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All of the Roku Streaming Players Compared 2021

posted by on August 12, 2021 in Guides & Reviews, Music and Video, Video Players & Recorders, Music & Video Services, Top Picks :: 0 comments

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You have plenty of options if you want to watch streaming media on your television, but my recommended streaming media player is the Roku. I've been a big fan since Roku launched almost 10 years ago, and although I have tested all of the players on the market, I always come back to Roku for my personal use. That's because Roku streaming players support more services than any other, offering thousands of different streaming channels and more than half a million movies and TV shows to watch. And, Roku’s software makes it easy to find what you want to watch no matter where it’s streaming, allowing you to find free, rental and purchase options wherever available.

But if you’re looking to buy a Roku, you may be a bit lost by the seven different models available — many of which are very similar. To help you make a decision on which one is best for you, check out the key points in my chart below.

Roku Model Comparison

  Roku Express Roku Express 4K Roku Express 4K+ Roku Streaming Stick+ Roku Streaming Stick+ HE Roku Ultra LT Roku Ultra
Retail price (sale prices noted below)  $30 $35  $40  $50  $60  $70  $100
Video Full HD 1080P 4K with HDR 4K with HDR 4K with HDR 4K with HDR 4K with HDR 4K with HDR and Dolby Vision
Remote Simple Voice with TV controls Voice with TV controls Voice with TV controls  Voice with TV controls and private listening Voice with TV controls and private listening Voice with TV controls, private listening, and personal shortcuts
 WiFi 802.11 b/g/n single band 802.11ac dual band 802.11ac dual band 802.11ac dual band, MIMO 802.11ac dual band, MIMO 802.11ac dual band, MIMO 802.11ac dual band, MIMO
Ethernet jack  X  X  X  X  X  ✓  ✓
Audio Dolby Audio Dolby Audio with volume leveling and night mode Dolby Audio with volume leveling and night mode Dolby Audio with volume leveling and night mode Dolby Audio with volume leveling and night mode Dolby Audio with volume leveling and night mode Dolby Atmos with volume leveling and night mode
MicroSD for more storage  X  X  X  X  X  ✓  ✓
Headphones included  X  X  X  X   ✓   ✓   ✓
Lost remote finder  X  X  X  X  X  X
No box: plugs directly into TV HDMI  X  X  X  X  X
HDMI cable included  ✓  ✓    X  X  X  X

Roku Ultra streaming box with remote control that has headphones plugged in.

Best streaming: Roku Ultra

Techlicious Top Pick award logoThe Roku Ultra is the absolute top-of-the-line offering. It has everything you need — 4K streaming, reliable 802.11ac dual-band MIMO wireless, built-in Ethernet port, a voice remote with headphone jack for private listening, and a MicroSD port — plus a few handy upgrades.

The remote that comes with the Roku Ultra has user-programmable "shortcut buttons." So you can have one-button access to anything you want. In addition to a MicroSD port, the Ultra has a USB port for viewing content stored on a local USB stick or drive. And, you get premium JBL headphones instead of the basic earbuds that come with the other models. The best upgrade, though, is the lost remote finder button. Press the button on the Ultra box and the remote will ring.  

Price: $100 (on sale for $92 as of 8/12/2021)

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Roku Express image showing the streaming box and remote

Best budget streaming: Roku Express

Techlicious Editor's Choice award logoif you just need the basics, the Roku Express player is the cheapest Roku on the market. It has HD resolution, a simple remote, and an HDMI cable in the box.

Price: $30 (on sale for $25 as of 8/12/2021)

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Roku Express 4K+ streaming box with remote control on console with TV

Best budget streaming 4K: Roku Express 4K+ 

Techlicious Editor's Choice award logoThe Roku Express+ 4K is a basic 4K streamer that comes with an HDMI cable in the box— exactly like the Roku Express. But it also comes with a voice remote. Just press and hold the mic button on the remote and you can use voice controls to search for shows and operate your Roku, including playing and pausing shows — no typing required.

Price: $40

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Roku Streaming Stick+ with remote control

Best streaming for most people: Roku Streaming Stick+

Techlicious Editor's Choice award logoThe Streaming Stick+ is a 4K streamer with a portable form factor: it’s shaped like a USB stick and plugs directly into a TV’s HDMI port. That lets you save space and cable clutter. Beyond that, the Streaming Stick+ also has improved WiFi (802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless), with better range and four times faster speeds, which makes for smoother streaming — particularly in 4K. It also includes Roku’s voice remote for easy browsing and searching.

It’s our favorite all-around Roku. With 4K, better WiFi and a voice remote, it has all of the features you’d want in a streaming player.

Price: $50 (on sale for $40 as of 8/12/2021)

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Roku Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition with remote that has headphones plugged in.

Best streaming with headphones: Roku Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition

Techlicious Editor's Choice award logoThe Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition adds a nice extra to the standard Streaming Stick+: an advanced remote with private listening. This remote has a headphone jack so you can plug in your headphones and enjoy watching TV while not disturbing anyone around you. A basic set of earbuds are included in the box.

This is a nice feature, but not a necessary one. If you keep your smartphone on hand, you can also enjoy private listening via the Roku app. But if you want the headphone jack, this is the lowest cost way to get it.

Price: $60

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[Image credit: Roku]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.



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