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What is Roku? Devices, Differences, Prices, & More

If you've got questions about the Roku device, then you're in the right place. Read on for more information about the streaming device below.

Hedy Phillips
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Roku

Roku is a TV streaming player and platform that houses all of your favorite apps like Netflix and Hulu in one place. You have your choice between streaming sticks and players, which you connect to your TV through an HDMI port. From there, all you need is a reliable internet connection and a Roku account. 

Roku also partners with TV manufacturers to house their platform on smart TVs. With it, you can access the Roku channel marketplace, where you can find your favorite Roku apps and channels. The design accounts for geography, providing a channel availability list based on your country of residence.

To complete the home entertainment package, Roku also offers soundbars and audio gear. You connect the soundbars to your TV through Bluetooth to enjoy crisp, studio-quality sound with your favorite programs. 

Overall, Roku's popularity continues to skyrocket. At the end of 2021, the platform surpassed more than 60 million active accounts, making it the number one Smart TV operating system available, beating out Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV.

With this in mind, our guide will cover how Roku works, the different Roku devices available, how much Roku costs, and what you can watch on the platform.

How does Roku Work?

Roku's newest devices make it easy to set up service quickly. How it works is you plug the HDMI cable into the unit, then plug the other cable to an HDMI port in your TV. After inserting the power adapter into the wall, it powers up the system.

From here, turn on your TV. You want to select the input that coincides with the HDMI port you used. Doing this accesses the platform, where you can connect to the internet. 

If you have Wi-Fi, you can use your network name and password to connect quickly and wirelessly. Upon doing this, you will follow the prompts to create a Roku account. For select Roku devices, you also can connect to the internet via an Ethernet cable or USB. 

Once connected, you will set up your Roku account. Follow the prompts to finish registration and activate the device. After activation, you have access to the Roku platform, where you can access apps and channels and even watch free titles on the Roku Channel. 

Meanwhile, Roku also has a built-in platform on specific TVs. With this, there is no need to connect any equipment. Instead, you access the Roku platform on your TV to enjoy your favorite apps with ease.

What are the Different Roku Devices?

There are a wide variety of Roku devices to accommodate you. Here is a list of their current offerings:

Roku Express ($30)

The Roku Express is a smart entry point for those who want access to streaming services but do not want to pay much for the device. It offers HD streaming, is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and offers an easy setup.

You plug the HDMI cable from the back of the device to your TV, follow the set up instructions, and you are good to go. 



Roku Express 4K+ ($40)

The Roku Express 4K+ offers HD, 4K, and HDR viewing, thanks to its high-speed HDMI cable. Your TV will need to have an HDMI input that supports HDCP 2.2, though. It also works with your other smart home devices, allowing convenient access to your favorite programs.



Roku Streaming Stick 4K ($50)

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is the ultimate in convenience, as you insert it into an HDMI port of your TV, making it perfect for mounted TVs. What's unique about this streaming stick is you can use AirPlay to stream media from your Apple device like videos, music, and photos.

The remote also has voice-command capabilities separating it from other Roku offerings. The device has a built-in long-range wireless receiver, so you can enjoy fast streaming quality even if your TV is in the basement and your Wi-Fi gateway is upstairs. 



Roku Ultra LT ($79)

The Roku Ultra LT, which is a Walmart exclusive, comes equipped with a quad-core processor, packing enough power to stream titles in HDR, HD, or 4K. It also has a private mode where you connect headphones to the remote to listen to shows with no disruptions.

Use the voice feature to find programs in a blink of an eye or connect your Apple device via AirPlay to browse photos, play music, and much more.



Roku Ultra ($100)

The premium offering from Roku, the Roku Ultra offers 50 percent more wireless range. It also has Dolby Vision, Bluetooth, and Dolby Atmos. Dolby Vision adjusts each scene to maximize color accuracy and detail. Meanwhile, Dolby Atmos allows you to experience 3D audio through your mobile device, mimicking what you would hear in movie theaters with surround sound.

Meanwhile, the Roku Ultra also offers lost remote assistance, private listening, and fast search capabilities. You can gain a lightning-fast internet connection through an Ethernet cable or USB. 

You can also connect your headphones in the remote to privately listen without any disruptions to anyone else in your household. It also responds to voice commands when controlling the TV or in private listening mode. Best of all, it offers unrivaled portability. You can take the box and remote control with you wherever you go.

As long as the TV has an HDMI port and you have reliable internet access, you can enjoy your favorite programs at your friend's house, the hotel, and other places.



Roku TV

With Roku TV, the platform is already built into the TV. There is no need to connect boxes or have a Roku streaming stick, as once you turn on the TV, connect to the internet, and set up a Roku account, you have access to the platform.

There are different TV manufacturers that partner with Roku, including Hisense, TCL, RCA, JVC, Westinghouse, Phillips, Sanyo, Element, onn., Magnavox, Hitachi, and others.

Here are some of the current models and price points, accounting for a variety of different sizes too:

Another benefit of a smart TV is there is no equipment. If you plan to mount your TV, you do not have to worry about wires or boxes, making for a cleaner setup. 



Roku Audio and Accessories

Roku Streambar ($130)

With Bluetooth connection, you connect the Roku Streambar to the TV with ease. One unique benefit is the simple sound controls. Quiet those blaring commercials or zero in on dialogue to better understand what you are watching.

It's also scalable, as you can connect other components to create a surround sound system capable of transforming your living room into an at-home movie theater. The soundbar is also compatible with voice assistants like Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Alexa. 



Roku Streambar Pro ($180)

The Roku Streambar Pro contains four internal speakers. And with Dolby Audio, you can fill your room with studio-quality sound. There is even a setting for night viewing, allowing you to enjoy your programs while not waking up anyone else in your home.

With Bluetooth-enabled streaming, listen to your favorite music, podcasts, or audiobooks with the press of a button. And to enhance sound quality, you can pair it with other Roku audio gear. 



Roku Wireless Speakers ($150)

If you want to boost your TV's sound, the Roku Wireless Speakers are an excellent addition. Pair these to your Roku TV or your Roku Streambar wirelessly through a Bluetooth connection, while the setup is quick and stress-free. The pair allows you to enjoy your favorite shows, music, and movies in rich sound quality. 



Roku Wireless Subwoofer ($180)

The Roku Wireless Subwoofer packs a powerful punch, with a 10-inch driver for bass that adds life to your TV's sound. You can set up the subwoofer by powering it on, then pairing it to your sound components. And with a 30-foot range, you have flexibility on where you can set it up too. 



Voice Remote Control ($20)

Access your favorite shows, adjust the volume settings, and more with the Roku Voice Remote, which is compatible with:

  • Roku 3

  • Roku 4

  • Roku Model Express

  • Roku Premiere

  • Roku Premiere +

  • Roku Streaming Stick (3600 and 3800)

  • Roku Streaming Stick+ (3810)

  • Roku Ultra

  • Roku Ultra LT

  • Roku TV

  • Roku Streambar 

Want Private Listening? Check out the Roku Voice Remote Pro, which is priced at $30. It comes with a headphone jack and a pair of Roku In-Ear Headphones, so you can watch TV late at night without disturbing your entire household.

Meanwhile, you can learn how to pair a Roku remote to a Roku compatible device here.



Roku In-Ear Headphones ($15)

With the Roku In-Ear Headphones, you can enjoy crisp sound. Plug them into your Roku remote, and you're good to go.

You can also buy cables, replace remotes, headphones, and much more. Roku has a brimming assortment of accessories to help you receive the most out of your streaming devices. 



What to Watch on Your Roku

Your Roku is an entertainment powerhouse, containing many of the most popular streaming services. You have access to Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, Prime Video, Starz, HBO Max, Sling TV, Peacock, and many more. You can access the listing of platforms here

Meanwhile, if you want free titles, find it on your Roku platform under "Featured Free." There you can access TV shows like Law & Order Special Victims Unit, This Is Us, General Hospital, The Bachelor, and more.

The free section also contains music, plus shows on premium networks and channels. Its current channel listing contains CBS, NFL, CBS Sports, WeatherNation, Reuters, the Black News Channel, NBC News Now, Haystack News, and more.

The Roku Channel

The Roku Channel offers a vast array of free titles. Access live TV through FilmRise, This Old House, WeatherNation, USA Today, TMZ, Lively Place, Newsy, and more. You can peruse Hollywood blockbusters, children's programming, classic films, and other programs. 

In the mood for classic TV? Then, check out The Beverly Hillbillies, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and many more. There are also classic sitcoms to view like Alf, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Who's The Boss?, Bewitched, The Facts of Life, Leave It To Beaver, NewsRadio, and more.Check out the titles currently available on The Roku Channel here

The Roku Channel interface is similar to what you find with Netflix and Hulu. You can browse titles under headings like New This Month, Recommended For You, Live TV, and more categories. Also, there is a search bar located at the top right of the screen, where you can find specific movies or shows. 

All told, The Roku Channel has something for everyone in your household, making it a great free option on its own. Pairing with it a multitude of channels and streaming apps gives you a platform that has almost limitless entertainment possibilities. 



Our Final Take

Overall, Roku's platform offers an exceptional array of titles from the most popular streaming platforms. You can have access to blockbuster movies, children's programming, and TV shows. 

If you need to save money, The Roku Channel is your ticket to many programming options, from classic sitcoms to Hollywood hits. Roku's convenience and device affordability make it an incredible deal for all households -- truly the best Roku device is whichever fits the best for you. If you are looking for other streaming device options, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast are also great choices.