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Roku

Roku revamped its whole lineup recently, replacing its old numbered models with new branded ones. Among the new models is the Wi-Fi-only Roku Express, which replaces the old Roku 1 and targets “budget-conscious” consumers. But wait, doesn't that sound at a lot like the Roku Streaming Stick? Here's our guide to the Roku Express vs. Roku Streaming Stick showdown.

Roku Express vs. Roku Streaming Stick

The Roku Express and Roku Streaming Stick are both relatively low-cost streaming solutions. Both rely on Wi-Fi to stream content, and both use Roku's popular operating system. So just what is the difference between the two? Let's take a look at how the devices differ in a few major categories. Below, we'll look at the hardware in the device, the form factors, the remotes (which are different, believe it or not), and, of course, the prices.

Hardware

Under the hood, the Roku Streaming Stick is the more powerful of these two devices. The Roku Streaming Stick has a quad-core processor, which the Roku Express lacks, and that's the main hardware difference between the two. Both devices have 802.11 (b/g/n) wireless.

Neither device supports 4K video – you'll have to step up to the Premiere, Premiere+, or Ultra for that. Both the Roku Streaming Stick and the Roku Express top out at 1080p.

In practice, we haven't found much of a difference between the two in terms of streaming performance. The Roku Streaming Stick, however, is the more powerful device.

Form factor

Roku Express

Both of these devices are very, very small. The Roku Express is probably a bit better looking, though that's a matter of taste – and it's important to note that the Roku Streaming Stick's design makes it nearly certain that you won't be able to see it when you're facing your TV. The Roku Streaming Stick plugs directly into an HDMI port, so you'll have to look at the back of your TV to even see the thing.

Roku Streaming Stick
Roku Streaming Stick

We'll talk more about this in a minute, but because of the Roku Express' remote, the device needs to be visible from wherever you're sitting and watching. The Express can sit on your entertainment center or can be stuck to the side or top of your TV with the included double-stick adhesive strip. It's not an eyesore by any means, but it's obviously more noticeable than the hidden Roku Streaming Stick.

The last thing to note here is that the Roku Streaming Stick is a little more portable. Because it plugs directly into the HDMI port, it has one less cord to worry about.

Remotes

One difference between the Roku Express and Roku Streaming Stick? The remote control. While both remotes look pretty much the same, the Roku Streaming Stick's remote is a “point anywhere” remote – in other words, it doesn't have to be aimed at the device to control it. That's a good thing, since the Roku Streaming Stick is designed to hide behind your TV.

With the Roku Express, though, you'll have to aim at the device. That sounds like a small thing, but as we noted in our review, it's a little annoying when you're used to the point-anywhere remote.

Other than this, both remotes are pretty much the same. They both have headphone jacks for private listening, and they both have shortcut buttons for popular streaming services.

Price

The Roku Express is the more affordable of the two devices. The Roku Express is priced at $29.99, while the Roku Streaming Stick costs $49.99.

Our reviews

We liked both of these products when we reviewed them. Check out our review of the Roku Streaming Stick here, and our review of the Roku Express here.

Should you get a Roku Streaming Stick or a Roku Express?

If cost is your main concern, get the Roku Express. The differences in performance are pretty minimal, and the Express is 40% cheaper. If you're concerned at all about aesthetics or portability, the Roku Streaming Stick may be the better choice because of its form factor.

28 thoughts on “Roku Express vs. Roku Streaming Stick

  1. Mark Matthews says:

    Major mistake in the Hardware section.

    The Roku Stick is a “dual band Wi-Fi”, also operating at 5 GHz. That is a major differentiator and puts the Stick in a different league.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thanks

  2. William Butler says:

    I have both Stick and Express. Speed of UI is noticeably different with the Stick winning out. Also, the Express has trouble remaining on and even with the provided power supply keeps requiring a reboot when it thinks it’s not getting enough power.

  3. Gabriel Nuno says:

    I just purchased a Roku Express and the remote doesn’t have a headphone jack. I knew that when I bought it, the Roku website states that on it’s product comparison table. I had a question about your experience with the Express vs the Streaming Stick. Did you have any problems with the Express networking? It was stubborn in connecting to my network, it seems like my Wi-Fi password was too complex for it. I had to change the password to not include symbols for it to finally connect. Also, I’m having trouble finding it with my Android using the Roku app. I haven’t been able to get it working yet. Another thing, sort of annoying, is that the home button on the remote turns my fan off and on. It was sort of funny at first but it got annoying pretty fast. Did you have any problems with the Express networking that you didn’t have with the Streaming Stick? I’m considering exchanging the Express for a Streaming Stick, if it would solve the problem I have with the Express. I know it would solve the problem of operating my fan at least since the Stick remote is RF instead of IR like the Express. I was wondering if you noticed any difference in speed between the two devices when using the OS, like when navigating the streaming channel menu?

    1. Roberta says:

      I have two Roku express. I had no trouble with set up or ongoing use. I did buy an inexpensive Wi-Fi repeater and everything is great.

  4. Jane says:

    I have the Roku Express and have had no problems whatsoever. I haven’t tried the streaming stick yet to compare the two but the Express works just fine.

    1. Joseph Roy says:

      How, I have the Roku Express and I have been at it for 5 days and it is on my phone and it has not even shown up on my TV, but if I push a button on the controller I can see the lil blue light go on and off, yet I am able to watch Roku on my phone, all I want is to watch ESPN PLUS, and UFC Fight Pass on my TV, which I have accounts for, as well as Hulu Live, and they are on the controller.

  5. Jason Hart says:

    The Roku Streaming Stick remote also supports voice commands which is one of my favorite options for the remote. Much easier than using the remote to select each character with the arrows. The Express remote does not support voice commands.

    1. Tom says:

      Not true, the Express app does support voice commands on my Android phone

  6. Kelly says:

    I believe the article is mistaken, neither remote has a headphone jack, that is on the ultra.

  7. Ines says:

    I have a question…Just bought the Roku Express to take on a trip to Mexico with me, so we can watch english programs. Any suggestions? Thxxx

    1. Susan Maijala says:

      Works well in Mexico. Have taken one with for 5 years. Some channels will be absent. Netlix will have different choices. Never was able to get Amazon Prime to work in Mexico. New networks seem to work fine.

  8. Susan Murray says:

    I have had two of the Streaming Firesticks and both have overheated. Both times the Streaming sticks got so hot ,I got a warning that I had to shut off the Roku and I couldn’t touch the firestick because it was to got to handle. I was so shocked.

    Sue

    1. April says:

      Roku offers a solution to the over heating. They sent me an adapter. I would look on their website or call them.

  9. Aaron says:

    Stupid question but… Do you have to plug the streaming stick into power source? (i.e. is there a cord that you have to plug into an outlet?). Looks like you do have to plug in the Express to power source.

    1. Stephen Lovely says:

      Yes, they both require power supplies!

    2. ANTHONY DiLaura says:

      I think you can plug the stick directly into the USB port on the back of your TV for the power source.

  10. James Siebold says:

    I just ordered two Roku Express because they were cheaper than the sticks.

    I already have two of the sticks and love them. My main problem with the sticks is on some TVs, if the HDMI port is facing the wall instead of coming out the side, the unit conflicts with the wall. So you need an extension cable to get around this. Or modify the wall mount to space it out against the wall.

    Some TVs don’t have a USB port for power. I don’t know about the express but if the stick is connected to the USB port on the back of the TV, it kills power and has to reboot.

    I tried to “trick” my Roku stick by using a longer power cable and connecting it to a phone charger so it would stay on all the time but this still doesn’t work.

    This is not a big deal with YouTube but when using the Charter Spectrum app which has to connect and reboot to the WI-Fi.

  11. Daniel Weiner says:

    I’m debating whether to buy either the Roku STREAMING STICK or the Roku EXPRESS. The comments posted here only makes my decision MORE confusing! While most “sing the praises” of the Roku STREAMING STICK over the Roku EXPRESS, there were some rather negative postings as well, (IE. Whether certain televisions’ power is affected by using the STICK in the HDMI port, etc. I probably didn’t/might not have recite(d) that 100% correctly, but I’m hoping you know what I mean. That’s just one of the “inconsistencies” that has me not knowing any/much better which way to go/WHAT THE, (TRUE/HONEST), ADVANTAGES ARE OF/FOR THE ROKU STREAMING STICK VERSUS THE ROKU EXPRESS! PLEASE!! Help me by shedding the “right light” on this/these issues/questions for me so I can decide whether or not it’s truly worth the extra cost to go for the Roku STREAMING STICK over the Roku EXPRESS. Thank you in advance for your time, help, & consideration in helping me to understand/realize the truth/facts about this choice between Roku products.

    1. Stephen Lovely says:

      Hi Daniel, thanks for reading! Personally, I think it’s worth the cost to upgrade to the Streaming Stick+.

  12. Jimy says:

    My Roku express is not supported by Xfinity anymore. It would buffer every 10-15 minutes and sometimes disconnect from wifi. Roku offered 50% off one Roku Express+ to replace one unit. Not sure if Express+ solves my problem yet. Either way I’m out two Roku’s.

  13. jp says:

    I have both …..both work fine and are support the xfinity streaming app – which is a bit buggy but ok considering comcast does everything a bit worse than everyone else.
    main diff is the remote – streaming stick comes with volume and mute on the remote, express does not – difference in price right now on amazon is $13.

    pain in the neck to use 2 remotes…i am returning my express for a streaming stick due to the remote issue

    1. Tom says:

      I am surprised I don’t see more comments on the lack of volume control on the Express remote. This is a pain in the a$$!

      1. Laressa says:

        Yes I was wondering the same! It sucks to use 2 remotes!

      2. Trish says:

        I totally agree about the volume thing. I usually use the remote on my phone so I can control the volume but don’t think this would work watching with other people! LOL

  14. Pam Sanchez says:

    I just bought 2 roku express devices. I couldn’t get it to work with my older handspree tv…(it is full HD 1080 P)I connected the power cord from the Roku into the USB & then plugged in the HDMI into the 2nd slot.. there is a 3rd slot as well. When I hit the input on my TV remote the screen said “no signal” then I switched to HDMI 3… same problem.. tried over & over again & gave up. Was thinking the Roku Express did not work.. but decided to try to connect it to my husbands small insigna tv in his office & it worked! I have not opened the 2nd Roku Express and am concerned that it will not work with my Handspree TV … any suggestions?

    1. Jesse says:

      If you plugged the USB cable into the TV, try plugging it into the wall with the adapter instead. Your TV may not put out enough to power it from the USB port.

  15. Susie C. says:

    Can anyone tell me why Roku no longer makes the MHL streaming stick? Its so awesome, just a little slow loading, other than that it can stream all day and not miss a beat. It doesn’t need a USB port or a power supply. It would be nice if Roku upgraded them. Don’t they sell MHL (Roku Ready) TV’s anymore?

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