Roku Premiere+ (2018) review

Roku’s new Premiere+ makes a strong case as the best value in streaming land

Roku’s brilliant new Premiere+ is one of the best streaming devices in the business.
Roku’s brilliant new Premiere+ is one of the best streaming devices in the business.
Roku’s brilliant new Premiere+ is one of the best streaming devices in the business.


  • Small profile, slick design
  • 4K HDR support
  • Voice search and TV controls on remote
  • Speedy processor
  • Intuitive, feature-rich interface


  • No dual-band Wi-Fi
  • No 802.11ac connection
  • No Dolby Vision HDR

It’s a glorious time to be a streamer. There’s never been more to watch, and thanks to options like 4K and Dolby Atmos, video looks and sounds better than ever. Just as importantly, the devices that serve up our streams are constantly improving as thick competition drives down pricing. And no one offers more ways to stream (or more apps, for that matter) than Roku.

Of course, even if you’ve decided Roku is your brand (instead of, say, the Fire TV Stick 4K), with seven models available, choosing the right one for you can be confusing.

Luckily, each new release in Roku’s lineup seems to offer more for less, including the strikingly affordable new Roku Premiere+ ($50). Though it’ll cost you $10 more than the regular Premiere, and doesn’t quite match the pricier Streaming Stick+, the Premiere+ offers nearly everything you could want in a streamer — from 4K HDR to voice search and TV controls right on the remote — making a great case as the value pick of the pack.

Out of the box

From a quick glance, it’d be easy to confuse the Premiere+ — and the cheaper Premiere — with a streaming stick, but the Premiere+ is actually just a tiny set-top box (1.4 inches x 3 inches x .07 inches). While not quite as mobile as a streaming stick, the Premiere+ is about a quarter the size of the 2016 iteration, and barely noticeable on your TV stand.

At the back of the little black nub are ports for HDMI and power connection. Accessories include a remote and batteries, an HDMI cable, and a USB power cable and wall adapter for versatile power connection. You’ll also get two strips of velcro-lined sticky tape to mount the device, or to keep it upright on your console (though ours stood up just fine on its own). Where you put the streamer isn’t of much concern, though, as its radio-frequency remote doesn’t require line-of-sight.

Roku Premiere Plus Review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Speaking of the remote, it’s loaded with Roku’s dead-simple navigation keys and streaming hot keys (including buttons for Netflix and Hulu), along with power and volume keys for your TV, and a microphone button for voice search.

Engage warp setup

Those who’ve set up a Roku in the past know how easy it is to get things going, as well as the fact that our Star Trek subhead didn’t originate here — it’s actually one of the clever little phrases that pop up as the Roku system goes online. Each new Roku seems to be a little easier to set up, and even when factoring in linking the remote to both the Premiere+ and our Samsung QLED Television, setup was a cinch.

As with Apple and other devices, that’s especially true if you’re already indoctrinated into the Roku ecosystem (and you didn’t forget your password). A few confirmations are all it takes to quickly recall all your apps, and Roku even signs you in to those you already have up and running. While not quite plug and play, Roku setup is about as close as it gets in streaming land.

Lean, mean, streaming machine

Even apart from the micro size, those looking to compare the 2018 Premiere+ to its predecessor will find a lot has changed. Roku has both added and removed features in the name of affordability to cut the price by nearly half. For the most part, the changes are welcome, with some helpful features added, while superfluous ones were dropped to help stretch your dollar further.

The most evident changes are on the new remote. The latest Premiere+ remote ditches the headphone jack along with the included headphones — you’ll have to step up to the $100 Roku Ultra to get those these days. Instead, you can connect to the mobile app for headphone listening, which worked flawlessly in our testing, and also utilized our LG V30’s superior DAC.

On the plus side (no pun intended), the addition of voice search, as well as basic TV power and volume control on the remote, are substantial upgrades that we use much more than the headphone feature (though we also don’t have any early slumberers in the house). For those eyeing the cheaper Roku Premiere, it’s also worth noting that the Premiere+ boasts a point-anywhere remote that is extremely convenient; no more misfires when something is blocking the device, and it can be set up pretty much wherever it fits best.

The new Premiere+ also ditches Ethernet and, unlike the Roku Streaming Stick+, it forgoes 802.11ac and dual-band Wi-Fi, opting only for the potentially slower 802.11 (b/g/n) and the 2.4GHz band. That means you may not get the absolute fastest connection speeds, especially if you have a lot of people on the network, and you also won’t want to stray too far from your router. That said, we didn’t have any streaming issues, save a slight delay of full resolution with 4K HDR video. Frankly, it’s nothing like the “old days” of streaming a few years back, where an Ethernet port was almost required for 4K, so we aren’t complaining.

Riley Young/Digital Trends

Speaking of 4K HDR, Roku devices still don’t support Dolby Vision (save Roku smart TVs like the TCL 6-series), opting only for the more prevalent HDR10 format. This may or may not be an issue for you, depending on whether or not you currently (or intend to) own a Dolby Vision 4K HDR TV. Even if you do, Dolby Vision streaming content is currently pretty limited, but it’s worth noting that both Amazon’s forthcoming Fire TV Stick 4K and the pricier Chromecast Ultra are comparable devices that support both. As for audio, the Premiere+ offers Dolby and DTS passthrough for an A/V receiver or soundbar.

Streaming delight

For those who have yet to use Roku’s intuitive, minimalist interface, to quote the infamous John McClane of the Die Hard films: “Welcome to the party, pal(s)!” Frankly, Roku has been running away with the title of most convenient streamer for years. While the much-pricier Apple TV 4K offers its own smooth interface, only fairly recently have similarly affordable streamers (like Amazon’s Fire TV sticks) offered serious competition in this department.

In addition, Roku’s library of over 1,000 apps and counting can serve up virtually any streaming service you might want, and while some of the apps are getting a bit long in the tooth, unlike Amazon and Google’s devices, Roku doesn’t favor any one streaming service over others.

Performance is incredibly speedy thanks to Roku’s top-tier quad-core processor.

For its part, the Premiere+ is incredibly speedy in operation thanks to Roku’s top-tier quad-core processor. Scrolling through apps is much faster and the device is much more responsive than our 2016 Premiere. We were also immediately impressed with how quickly apps loaded, even without the quickest Wi-Fi connection available. This may vary from network to network, but the Premiere+ worked great when connected to both our office and home routers.

As mentioned, we really enjoyed using the headphone mode with the Roku mobile app, which sounds great, though it does tend to drain your phone battery over time. The app is also quite handy as a backup remote, even allowing you to enter text from your phone instead of the old remote hunt-and-peck.

Voice search is also strikingly fast these days, and the Premiere+ only had one hiccup in testing when we slurred our words a bit when saying “Bob’s Burgers.” The system quickly serves up a list of streaming services offering your query, revealing pricing and which (if any) of your signed-in subscriptions carry it.

One feature you won’t get here (or with any Roku) is voice assistant, so you can’t do a quick web check or control your smart home. Roku doesn’t play that way, so if you’re looking for Alexa, Siri, or the rest of the crowd, this device may not be for you. On the other hand, if you like to keep your searching local, as we do, the contained Roku search is simple and speedy.

Our Take

With just about everything you need, and nothing you don’t, the stripped-down, souped-up Roku Premiere+ strikes a brilliant balance between affordability and usability for some of the best value in streaming land.

Is there a better alternative?

Rather than “better,” we’ll just say there are a few pretty great streamers out there that could be better for you. For just $10 more, Roku’s Streaming Stick+ offers basically everything you see here, plus improved wireless range and mobility for those with higher-traffic networks.

While we haven’t yet reviewed it, we also expect Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick 4K to make a strong case. It offers most of the features of the Premiere+, alongside built-in Alexa and Dolby Vision HDR support, all for the same $50 price point.

For more options check out our picks for the best streaming devices.

How long will it last?

While the lack of Dolby Vision may be more of a hindrance as time goes on, in all other aspects, the Roku Premiere+ is ready for the streaming future and should hold up for a long time to come.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re looking for incredible value on a tight budget, Roku’s excellent new Premiere+ is one of the best in the business.

Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Kill your cable and switch to streaming with our painless guide

If you're going to quit cable or satellite for a streaming TV solution, you're going to want to get it right the first time. We've outlined exactly how to get started, step by step. Follow our lead, and you'll never look back.
Home Theater

Step aside set-top boxes, the best streaming sticks are tiny and just as powerful

Which streaming stick reigns supreme? We pit the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra against the Roku Premiere, Roku Streaming Stick+, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K to help you decide which one will be the best fit in your living room.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

Streaming services blast past networks for the most scripted TV shows in 2018

For the first time in history, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, produced more original scripted series than broadcast or cable channels, setting a new record for the number of TV shows on the air.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Home Theater

What is Terrarium TV? Here’s everything you need to know

Terrarium TV offered a way to watch movies & TV for free, but now after a troubled existence, the app's developer has shut it down, and offered an ominous message to users on his way out.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.