Have you heard about Roku and wondered what exactly it is? How it works? What models are available and how they compare? Well, you‘ve come to the right place!
As an experienced tech reviewer, I‘ve tested pretty much every streaming device out there. And I can confidently say Roku devices provide one of the simplest and most affordable ways to stream movies, shows, music, and more on your television.
In this guide, we‘ll cover everything you need to know about Roku players and services in a fun, easy-to-understand way. I‘ll share the knowledge I‘ve gathered from years of evaluating and using these handy little streaming gadgets.
Here‘s a quick look at what we‘ll be discussing:
- What is Roku and how do these devices work?
- A brief history of Roku over the years
- Roku Streaming Stick+ features and capabilities
- How Roku models and prices compare
- An overview of Roku TVs
- How Roku stacks up to the Amazon Firestick
- Tips to get the most out of your Roku
- Answers to frequently asked questions
And much more! By the end, you‘ll be a Roku expert. So let‘s get started!
What is Roku and How Do These Streaming Devices Work?
Roku is both the name of a company that makes streaming gadgets and the operating system that powers them. The company was founded way back in 2002 by Anthony Wood, who‘s considered a pioneer in the streaming space.
The key thing to know is Roku devices allow you to stream entertainment from various online services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Spotify, and thousands more. According to Roku, they provide access to over 200,000 movies and TV episodes across more than 20,000 free or paid channels!
Roku works by connecting to your television and your home wifi network. Once set up, you can use the included remote to browse and search channels on your TV screen. Think of channels like apps for your Roku – each one provides access to different movies, shows, music, and other content.
With Roku players starting at just $29.99, they offer an inexpensive way to get streaming capabilities on any TV with an HDMI input. The company also partners with brands like TCL, Sharp, and Hisense to make smart Roku TVs.
One great benefit of Roku devices is how easy they are to set up and use. I‘ll walk you through the basics:
Choose a Roku streaming player and plug it into power and your TV‘s HDMI port.
Turn on your television and Roku device. Follow the setup instructions on your TV screen.
Connect your Roku to your home wifi network. This allows it to access online streaming channels.
Make a Roku account online or via the device. This allows you to link streaming services and store payment options.
Use the included Roku remote to navigate menus and select streaming channels to install. Search for movies and shows across channels.
And that‘s it – pretty simple, right? Within a few minutes you can be streaming the latest Netflix hits, YouTube videos, news and sports channels, and much more.
Roku devices have only gotten more popular over the years. As of 2022, Roku accounts for over 30% of streaming devices in the United States. Impressive!
Now that you know the basics of what Roku is, let‘s do a quick history lesson…
A Brief History of Roku Streaming Players
While it may seem like Roku devices have been around forever, the company is still less than 20 years old. Here‘s a quick timeline of Roku‘s journey so far:
2008 – Roku launches their first streaming player simply called the Roku DVP. It initially works only with Netflix, which is still in its infancy.
2010 – Updated Roku XD and XDS models add support for 1080p HD streaming. Roku begins expanding to more streaming services.
2011 – The 2nd generation Roku 2 is released, with features like dual-band wifi connectivity.
2013 – Roku 3 adds voice search capabilities and gaming options, starting to expand beyond just streaming.
2015 – 4K and HDR video support comes to the Roku 4 player. Roku OS 7 software update is also launched.
2017 – The Roku Streaming Stick+ is released, offering enhanced wireless performance. The company also goes public this year.
2019 – New Roku soundbar and wireless speaker lineup is launched for home theater setups.
2021 – Latest Roku streaming sticks feature faster processors and WiFi 6 support. Roku OS 10 brings updates like AirPlay 2.
2022 – Roku announces their 4K streaming stick will support Dolby Vision HDR in an upcoming update.
As you can see, Roku has come a long way! With regular hardware updates and new features added via software updates, they have become a top streaming platform.
Next let‘s take a closer look at one of my favorite models…
Roku Streaming Stick+ Features and Capabilities Explained
The Roku Streaming Stick+ is one of the company‘s best-selling and most recommended streaming gadgets. Priced at a reasonable $59.99, it offers a great balance of performance, features, and value.
Here are some key things to know about the Roku Streaming Stick+:
4K and HDR streaming – The Stick+ supports stunning 4K Ultra HD video at up to 60 frames per second, as well as HDR for vivid colors and enhanced contrast. This allows you to take full advantage of 4K TV capabilities.
Quad-core processor – A faster quad-core processor compared to earlier models results in smooth, quick streaming even for 4K videos. No more annoying buffering or lag!
Dual-band wireless – Built-in 802.11ac WiFi allows dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections for solid video streaming wirelessly.
Voice remote with TV controls – Roku‘s excellent voice remote lets you find shows, pause playback, turn up volume, power your TV on and off, and more.
4x wireless range – The included wireless receiver boosts WiFi range up to four times farther than previous models. Great for large houses!
Roku OS – Runs Roku‘s easy-to-use software interface, with tons of entertainment options and handy features. Gets regular updates.
MicroSD card slot – Easily expand storage space up to 512GB for more channel data and faster loading.
Private listening – Plug headphones into the remote to listen to shows without disturbing others.
For its excellent wireless performance, smooth streaming, and handy voice remote, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is my go-to recommendation for most folks. Next let‘s see how it compares to other Roku models…
Comparing Roku Players: Streaming Stick vs Express vs Ultra
Roku currently offers several streaming device models to suit different budgets and needs:
The Roku Express is the company‘s most affordable player at just $29.99. It‘s a great option for a secondary TV or basic HD streaming.
- Streams 1080p HD video
- Simple remote with preset buttons
- Dual-band wireless
- Quad-core processor
- Optional Roku Channel app
Roku Streaming Stick 4K
Priced at $49.99, the Streaming Stick 4K delivers 4K and HDR streaming in a compact design.
- 4K and HDR video support
- Voice remote with TV controls
- 802.11ac dual-band wireless
- Quad-core processor
- MicroSD card slot
Roku Streaming Stick+
As discussed earlier, the $59.99 Streaming Stick+ has enhanced wireless performance and smooth 4K streaming.
- 4K/HDR/HDR10 streaming
- Quad-core processor
- Voice remote with TV power/volume
- 802.11ac dual-band wireless
- 4x wireless range
The $99.99 Ultra has Roku‘s top specs including expanded wireless range, storage, ports, and remote finder.
- 4K/HDR/HDR10+ streaming
- Quad-core processor
- Ethernet port
- USB and microSD slots
- Enhanced voice remote
- Lost remote finder
- Hands-free voice commands
As you can see, Roku has players for pretty much any need and budget. The Streaming Stick 4K and Streaming Stick+ models offer the best performance and features for most people. But the Ultra is great for larger homes, and the Express is perfect for a secondary room.
Next let‘s go over the benefits of Roku smart TVs…
Why Roku TVs Are a Great Option
In addition to standalone streaming devices, Roku partners with TV brands to make Roku smart TVs. These have the excellent Roku software and experience built right into the television.
Some top manufacturers like TCL, Hisense, Sharp, Hitachi, and JVC all offer Roku TV models. They range from HD to high-end 4K sets between 24 to 75 inches.
Here are some of the advantages Roku TVs offer:
Simplified setup – Just turn it on and connect to WiFi. The Roku experience is pre-installed and ready to go!
Intuitive interface – Easy home screen menu focused on streaming channels. Plus handy features like Roku Search.
Automatic updates – Roku OS updates in the background to add new features and ensure security.
One remote – The included Roku remote controls TV functions and streaming apps.
Private listening – Plug headphones into the remote for private listening without disturbing others.
Works with Alexa/Google Assistant – Use voice commands through compatible smart speakers to launch shows and control playback.
Affordable prices – Feature-packed Roku TVs start at just a few hundred dollars for 50" models. Great value!
With over a decade of TV streaming expertise built-in, Roku TVs are definitely worth considering for your next television.
Speaking of competition, how does Roku compare to Amazon‘s popular Fire TV platform? Let‘s break it down…
Roku vs Fire TV Comparison: Which Streaming Device Is Better?
When it comes to streaming gadgets, Roku and Amazon Fire TV consistently rank as top sellers. But they take a bit different approach.
Here‘s a look at how major Roku and Fire TV models stack up:
Apps and content libraries
- Both platforms offer thousands of streaming channels. Fire TV has slightly better app selection.
- Roku has Apple TV+ support and more regional apps. But Fire TV better integrates Amazon Prime content.
Hardware performance and specs
Fire TV sticks offer more onboard storage – 8GB versus 512MB on most Rokus. But Roku has microSD card slots for expansion.
Top-end Fire TV models feature faster processors than comparable Roku devices. For example, 40% quicker than the Roku Ultra.
Fire TV Cube and Stick 4K Max support Dolby Vision in addition to HDR10/HDR10+. Only high-end Roku devices have Dolby Vision.
Simpler Roku home screen focuses squarely on streaming channels.
Fire TV menus include more promotional materials and Amazon-specific features.
Roku‘s cross-channel universal search is better. Fire TV results favor Amazon content.
Both platforms are very easy to set up with step-by-step instructions.
More Roku players include handy extras like headphone jacks and lost remote finders. These are only on higher-end Fire TV models.
Hands-free Alexa support on Fire TV Cube is more advanced than Roku voice features.
When you break it down, both Roku and Fire TV offer excellent streaming functionality. Roku has a simpler, more neutral interface while Fire TV is better integrated for Amazon ecosystem users.
Okay, we‘ve covered a lot so far! Next I‘ll share some pro tips…
Pro Tips: How to Get the Most Out of Your Roku Player
Once you‘ve set up your Roku device, here are some recommendations to maximize streaming entertainment:
Use Roku Search – Finding movies and shows is a breeze with cross-channel search. Just hit the search button and type or speak a title.
Try The Roku Channel – This free channel offers thousands of ad-supported movies and programs. Worth checking out!
Go private – Plug earbuds into your remote for private listening without cranking the TV volume.
Enable auto updates – Keep your device set to automatically install system updates for new features and security patches.
Rearrange your home screen – Customize your home screen by moving favorite streaming channels to the top.
Add a microSD card – Expand storage on supporting models to store more apps and improve performance.
Check out smart home integrations – Use Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri voice commands to operate your Roku.
Download the mobile app – Get extra features like private listening via headphones connected to your phone.
Position streaming sticks carefully – For best reception, place sticks close to TV. The Streaming Stick+ has longer range.
Follow these tips and you‘ll be streaming like a pro in no time!
Finally, let‘s wrap up with answers to some frequently asked questions.
Roku FAQs: Your Top Questions Answered
Here are quick answers to some of the most common questions people ask about Roku:
Can I watch live TV on Roku?
Absolutely. Popular live TV streaming options include YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, and FuboTV.
What video formats does Roku support?
Roku players support video up to jaw-dropping 4K HDR quality. Common formats like MP4, MOV, and MKV will play just fine.
What kind of audio does Roku support?
Roku works with all the major audio formats including AAC, MP3, WAV, FLAC, Dolby Audio, and more.
Can I listen privately?
Yep! Simply plug headphones into your Roku remote to enjoy audio without disturbing others.
Does Roku offer parental controls?
Yes, you can restrict content ratings and set a PIN to prevent access to mature channels under Parental Controls.
Can I use Roku without WiFi?
Roku streaming requires an internet connection. On select models like the Roku Ultra you can use the Ethernet port for wired streaming if WiFi is unavailable.
And there you have it! As you can see, Roku players provide an easy and affordable path to streaming entertainment nirvana.
I hope this guide gave you a helpful overview of Roku capabilities and models. Let me know if you have any other questions – I‘m always happy to help explain this handy technology!