Beginner’s Guide to Roku

Learn all about Roku, and discover what device might be best choice for your at-home TV setup
  • Best Image Quality (4K)

    Roku Ultra

    Price:
    $99.99
    Standout Feature:
    4K HDR video with Dolby Vision for high quality, vivid video.
  • Best Audio Experience

    Roku Streambar

    Price:
    $129.99
    Standout Feature:
    Four built-in full-range speakers for increased sound quality.
  • Best Budget Buy

    Roku Express

    Price:
    $29.99
    Standout Feature:
    Affordable option for 1080p Full HD content to your TV.
  • Best with Headphones

    Roku Streaming Stick+

    Price:
    $59.99
    Standout Feature:
    Includes earbuds that can be plugged into the remote for private listening.

If you want to stream the biggest shows and the latest blockbusters, you’ll need a way to get your favorite entertainment to your television.

Roku offers one of the most popular methods available to obtain shows and movies, and we’ve got a guide to help you get started.

Whether you’ve purchased a Roku in the past or are just getting started, we’ll help you discover how Roku works and what content you can access.

We’ll also discuss the different Roku devices available and help you decide which might be best for your needs.

How does Roku work?

Family watching Roku TV

Image Source: Roku

Roku is a streaming media platform that allows you to access your favorite online movie and TV services, such as Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Showtime, Hulu, and ESPN.

By streaming content to your television, you won’t need to worry about waiting for content to download; you can hit Play and instantly begin watching.

The best part about Roku is that you won’t need to spend time playing with wires behind your entertainment center; just plug-in power and connect Roku to your TV via HDMI, and you are ready to rock.

Roku connects to the internet and most Roku devices will utilize a Wi-Fi connection, but select units offer the ability to use a wired ethernet connection for a more reliable experience.

If you’re unsure whether your internet connection is sufficient for streaming, be sure to take a look at our comprehensive internet speed and streaming guide.

What can I stream with Roku?

Roku Remote in popcorn

Image Source: Roku

The Roku platform has been around for over a decade now, so there are a plethora of different channels available for download.

Whether you want to relax with some free content, stream television shows from your favorite paid service, watch live tv or rent a movie; there are multiple options available for you.

You’ll likely run out of popcorn, candy, and soda before you run out of entertainment with Roku. While there are too many channels to call out, here are some of the options you can find.

Free Content

  • Roku Channel
  • Crackle
  • Pluto TV
  • Peacock
  • Tubi

News & Weather

  • CBS News
  • ABC News Live
  • CNN Go
  • Fox News Channel
  • WeatherNation

TV & Movies

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Disney+
  • HBO Max

International

  • Encore
  • Greek TV
  • Turkish TV
  • KOR TV
  • MHz Choice

Sports

  • ESPN
  • MLB
  • FOX SPORTS GO
  • NFL
  • NBA

Kids & Family

  • PBS KIDS
  • Kidoodle TV
  • Cartoon Network
  • Boomerang
  • Nick Jr.

If you want to dive into the best content Roku has to offer, be sure to also check out our guide on ten free hidden gems that you can uncover.

If you’re just cutting the cord and getting rid of cable, you may also want to take a gander at some of the top free news channels available.

What are the different Roku devices?

Roku streaming devices

Image Source: Roku

Roku offers a range of different devices depending upon your needs.

While all Roku devices provide access to the same great content, different devices provide varying picture quality, wireless connectivity, and support for surround sound.

So, whether you have a 1080p HD television with built-in speakers or a 4K Ultra-HD television with Dolby Atmos surround sound, we’ll help you make the best decision.

Important features to consider

Picture Quality: When purchasing your Roku device, you’ll have the option between units that support 1080p HD and 4K Ultra-HD; choose the highest standard that your television supports for the best picture quality.

Wireless Connectivity: Roku can connect to the internet using your Wi-Fi connection. All Roku devices offer sufficient connection speeds, but those looking to stream 4K Ultra-HD content may wish to opt for 802.11ac, Dual-band with MIMO, which will help to ensure a smooth playback experience.

Roku Remote: Roku offers three different remotes: a standard remote to control your Roku unit, an upgraded remote that provides voice control for easy navigation, and a final option that includes both voice control and a built-in headphone jack–great for watching TV late at night when you don’t want to disturb others in your home.

Virtual Assistant: You can control your Roku device using a smart home assistant, such as Alexa or Hey Google. Keep an eye out, though, as if you wish to use Apple HomeKit with Siri, not all devices offer support.

External Ports: All Roku boxes offer an HDMI connection and a power cable, but some units provide a few extra ports. If you want the most stable internet connection and you have the option to run an ethernet cable, select a Roku box with ethernet.

Other options include MicroSD card slots and USB ports, two great ways to play content you may have stored on a MicroSD card or USB flash drive.

To make your decision more effortless than ever, we’ve assembled all of Roku’s streaming sticks and boxes in a convenient to interpret chart so that you can purchase with confidence.

Roku DevicePicture QualityWireless ConnectivityRemoteExternal Ports
Roku Express
Roku Express
1080p HD802.11 b/g/n, Single-band (Fast)Standard RemoteNone
Roku Express 4K
Roku Express 4K
4K, 1080p HD, HDR802.11ac, Dual-band (Faster)Standard RemoteNone
Roku Express 4K+
Roku Express 4K+
4K, 1080p HD, HDR802.11ac, Dual-band (Faster)Remote with Voice ControlNone
Roku Streaming Stick+
Roku Streaming Stick+
4K, 1080p HD, HDR802.11ac, Dual-band, MIMO (Fastest)Remote with Voice ControlNone
Roku Streaming Stick+ HE
Roku Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition
4K, 1080p HD, HDR802.11ac, Dual-band, MIMO (Fastest)Remote with Voice Control and Headphone JackNone
Roku Ultra LT
Roku Ultra LT
4K, 1080p HD, HDR802.11ac, Dual-band, MIMO (Fastest)Remote with Voice Control and Headphone JackEthernet and MicroSD
Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra
4K, 1080p HD, HDR, Dolby Vision802.11ac, Dual-band, MIMO (Fastest)Remote with Voice Control and Headphone JackEthernet and USB

What about Roku Streambar?

Most Roku devices will utilize your television or entertainment center’s existing speakers, but Roku now offers Streambar and Streambar Pro, two options if you want to upgrade your audio experience with your purchase. Streambar sits directly underneath your television, acting as both a Roku streaming box and a soundbar.

If you purchased a Roku Streambar, you can also add a wireless subwoofer for extra bass; recommended for those who love action films and music videos. If your existing sound system is lacking, Roku Streambar and Roku Wireless Subwoofer can step it up a notch.

Roku DevicePicture QualityWireless ConnectivityRemoteExternal Ports
Roku Streambar
Roku Streambar
4K, 1080p HD, HDR802.11ac, Dual-band, MIMO (Fastest)Remote with Voice ControlEthernet (via USB adapter) and USB
Roku Streambar Pro
Roku Streambar Pro
4K, 1080p HD, HDR802.11ac, Dual-band, MIMO (Fastest)Remote with Voice Control and Headphone JackEthernet (via USB adapter) and USB

What is Roku TV?

If you’re in the market for a new television, you can purchase a tv with Roku built-in. Roku TVs are available from a number of well-known international brands, including TCL, Philips, Hisense, JVC, Westinghouse, and more. The best reason to purchase a Roku TV is the ease of setup and lack of any external boxes, which allows for a clear appearance; however, it is important to note, that, unlike external boxes, you won’t be able to upgrade your built-in Roku experience in the future if desired.

Roku accessories to consider

Out of the box, Roku units come with everything you need to get started–except a television, of course, you’ll need to provide that! However, there are a few accessories that you can add to make your Roku experience just that much better. Here are some of our favorite accessories available for Roku.

Roku Voice Remote: If you purchased a Roku unit without a voice control remote, you can now add the Roku Voice Remote on after the fact. Grab either the Roku Voice Remote with accessible voice control or the Roku Voice Remote Pro, which offers both voice control and a 3.5mm audio jack for plugging in your favorite headphones.

Sideclick Universal Remote Attachment: One of the things we wished Roku would have included on its remote is a way to control your television’s power, input, and volume. Luckily, the folks at Sideclick had the same thought. The Sideclick Universal Remote Attachment clips onto your Roku remote and adds the controls that should have always been available.

Protective Case for Roku Remote: Don’t damage your precious Roku remote! Using a protective case, you can increase your grip while also helping to mitigate drop damage. This fancy option also glows in the dark to help you find your Roku remote when the house lights go down. Note that you can’t use this accessory with the Sideclick Universal Remote Attachment we recommended previously.

TotalMount for Roku Express / TotalMount for Roku Ultra: If you don’t have room to place a Roku unit on your television stand or entertainment center, then a mounting solution from TotalMount might be the perfect solution. No screws or complicated tools are needed; simply mount your Roku to the rear of your television using the included adhesive pads.