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Which Roku is right for you? The top players and TV options compared

Roku players are known for providing instant access to all of your favorite content, but there are so many models to choose from. Which is the best one? ZDNET breaks down the pros, cons, and key features of all the top Roku players.
Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Allison Murray

The glossy black Roku box has been a popular staple in many homes since it first debuted in 2008, and it only continues to grow in popularity as it continues to evolve. Roku allows access to all of your favorite channels and video streaming services without the need for a pricey cable contract. With a single purchase of a Roku player, you have access to more than 500,000 movies and TV shows through different providers. 

As Roku continues to branch out, we surveyed its top models to find the best Roku players for your home that will save you money and simplify your home viewing. 

More: 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Voice commands
  • Extra remote features
  • Smart home compatible
Cons
  • Mediocre voice assistant
  • Not compatible with Twitch
More Details

Tech specs: Remote: Roku voice remote | Voice commands: Yes | Lost remote finder: Yes | Bluetooth streaming: Yes | Compatibility: Apple AirPlay, Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home

The Roku Ultra incorporates its traditional box design but is completely jam-packed with features. It is what Roku claims is its fastest and most powerful model. Thanks to a quad-core processor, there is an extremely fast interface that also utilizes the latest Wi-Fi technology with a built-in Ethernet option. There is also Dolby Vision® and Dolby Atmos® audio to enhance your experience. 

It also has the most modern remote, the rechargeable Roku Voice Remote Pro, that boasts hands-free voice controls and a rechargeable build. You have the ability to enjoy private and Bluetooth listening using your remote, in addition to typical remote functions like shortcuts and a find-my-remote feature. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Fantastic display
  • Excellent content
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Limited 60Hz refresh rate
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 65-inch Quantum ULED | Resolution: 4K (2160p) | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Brightness: 600 nits

If you need the best Roku TV, the Hisense 65-Inch U6GR ULED Roku TV is our pick. It combines a 4K QLED television with built-in Roku technology that includes popular apps, like Amazon, Disney, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube. Regardless of what you choose, there is an impressive 64.5-inch screen with Dolby Vison and Dolby Atmos for superior viewing, plus several other benefits, like game mode and filmmaker mode with both Alexa and Google Assistant built-in. Both USB and HDMI connectivity is available for easy set up with your Roku software already built in. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Simple to use
  • Companion app
  • Competitively priced
Cons
  • Missing Ethernet port
  • Slower operation
More Details

Tech specs: Remote: Roku Remote | Voice commands: No | Lost remote finder: No | Bluetooth streaming: No | Compatibility: Apple AirPlay, Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home

If you prefer a more simple Roku model or are on a budget, the Roku Express gets our pick for the best cheap Roku player. You still receive HD streaming with apps for all of your favorite channels, including Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, and Sling. 

You also get access to exclusive originals and live TV channels directly from The Roku Channel. Voice assistants are supported, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Home, but you can also just use the free Roku mobile app to work as a second remote and enjoy private listening with headphones. It is also easy to set up and use, thanks to a simple high-speed HDMI cable.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Superior audio
  • Compact size
  • 4K and HDR compatible
Cons
  • Lacks Dolby Vision
  • Mediocre bass
More Details

Tech specs: Remote: Roku voice remote | Voice commands: Yes | Lost remote finder: No | Built-in speakers: Dolby Audio | Picture quality: 4K HD

The Roku Streambar takes things one step further by adding superior audio to the mix. Enjoy four internal speakers with Dolby Audio, plus built-in 4K streaming with support for HD, 4K, and HDR picture. Use the audio settings to find exactly the right volume profile, and then choose your favorite channels to customize your home screen. The Roku Streambar has Netflix incorporated, in addition to Roku Originals and more than 300 live channels. 

Use the remote to easily make voice commands, allowing you to switch between channels seamlessly. There are also several connectivity options, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, and HDMI connections. For better listening, the Roku Streambar also works with the Roku Wireless Subwoofer and Roku Wireless Speakers.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Incorporated voice feature
  • Dolby Vision
  • 4K HDR
Cons
  • Lacks Dolby Atmos
  • Limited live TV
More Details

Tech specs: Remote: Roku voice remote | Voice commands: Yes | Lost remote finder: No | Bluetooth streaming: No

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K boasts 4K resolution, as the name suggests, but that is far from all. You also receive Dolby Vision with HDR10 picture that includes vibrant color with sharp resolution. It uses long-range Wi-Fi connectivity to allow access to over 275 channels, including Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max. 

With the Roku Channel, you will also get access to Roku Originals that you cannot find anywhere else. All it takes is a simple HDMI connection. The Roku remote makes it easy to perform a voice search, so you can easily find the right program. It will work with all your favorite voice assistants, too, whether it is Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

What is the best Roku player?

The best Roku player is Roku's fastest model, the Roku Ultra. It is a little box with big features that include both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio. 

To see how it stacks up, here is a comparison of the best Roku players. 

Best Roku pllayer

Price

Key features

Roku Ultra 

$90

Voice assistance, Bluetooth, lost remote finder

Hisense 65-Inch U6GR ULED Roku TV

$830

4K ULED TV 

Roku Express

$25

Basic Roku model

Roku Streambar

$130

Built-in soundbar, Dolby Audio

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

$40

Voice assistance, Wi-Fi, Dolby Vision

Which Roku player is right for you?

After a while, all Roku players can start to feel the same, so here are our expert recommendations to help you find the best Roku player for your needs. 

Choose this Roku player...

If you want...

Roku Ultra

A premium Roku worthy of your home theater

Hisense 65-Inch U6GR ULED Roku TV

A TV with a built-in Roku

Roku Express

A budget-friendly Roku player

Roku Streambar

A powerful soundbar with a built-in Roku

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

An affordable, convenient solution to Roku streaming

How did we choose these Roku players?

There are many different Roku players these days, so we took a targeted approach when surveying the best Roku models. We considered the number of channels available, as well as the features that each Roku has to offer. We also look at pricing to ensure that there is an option suitable for all different kinds of budgets. 

What is a Roku player?

A Roku is a small streaming device that allows access to live and on-demand content through different streaming apps. It is usually in the form of a small box or stick, but there are Roku players that are also available as streambars and TVs.

What can I watch on a Roku player?

Roku offers its own Roku Originals, while also serving as a vehicle to access other popular streaming services to which you may subscribe, like Netflix, Prime Video, Spotify, and Disney+. 

Are there alternative Roku players worth considering?

Our best picks are not the only Roku players available. These are some of the players that almost made our list of the best Roku players. 

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