of your current Roku, consider upgrading to one of the models below.

Roku models missing out: All Roku players except Roku 3 (2015 model), Roku 4, Roku Streaming Stick (2016 and newer), Roku Express (2017 model), Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, and Roku Ultra.

Do you want built-in TV volume and power controls?

In 2017, Roku started putting TV volume and power buttons on some of its remote controls, along with a built-in infrared emitter to communicate with most televisions. Unless you have a universal remote such as Logitech Harmony, this is an invaluable addition that saves you from having to juggle multiple remotes.

Roku models missing out: All Roku players except Roku Streaming Stick (2017), Roku Streaming Stick+, and Roku Ultra (2017)

Should you even buy a Roku?

Roku, of course, isn’t the only streaming-device maker on the market. Although Roku’s Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ are excellent options, you might also want to consider the competition. Check out our reviews of the Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV 4K, Nvidia Shield TV, and Chromecast for more details.

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Editor's note: This story was updated in its entirety on November 20, 2017 to reflect the current competitive landscape.

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  • Roku’s stellar mid-range streamer gets even better, adding TV controls and voice recognition.


    • No separate remote necessary for TV volume and power
    • Zippy interface with some much-improved apps
    • Simple to setup and use


    • Voice control features are inferior to other platforms
    • Interface could use some fresh ideas for content discovery
    • Advertisement takes up almost half the home screen
  • Roku's mid-range streamer gets even better, with TV controls, voice recognition, and 4K HDR video.


    • No separate remote necessary for TV volume and power
    • Zippy interface with some much-improved apps
    • 4K HDR on the cheap


    • Voice control features are inferior to other platforms
    • Interface could use some fresh ideas for content discovery
    • Advertisement takes up almost half the home screen
  • The least expensive Roku is much faster now, but the best Roku still doesn’t cost much more.


    • Performance is much improved over last year's Express
    • Has nearly all the same software features as pricier Roku players
    • Still the cheapest streaming player on the market


    • Remote requires line-of-sight to the box
    • Single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi could be troublesome in areas with weak reception
    • No TV or voice controls on the remote like other Roku models
  • At $100, this Roku hits the sweet spot for 4K HDR TV owners.


    • Speedy performance and 4K HDR support in a compact and reasonably-priced package
    • Remote headphone jack is a nice touch
    • Roku Feed is helpful for tracking new TV episodes and movie prices


    • Performance gains over $50 Roku Streaming Stick are barely noticeable
    • $100 price point no longer includes USB storage and voice remote
    • App quality is falling behind other platforms
  • Some people might need Roku's most-expensive streamer, but its cheaper Streaming Sticks should be fine for most.


    • The remote’s TV controls are a major improvement
    • It has an ethernet port
    • Straightforward software


    • Software lacks ambitious ideas
    • Voice recognition can be spotty
    • No more optical audio port

Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.


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