With its super-friendly and simple interface, support for thousands of streaming apps and services, and some handy features you won’t find on any other platform, buying a Roku is a no-brainer for most people looking for a way to add streaming capabilities to a new or existing TV setup.
But Roku has a number of different streaming device products, ranging in price from $30 to well over $1,000, depending on whether or not you want just a simple set-top box or a top-of-the-line smart TV. Which one is right for you? We can help. Here are the best Roku devices for every home and budget.
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- The best Roku player for those on a budget: Roku Express
- The best Roku player for 4K TVs: Streaming Stick+
- The best Roku player for home theaters: Roku Ultra (2020)
- The best Roku player for those who want clearer TV sound: Roku Streambar
- The best Roku TV: TCL 6-Series (2020) 4K Roku TV
Why you should buy it: It’s the most affordable way to join the Roku streaming ecosystem.
Who it’s for: Those who want an ultra-affordable way to get into streaming — and who don’t need 4K resolution or HDR.
Why we picked the Roku Express:
It really doesn’t get any simpler, easier, or cheaper to get going with a great streaming experience that the Roku Express. As long as your TV has an available HDMI port, this $30 device gives you access to the entire Roku platform of streaming apps and services, in full HD.
Granted, it doesn’t do 4K resolution, and it doesn’t offer support for high-dynamic range (HDR), but that’s sort of the point: By cutting some bells and whistles that you can’t enjoy (because perhaps your TV is older or your internet connection is on the slow side), you can save at least $20 on the cost of a capable media streamer.
What you do get is a streaming device that comes with everything you need: An infrared remote, the Roku Express, an HDMI cable, and a USB power cable and adapter. Simply plug everything in, fire up your TV, switch it to the right input, and you’re on your way. It only takes a few minutes to set up the Roku Express on your home Wi-Fi.
What’s clever about the Express is that even though it’s Roku’s least-expensive streamer, it still packs many of the same features you’ll find in the company’s top-of-the-line Ultra, thanks to the free Roku app.
It lets you control the Express from a smartphone with your voice and cast your photos and videos to your TV. The app also lets you turn on private listening, so you can use your phone or tablet to hear what your Roku Express is playing without disturbing anyone else.
You also get access to the Roku Channel, which has a huge collection of free on-demand and livestreaming, ad-supported content, with more than 115 free live TV streaming channels.
Finally, the Express is compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, so you can control it with your voice if you have a compatible smart speaker at home.
Why you should buy it: Dollar for dollar, it’s the most powerful and versatile 4K HDR Roku device you can get.
Who it’s for: Those who want a 4K HDR streamer that can be completely concealed behind a TV, but that’s also small enough to go anywhere.
Why we picked the Roku Streaming Stick+:
At $50, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the perfect device for those who want full 4K resolution streaming with HDR support and Dolby Atmos pass-through — and don’t want to spend a fortune.
With an incredibly compact design, you simply plug the Streaming Stick+ into an available HDMI port on your TV, then plug the included USB wireless receiver into your TV’s USB port (or connect it directly to a power supply). Once installed, it’s totally invisible, which creates a really clean look for your media room.
The radio frequency (RF) remote doesn’t need line-of-sight back to the Streaming Stick+, and it includes Roku’s voice function, which lets you search for content or issue commands like play/pause or launch a streaming channel. TV control buttons for power, volume, and mute mean you don’t need to reach for your TV’s remote.
As with the Roku Express, you can use the free Roku app for private listening or as a secondary remote control.
Also like the Express, it’s compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, so you can control it with your voice if you have a compatible smart speaker at home.
There are only two caveats to the Streaming Stick+ (and why we recommend the Ultra, below, for serious home theater enthusiasts): While the Streaming Stick+ supports the HDR10 format, which is the most widely used of the HDR flavors, it doesn’t support HLG, HDR10+, or Dolby Vision, so your HDR experience will be limited to just HDR10 content.
And, while the Streaming Stick+ will let apps pass-through Dolby Atmos as a bitstream to your Dolby Atmos-capable TV or soundbar, not all apps are compatible with this arrangement. Netflix, in particular, will only let devices that can fully decode Dolby Atmos access Atmos versions of its content. If this matters to you, you’re better off with the Ultra or a Dolby Atmos Roku TV (see below).
Why you should buy it: No other streaming media player matches the capabilities of the new Ultra.
Who it’s for: Those who want a 4K media streamer that supports every major streaming format, plus tons of extra features.
Why we picked the Roku Ultra (2020):
The 2019 edition of the Roku Ultra was already a compelling media streamer, but its lack of support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos decoding kept it from being our top pick. Roku clearly paid attention to this because the new 2020 edition fixes both omissions.
The result is a $100 powerhouse media streamer that can do more than devices that cost double.
Let’s start with the basics. Everything we’ve detailed for the Roku Express and Roku Streaming Stick+ is part of the Ultra experience, too. But the Ultra takes it further. It has a USB port, so you can watch movies or photos (or listen to music) stored on an external hard drive or USB drive. It has an Ethernet port, so you can choose between a wired or wireless network connection. And it’s the only stand-alone Roku player that has Bluetooth for streaming a variety of audio from your phone, tablet, or laptop to your TV or soundbar.
The advanced RF remote includes TV controls for power, volume, and mute, plus it has a built-in headphone jack, so you can use the private listening feature without needing the Roku app. And yes, it comes with a set of earbuds, so you don’t need to go looking for yours.
Speaking of the remote, the Ultra has a lost-remote finder. Just press the remote-finder button on the side of the streamer, and your remote will start beeping so you can figure out if it’s between the cushions, under the couch, or somewhere else entirely.
But the big news for audio and video connoisseurs is the Ultra’s inclusion of Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. With native decoding of Dolby Atmos, Netflix (and every other service that supports Atmos) will deliver this 3D surround sound format to the Ultra, which can then pass it along to your Atmos-capable TV, soundbar, or A/V receiver.
The same thing is true for Dolby Vision. If your TV supports this high-end HDR format, the Ultra can deliver it.
We haven’t reviewed the new Ultra yet, but given that Roku has added so many features and kept the price the same, we’re hard-pressed to imagine why we wouldn’t love it.
Why you should buy it: It combines a high-quality TV speaker and a 4K Roku media streamer into one, easy-to-use gadget.
Who it’s for: Those who want an instant upgrade for their TV with great sound and Roku simplicity.
Why we picked the Roku Streambar:
While we can’t yet say how good the Roku Streambar sounds, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that this speaker is going to be a perfect upgrade for people with older TVs or even those with 4K TVs who aren’t impressed by their TV’s so-called smarts.
For less than the price of an Apple TV 4K, the Roku Streambar incorporates a nice mix of the features found in devices like the Streaming Stick+ and the Ultra to create a one-box solution for most our modern media needs.
For a single-cable connection, simply connect the Streambar to an available HDMI ARC port on your TV. But if your TV doesn’t have HDMI ARC, you can use the HDMI cable to send video to your TV and use the Streambar’s optical port to receive audio from the TV.
From there, it’s the same easy-to-use Roku interface as Roku’s other devices, with access to all of the same great streaming apps, channels, and services. It can do 4K resolution (or just HD if that’s what your TV supports), and it also handles HDR10 and HLG HDR formats.
The RF remote lets you use your voice for commands and search and can control your TV’s power, too. The volume and mute buttons control the Streambar’s sound, and there are a wealth of ways to adjust the audio. There are four EQ modes: Normal, reduce bass, bass boost, and bass off; three speech-enhancement modes: Off, low, and high; and three volume-leveling modes: Off, Leveling, and night mode.
With four full-range drivers angled to bounce sound around a room, the Streambar should sound pretty good on its own. But if you decide to move it to a bigger room (or you just want a more immersive experience), you can expand it with the $180 Roku Wireless Subwoofer and the $200 Roku TV Wireless Speakers.
With built-in Bluetooth, the Streambar can also act as a stand-alone wireless speaker for your phone, tablet, or laptop’s music collection.
Want to wall-mount it? You can do that, too.
Why you should buy it: The 6-Series’ combination of price, picture quality, and Roku-driven software sets a new standard for value.
Who it’s for: Those looking for fantastic picture quality and simplicity in a smart TV at a highly competitive price.
Why we picked the TCL 6-Series (2020) 4K Roku TV:
If you’re curious about Roku TVs — TVs from brands like TCL and Hisense that have the Roku streaming media experience built-in — check out our best Roku TVs roundup. But we can also save you some time: The TCL 6-Series (2020) 4K Roku TV is your best bet.
It’s remarkably affordable, it has picture quality that comes very close to rivaling the best Samsung QLED or LG OLED TVs, and it uses the Roku OS to control everything, which means it’s really easy to use. In fact, the remote control that ships with the 6-Series is almost exactly like the remotes Roku uses for its stand-alone devices.
The key to the 6-Series performance is TCL’s use of mini-LED backlighting. Conventional LED backlights use hundreds of small LED bulbs to produce the brightness that you see. It’s a good system, but it struggles to get portions of the screen really dark because even hundreds of lights don’t afford much control. Mini-LEDs are way smaller, and the 6-Series uses thousands of them.
With smaller bulbs comes greater control, and this results in black levels and contrast that approach OLED’s domain. In other words, it looks amazing.
Our reviewer noted that you won’t get the very best picture quality out of the box, but with some patience and adjusting of a few settings, movie and TV nirvana are within reach.
Every Roku feature we’ve discussed so far is supported by the 6-Series — yes, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos decoding are included — plus, Roku TVs get one more extra thrown in. If you buy a Roku TV-ready speaker, like the Roku Streambar, all of the speaker’s settings can be controlled via the on-screen Roku interface for a truly all-in-one experience.
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