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Roku TV with smartphone
With Roku, you get more features than you would with a cable box. (Image: Shutterstock)

Streaming devices for TVs have exploded in popularity in recent years, and streaming device manufacturer Roku has been producing quality hardware since the beginning of streaming services — its first device was released in 2008 in a partnership with Netflix.

As streaming services have evolved, so has the lineup of Roku devices. From Roku soundbars to HDMI dongles to smart TV integration, Roku has managed to infiltrate every corner of the streaming device market, adding a slew of technological features that not only rival but surpass cable TV in terms of convenience, simplicity, and outright cool factor.

Streaming Service Integration

This one is a no-brainer, but it’s the biggest feature that Roku devices have to offer, and we would be remiss in not highlighting its convenience. With a traditional cable box, unless you have a smart TV, you’re left high dry when you want to stream something from one of the exceedingly numerous streaming services available.

Roku has app integration (called “channels”) for all the most popular streaming services, meaning that if you’re motivated, you can watch just about everything you would have wanted to watch with cable anyway.

Cast From Your Android or iOS device

Roku remote control on smartphone
No remote? No problem! Control your Roku device using your phone. (Image: Shutterstock)

For experienced streamers, this functionality is more of a standard than a feature, but for recent cord-cutters, it opens a whole new world of possibilities. Imagine never having to stop what you’re doing to search for the remote again. Imagine getting back the countless hours you’ve spent looking for the remote your children insist isn’t underneath the pillow they’re laying on (Spoiler alert: It is.) and all you would be able to accomplish with that time.

Play Files Directly From a USB Drive

Many modern TVs come with USB ports, but it’s rarely easy to access any files stored on a USB drive using your TV’s interface. Here’s where Roku comes in handy. Some Roku devices have a USB port that allows you to access your files using Roku’s interface and remote.

If you have a movie saved on your hard drive that you want to watch on your TV and can’t stream it, you can load it onto a USB device and plug it into your Roku, where you can watch and control that content using your remote, from your couch, with a lap full of snacks.

Cast Music

If your phone speakers aren’t cutting it and you don’t want to listen with headphones, you can cast music from Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, or any other supported music app to your TV. If you’re proud of the sound system hooked up to your TV, you have a Roku soundbar, or you just need a little more volume to help break through the monotony of household chores (Does anyone like folding laundry?), this feature can come in handy pretty often.

More Hardware Choices

 Roku product box
Some smart TVs come prepackaged with Roku functionality. (Image: Shutterstock)

When you sign up for cable TV service, you generally have limited, if any, choice in what hardware helps deliver that service to your home. Traditional set-top boxes are cumbersome and fill only one specific need: They give you cable TV.

Roku devices exist to serve all manner of household streaming and entertainment needs. You can find Roku soundbars if you need better speakers than your TV can offer or simple HDMI dongles if you just need smart TV capabilities. Roku even has devices that plug into older composite inputs (you know, those red, white, and yellow cables we old folk remember) and TVs that come equipped with an onboard Roku. There’s a Roku device to fit almost any household streaming need.

Play TV Audio Through Your Headphones

Not all Roku devices will let you play your TV’s audio through your headphones, but the Roku Ultra has a 3.5 mm headphone jack in the remote. If you’re up late catching a sports game on the other side of the world, trying to binge anime in peace, or being courteous of anyone else at home, just plug your favorite pair of headphones into your Roku Ultra remote and go about your streaming and viewing habits as usual.

Lower Cost — for the Roku Device, Anyway

In terms of cost, a Roku device comes with significant savings when compared to a traditional cable plan. After you buy your Roku device, you won’t pay a monthly fee to use it, but you will pay subscription fees for your favorite streaming services. The most inexpensive Roku device retails for just under $30 and the Roku Ultra costs just under $100, but these are one-time costs that upgrade the functionality of your TV.