All of the Roku Streaming Players Compared 2021
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|
|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||✓||✓|
|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|
Best streaming: Roku Ultra
The 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)
Best budget streaming: Roku Express
if 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)
Best budget streaming 4K: Roku Express 4K+
The 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.
Best streaming for most people: Roku Streaming Stick+
The 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)
Best streaming with headphones: Roku Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition
The 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.
[Image credit: Roku]