NOTE: The information below relates to the Roku models available in the U.S. as of November 2020. Models available in other locations may differ in price, features, and supported content providers.
Here are some other features that are common to all the models:
This section explains what the main differences are between the various Roku models. Each model includes all the features of the less expensive ones unless otherwise stated. Roku lets you compare up to three models on their website and you can also find most of them at amazon.com/roku.
This is the most basic of the models, so it doesn’t have as high tech specs or most of the advanced features of the others.
Here are the main benefits of the Premiere over the Express model.
Here are the main benefits of the Streaming Stick+ over the Express and Premiere models.
The Ultra is Roku’s top-of-the-line model and includes the following benefits over the other models:
NOTE: In addition to the standalone Roku players, you can also get Roku televisions, manufactured by TCL and Hisense in multiple sizes, that have Roku capabilities built into them. Their on-screen interface is basically the same as the players’, with a few extra boxes for the various inputs (HDMI, A/V, cable, antenna). The available features may vary based on the model.
The main advantage of a Roku TV is that it eliminates one remote from your home entertainment setup. The main disadvantage is that it’s more expensive than any of the separate players. So they can be a great option if you’re already looking to buy a new set but, if you’re not, you’re probably better off getting the specific player you want.
Watch Streaming Videos
Roku’s biggest differentiator is the sheer number of channels it offers. (“Channels” is the term Roku uses for what some other streaming players call “apps.”) They no longer give a specific number of channels in their public directory, but it’s well into the thousands, including the top ones for movies and TV programming: Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+,HBO MAX, Google Play, PBS, Lifetime, YouTube, WatchESPN, WWE Network, etc. They also have channels for popular children’s, news, educational, comedy, fitness, food, and other categories of videos as well as niche content providers like ACORN TV (British series), JW Broadcasting (Christian), Crunchyroll (anime), and Pokémon TV (umm… do I really need to spell this one out? 🙂 )
Listen to Streaming Audio
The Roku supports lots of music and other audio services as well, including Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeart Radio, and Sirius XM.
There are many free and paid games available to play on the Roku, including highly popular ones like Angry Birds Toons, Sudoku, and Jeopardy. Note that if you want to play a lot of games, you may need the extra storage capacity that comes with the Roku Ultra model that has a slot for a Micro SD card.
Additional Notes about Roku Channels
I’ve mentioned the various premium channels a lot because that’s probably the number one reason people buy a Roku. But there are also many free channels available to use with the player, including advertising-supported services like Crackle. Others include highly popular services like Pandora for music and Facebook to view your photos and videos on your TV. There are also specialty channels, like Allrecipes.com and TEDTalks and some channels associated with broadcast and cable networks that make portions of their programming available for free through the Roku, such as CNN, PBS, and SyFy. And there are lots of non-video, audio, and games apps available including ones for social media, photo sharing, personal media serving, shopping, and weather info.
Browse through the channels and you may be surprised at all the additional services you can get. It took me a couple of years before I discovered that there’s an Amazon Music channel where I can play all the music I have uploaded there!
And if all those public channels aren’t enough for you, there’s a whole slew of private channels available that provide access to even more content, including iTunes Podcasts, CNN International, and NASA TV. You can find more info in this T4L post about Roku private channels.
Mirror a Mobile Device’s Screen
All of Roku’s models support screen mirroring for compatible Windows PCs and Android devices. This has a couple of benefits:
The Roku was the first streaming media player I bought (back in 2013/14 maybe?) and I didn’t even really know what it was when I got it. But I quickly learned to love it and it was what got me to start writing about streaming media on T4L.
There have been so many changes in the streaming world since then, both for devices and content, and these days I use my Fire TV Stick almost exclusively. Having said that, the Roku is an excellent product and is still probably the one you want if you’re interested in some of the more niche content providers. But even if you’re not, you can’t go wrong with this brand.
The process for setting up the Roku models is basically the same as it is for any streaming media player, with one addition:
Congratulations. You’re now ready to enjoy your Fire TV!
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