“Dollar for dollar, there’s no better streamer than the Roku Express.”
- Easy to set up and use
- Excellent companion/smartphone app
- Roku OS rocks
- Comprehensive search function
- Huge channel library
- No Ethernet port; restricted to Wi-Fi
- Some input lag
- No 4K/HDR support
Roku revamped its lineup of streaming devices in early October 2017, announcing updates to the Express, Streaming Stick, and Ultra, and introducing the new Streaming Stick+. It was a predictable move, given recent updates rolled out by Amazon (the Fire TV) and Apple (the Apple TV 4K) which greatly improved upon those devices’ capabilities — thus raising the bar in streaming land.
If you come at the king, though, you best not miss. Earlier this year, we awarded the Roku Express four stars out of five, recommending it as a killer entry-level streaming option. Does the updated model maintain its spot in the current landscape? The short answer is yes. Packing
Out of the box
Roku didn’t make any changes to the packaging for the
The remote control here is mostly identical to the remote you’ll find in any
The streaming device can draw power from an included adapter or from a television’s USB port. Smartly, there’s also an adhesive strip so you can stick it to your TV or entertainment center. (Some might gripe about aesthetics here, but if you’re so worried about that, buy a better streaming device.) This is particularly useful, given that the default HDMI cable is just two feet long. If you want the Express+, which includes a 3.5mm-to-RCA connector for use with older televisions, it’ll cost an extra $10.
Specs and features
On the surface, the Express can do everything that other streaming devices do. Dig in a little bit, however, and you’ll see that it’s just $30 for a reason.
The 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter for the Express can only connect to networks up to 2.4GHz, and without an Ethernet port, it’s a step slower than its more expensive siblings. If your TV is adjacent to your router, you should be fine, but depending on your wireless router’s strength, you could be in for some extended load times and buffering.
The Express doesn’t support
As is tradition, much of the value of the Express lies in the fantastic
Roku’s user interface is just plain simple and effective. Apps — or, channels — are arranged as big squares that can be organized in any order you see fit. If you watch Netflix the most, keep it up top. If you want your news channels separated from movies and TV, simply move the apps into groups within your lineup. This is the closest one can get to having apps look more like channels in a TV guide.
Although the remote doesn’t have a microphone, you can sync up to Roku’s mobile app to use voice-controlled search, as well as to stream analog audio via connected
As we mentioned above, the Express isn’t packing much power under the hood – at least, not in comparison to the other
Previously, we complained about the Netflix app; navigation was slow going, with button presses frustratingly stacking up and then registering all at once, often sending us to content we weren’t trying to browse. This time around, it’s a lot better — not perfect, but better. Netflix content loads quickly – less than five seconds, in most cases – and we weren’t inundated with buffering, even when skipping around a lot. Most other channels performed a bit more smoothly, which could be a result of less resource-intensive menus.
The streaming device itself boots up in a matter of seconds, and, after a minute or two of initial updating, loads most channels in less than five seconds. Generally speaking, we found that the
Nothing can beat
If you’re short on bucks but still looking for some bang, the Express is the way to go. Compact, clever, and convenient, the streaming device offers access to Roku’s class-leading platform at minimal cost. It’s easy to set up and easy to use, with an awesome search function and a gargantuan selection of channels.
If you want to stream content in
Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, there’s no better streaming device than the
Is there a better alternative?
At the price? No. The Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick are great, and they’re actually better, faster devices under the hood, but Roku’s awesome operating system and massive catalog of channels gives the Express a leg up on the competition.
How long will it last?
The streaming device itself shouldn’t encounter much wear and tear while affixed to your entertainment center or TV. As
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Express and Express+ are absolutely worth the money.
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