Roku recently unveiled a whole bunch of devices – five of them, to be exact. The new lineup replaces Roku’s simple numbering system with new brand names like the “Ultra” and the “Premiere+.” Five different devices is a lot, and when you recall that Roku also offers a Roku Streaming Stick, deciding which device is right for you can be daunting. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to show you which Roku to buy.
Roku’s new lineup is divided into two tiers. The first tier features a pair of low-priced models that top out at 1080p. The higher tier features three 4K-capable devices.
Roku Express vs. Roku Express+
Somewhat confusingly, Roku’s new lineup gives five devices just three different brand names. One of the names pulling double duty is the “Express” moniker, which applies to the Express and the Express+.
The Express models are Roku’s cheapest streaming boxes. That makes them idea choices for budget-conscious consumers. If you’ve never had a Roku and want to test one out on the cheap, this is the solution. If you’re already a Roku user but want to add a Roku to a second or third TV, this is a cost-effective way to do it.
The Express models don’t have voice search and are not 4K-capable. They’re less powerful than their big brothers, though we were impressed when we reviewed the Roku Express. Above all, these things are tiny. Check it out:
As for the difference between the Roku Express and Roku Express+, there really isn’t one. The Express+ simply comes with A/V cables for use with other TVs.
Buy the Roku Express if: You’re a budget streamer, want multiple devices for multiple TVs, or want a highly portable streaming box.
Buy the Roku Express if: You have an old TV and need A/V cables.
Roku Premiere vs. Roku Premiere+
Now we’re in the second tier – the 4K-capable devices. You may not have a 4K TV yet (most people don’t), but they’re the wave of the future, so investing in a 4K-capable streaming box is a decent idea. The Premiere models are larger than the Roku Express, though they’re still noticeably smaller than the Roku 4 (which, to be fair, was kind of large).
The Premiere+ adds a fair amount of value over the regular Premiere. The plus version has an ethernet jack, making it the cheapest Roku with a wired internet connection. It’s HDR-capable, much like the more expensive Ultra. And it has the headphone jack on the remote for private listening.
Buy the Roku Premiere if: You want the cheapest 4K-capable Roku.
Buy the Roku Premiere+ if: You want a device that can use a wireless connection to stream 4K and HDR video.
The Roku Ultra is the the top-of-the-line model. It’s got the best hardware under the hood, and it is (of course) 4K and HDR capable. You get all of the bells and whistles from the Premiere+, plus a USB port, two “gaming buttons” on your remote, and a “remote locator” button on the device that will make your lost remote cry out for help.
Buy the Roku Ultra if: You want the very best streaming device, and don’t mind paying more for it; if you want to watch local content from a USB storage device.
A Word About the Roku Streaming Stick
The five devices above are Roku’s newest streaming boxes, and they replace the old Roku 1, 2, 3, and 4. But what about the Roku Streaming Stick, which is still pretty new itself?
At $49.99, the Roku Streaming Stick slots between the Express and Premiere levels in price. It has a bit more in common with the Roku Express, though: it’s Wi-Fi only, small and portable, and doesn’t support 4K video. If there’s a reason to spring for it over the Roku Express, it’s the fact that the Roku Streaming Stick’s point-anywhere remote allows you to hide the device behind your TV. With the Express, by contrast, you’ll have to leave the device somewhere visible and actually point at it with the remote when you want to control it.
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