Roku has too many streaming products. OK, probably not too many for the company. These things run the gamut from $25 to $99. (Or sometimes even less when things are on sale.) But that doesn't change the fact that there essentially are four Roku (Rokus? Roki?) from which you need to choose. Five if you throw a whole TV into the mix.
The question is which Roku is right for you.
Here are the best Roku devices in 2020:
Best Rokus in 2020:
- 1. Roku Ultra — Best overall
- 2. Roku Streaming Stick+ — Best streaming stick
- 3. Roku Premiere — Best 4K for less
- 4. Roku TV — Best All-in-one
- 5. Roku Wireless Speakers — Best for sound
- 6. Best on a budget — Roku Express
As a general rule, I say this: Spend a little more on hardware than you want to. Don't put yourself in debt, but the bottom line is you get what you pay for when it comes to tech stuff. A cheap streaming stick simply isn't as powerful as a more expensive, larger box. That said, Roku announced that its biggest sellers for 2018 came in at less than $50.
The good news is that none of Roku's products breaks the bank, even at the top end. So let's take a look. Here are the quick links to what we recommend:
- New Roku Ultra ($99): This is the best Roku box you can buy, and it was updated in late 2019. It's got 4K support, Wifi 5 (aka 802.11ac), expandable storage and an Ethernet port.
- Roku Streaming Stick+ ($59): With this one you get 4K support and Wifi 5, but no Ethernet or expandable storage.
- Roku Premiere ($39): This gets you 4K resolution at a low, low price, but it only has Wifi 4. (That's 802.11n.)
- New Roku Express ($29): Completely redesigned in late 2019, this is a great entry-level device.
- Roku TV (price varies): You can get some excellent (and inexpensive) TVs with the Roku operating system built in.
- Roku Wireless Speakers ($199): These wireless speakers work with Roku TV (only) and make setup a breeze.
Our top pick
This is the top-end Roku box (it's really just the size of a couple decks of cards) — it's been updated with new internals and a new remote in late 2019 — and it's the one we recommend. Why? It's still the most bang for your buck. Boxes are faster than sticks. It's got 4K resolution, with HDR. An Ethernet port (for better streaming speed and reliability), plus external storage support via microSD cards and USB.
At less than $100 (especially when on sale), it'll last you the longest and perform the best. Spend a few extra bucks and get this one. It's been updated with even faster internals and a new remote control that features a pair of customizable buttons, so you can make it even more of your own.
The Roku Ultra remote still features a headphone jack — and the whole shebang comes with a nice pair of JBL earbuds.
The stick to get
Not quite as powerful as the Ultra — and in a smaller form factor — this stick plugs straight into your TV's HDMI port. It still does 4K resolution and HDR. But it lacks and Ethernet port and external storage. It does, however, work with Wifi 5 (aka 802.11ac). If you're going to get a Roku stick, this is the one to get over the newer Roku Premiere. (Which does 4K but has lesser network connectivity.)
If you just have to have this form factor, it'll do you well. But a few extra dollars for the Ultra will go that much farther. If don't need 4K resolution, you can get away with a regular Streaming Stick.
You're basically looking at the same stick as the Plus. But this model tops out at 1080p resolution. While there definitely are times when you don't need 4K, you'll lose out on the extended Wifi — and we'd argue that's a bigger deal.
On the other hand, if the TV you'll be using doesn't do 4K and is close to a wireless router with a good connection, then maybe $50 is all you need to spend.
Roku Premiere is the newest mini-box in the bunch. It lands at just $39 and does 4K resolution, but its wireless networking tops out at Wifi 4 (aka 802.11n). That's a really weird combination, and it's something we can't really recommend. Video at 4K resolution needs a lot of bandwidth. And very few among us have ever said "Ya know, I wish I had less bandwidth." You've got to be pretty secure in your wireless network to want to save $20 that badly. And let's face it, most Roku customers probably aren't too picky about their packets.
If you need 4K in a smaller (and less expensive) form factor, we'd go with the Roku Streaming Stick+ instead. That extra $20 may mean the difference between annoying buffering, and smooth streaming.
This is exactly the same product as the Roku Premiere, only it includes a voice remote, and is sold exclusively at Walmart. Otherwise, same great 4K, same lesser Wifi.
And the same recommendation rules apply. Snag this if you know you don't need better Wifi. Otherwise, we'd pass.
The Roku Express has been redesigned for 2019, and it's definitely a looker. That's not just a cosmetic thing, too — Roku says the new Express should blend in better with your entertainment center and has a 10 percent smaller footprint.
It comes with a USB power cord and wall plug, but Roku says the vast majority of televisions should be able to power it just fine via its onboard USB port. Roku's also thrown in an HDMI cable, which isn't bad given the Express' price point.
The Express still tops out at 1080p resolution, with wifi limited to 802.11n. But, again, you've gotta look at that price. This is a great entry-level streaming player.
A smart buy
TCL makes the best Roku TVs you can buy. And they're getting even better in 2020. First there's the new 8-Series, which is TCL's first QLED display. It's got a price to match — $1,999 for a 65-incher, and $2,999 for 75 inches — but this is a high-end set, and it should be the one to beat for a good while. Plus it's running the Roku operating system. That means no need for an additional stick, which is helpful in certain niche cases — I have one of these mounted on a porch — or if you just want to keep things really simple.
The 6-Series is getting a QLED refresh as well, but it'll still keep the affordable price, starting at under $600.
So this much is true: Roku TVs — which already make up 1 in 3 smart TVs sold in the U.S. — will continue to reign. Count on it.
These bookshelf-style speakers are made specifically for use with Roku players. They come with a voice remote and a new tabletop remote control. Each powered speaker has a single tweeter and a single woofer. And as you'd judge from the price, you're probably not going to get the world's best sound out of these things. We'll just have to see once we have them, though. (And for what it's worth, Roku says we'll be surprised.
More odd is that these speakers only work with Roku-powered televisions. There are a lot of those, to be sure, but note that they do not currently work with any other Roku devices.
How to find the best Black Friday deals on Roku
The holidays are here already. (Yes, they get here sooner every year.) And that means that we're all looking for deals on all the things. And that especially applies to Roku, both on the streaming player side of things as well as with Roku TVs.
So should you expect Black Friday deals on Roku? Most definitely. Roku has announced its official list of Black Friday Deals, and we'll see the new Roku Ultra on sale for a ridiculous price, as well as deep discounts on the Roku Streaming Stick+ and the new Roku Smart Soundbar. Check out the full list of Roku Black Friday Deals here.
And then there's the matter of Roku TVs. We'd absolutely expect to see them on sale for Black Friday, with the possibility of taking a hundred dollars (or more, if we're lucky) off models like the TCL 6-Series, and maybe even the outstanding new TCL 8-Series.
Stay tuned. Black Friday is coming.
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