EletiofeHow to Pick the Right Roku for Your TV

How to Pick the Right Roku for Your TV

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Rokus are the most popular TV streaming boxes for good reason: They’re super easy to use and offer a wide array of streaming channels. They’re our favorite, too. However, figuring out which one to buy is not so easy. There are four different Roku streaming devices available now (not including TVs and soundbars), and you’ll find a ton of older models floating around on Amazon and other sellers. Rokus also tend to have similar names and look nearly identical, so it’s not that simple to suss out the differences.

We’re here to help. If you’re like us, you want the best Roku for the least amount of money. We’ve broken down the features on the ones we think you’ll actually want to own, starting with the most basic model. And once you get that Roku, be sure to add WIRED’s channel!

Updated November 2021: We’ve added the new Steaming Stick 4K Plus and Streambar Pro.

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  • Photograph: Roku

    A Bare-Bones Roku

    Roku Express HD

    Think of the Roku Express like the express checkout lane at the grocery store—easy, but somewhat limited if you’ve got a big order. It’s for people with a standard HDTV (not 4K Ultra HD). It has the same Roku menus and channels as the other boxes, but it lacks extras like voice search and the ability to control your TV’s volume from the remote. The remote control uses infrared (IR) to communicate (instead of another wireless standard), so it must be in the visual sight of the Roku box to work.

    The Express+ has composite cables if you have an old tube TV, but if you don’t have HDMI ports on your TV, you may want to start saving up for a new TV.

  • Photograph: Roku

    This Roku Adds 4K and HDR

    Roku Express 4K Plus

    The Express 4K Plus—which replaces the older Premiere in Roku’s lineup—costs $10 more than the base version and allows you to play high-resolution 4K content in HDR10 (if your TV supports it). There’s power and volume controls on the remote, and pretty decent voice search. You can even use your voice to spell out long email addresses that are frustrating to type with a remote. There are better and more capable Rokus you can buy for modern 4K TVs, but get this one if you want to spend as little as possible.

    If you bought your TV in the past couple of years and it cost more than $300, there’s a good chance it’s 4K (“Ultra HD”) and has HDR (High Dynamic Range). That just means it has four times more pixels on its screen than a standard HD television. HDR means that scenes like sunsets look brighter, while shadows are darker—in other words, you get better, more realistic contrast.

  • Photograph: Amazon

    Best for Most

    Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus

    This is the best Roku for most people. Roku’s Streaming Stick Plus has consistently been our favorite of the lineup, and now this 4K Plus version, which allows you to stream in Dolby Vision, is just a little bit better. Like the other sticks, it plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port, and another cable plugs into a USB port for power, or into the wall. Roku says it’s 30 percent faster with a longer-range wireless receiver. I’ve never found a Roku device to be slow, but this one reacts without delay.

    The most obvious difference is the new voice remote. Others have a mic button you can press and hold for speech, but this has a hands-free option. So while lounging on the couch, just say “Hey Roku, play You on Netflix.” You can even ask where a lost remote is to activate a beep. If you don’t want Roku listening, there’s a slider button on the side. There are also two buttons that you can program to whatever shortcuts work best for you.

    More Streaming Sticks: The Streaming Stick 4K is a little cheaper, and its remote doesn’t have hands-free voice control, if you aren’t interested in that. You can also still buy the older Streaming Stick Plus.

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