(UPDATED 2019)

We understand that getting a new electronic can sometimes  have a huge learning curve these days. These devices literally come packed with so many different settings, features, hidden features and functions.

It hard to wrap your head around, especially when it comes down to streaming media players.

The one we are going over in this ultimate resource guide is the popular Roku Streaming Player.

By the way is our highest recommended cord cutting device for streaming media content online. The Amazon Fire TV products  aren’t too far in comparison to the Roku devices.

We’ll cover some of the Roku basics, how does Roku work, different model options, features, comparison, price breakdowns and more!  

What is Roku?

Plain and Simple, Roku is a Streaming Media Player that is best targeted and suited for cord cutters (People getting rid of cable TV services)!

It allows you to convenient stream and watch content online on your TV through various free and paid services.

You access these services through the many apps found on the Roku device. There are over 4000+ channels free and paid channels ranging from movies, TV shows, music and live TV!

Sling TV, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, FUBO and Google Play are just a few popular names to mention that can be found and conveniently accessed

It’s also another  way to convert a regular TV into a smart TV but better. Essentially a “Smart TV” is just a TV with a bunch of apps right?

As a fellow cord cutter, I always highly recommend a combination of a streaming media player and a TV antenna. These two products are the backbone foundation to getting you started in cutting cable services.

It’s also relatively easy to setup as well. Just think of it as a box or stick (smaller version) that easily plugs into the back of your TV (HDMI port). Turn it on, connect it your internet, set up a FREE Roku account and start streaming!

Pretty dang awesome!

Also, Roku were pretty much the first ones to revolutionize streaming to TV.  They are still leading the way!

Best Roku Model to Buy?

This is always a tough question because it really depends on your situation. Luckily, most companies always offer different models that would fit each customer’s needs.

We’ll break down some of the different models you can choose, unique selling points and targeted audience.

First, with all brands come with a few certain commonality of features that can be found in each model.

Common Roku Features

  • Roku OS User Interface: Provides the same user experience
  • Provides over 4000+ free and paid channels
  • All Roku devices connect via HDMI
  • All Roku devices fully support 1080p HD video and above
  • All Roku devices can be controlled with the free Roku phone app
  • Each Roku also supports wireless internet connections in 802.11 (b/g/n)
  • Each model comes with the Roku signature style remote (some models may have extra features)

Best Recommend Roku Devices (Updated 2019)

  • Roku Ultra – (Editor’s Choice & Best Overall)
  • Roku Streaming Stick+ – (Best Size & Portability)
  • Roku Premiere & Premiere+ – ( Best 4K or less)
  • Roku TV  – (Best Roku and TV combination)

Each option is relatively cheap, under $100 except for the Roku TV options out there.. This is always going to be higher because YOU ARE buying a TV with Roku included

We’ve listed the popular upcoming brand that is pretty decent in price and quality.

Roku Ultra

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Editor’s Choice & Best Overall)

roku ultra streaming media player pros and consIf money isn’t an issue and you want the best of the best. You should look no further than the Roku Ultra.

This is Roku’s flagship product and overall our highest recommended streaming media player from SMASHCABLENOW.

Keep in the mind the Roku Streaming Stick+ is also our next recommended Roku product due to its size, power, portability and price! The little brother of the Roku Ultra

The Roku Ultra Specifications:

  • Access to 500,000+ movies and TV episodes, with search across 1,000+ top channels
  • 1080p HD, 4K UHD up to 2160p at 60fps, HDR10, HLG
  • DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Audio and Dolby ATMOS pass through over HDMI; Digital stereo over HDMI
  • Remote with TV power and volume control
  • Works with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • 802.11ac dual-band MIMO, Ethernet 10/100
  • Premium JBL headphones, remote finder, gaming buttons, headphone jack, microSD/USB/Ethernet ports
  • Free Roku mobile app with remote control, private listening and voice search

✅ Roku Ultra: Pros & Cons

👍🏼 Pros 

  • USB Port For Additional Storage
  • Easy User Interface
  • Universal Search Function
  • 4k HDR Performance
  • Headphone Jack in Remote!

👎🏼 Cons

  • Doesn’t have Dolby Vision Support
  • Larger than other models available

Why the Roku Ultra?

The Roku Ultra is for a cord cutter who is looking at this as an investment toward their entertainment. As we stated above, if money isn’t an issue and you want the best of the best then we recommend getting this flagship product

We always recommend spending just a bit more than your budget to get the better equipment that would withstand upcoming products and have the performance you need

Besides, just a few months of using Roku ultra versus cable will already pay for itself over time. Just think about it!

Roku Streaming Stick+

(Best Size & Portability)

roku streaming stick pros and consRoku Streaming Stick+ in comparison to the Amazon Fire TV stick in size and functionality.

It’s the litter brother to Roku Ultra and is our second pick in the Roku product line. The price is inexpensive to its other counterparts.

The size of the device is very light, portable and is ready for plug and play. It’s great for moving from one TV to another quickly and frequent travelers who are always on the go.

The focus of Roku has been geared toward smaller size hardware, so there will be more software improvements and updates for this model.

Roku Streaming Stick+ Specifications

  • Access to 500,000+ movies and TV episodes, with search across 1,000+ top channels
  • 1080p HD, 4K UHD up to 2160p at 60fps, HDR10, HLG
  • DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Audio, and Dolby ATMOS pass through over HDMI; Digital stereo over HDMI
  • Remote with TV power (Voice and volume control for Premiere+)
  • Works with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • Free Roku mobile app with remote control, private listening and voice search

✅ Roku Streaming Stick+ Pros & Cons

👍🏼 Pros

  • Size, light-weight, portability
  • Inexpensive model, comparable to Amazon Firestick
  • 4K HDR Capable
  • Great performance based on size
  • Remote controls TV power and volume

👎🏼 Cons

  • No Headphone Jack on Remote
  • Limited Search Function

Roku Premiere & Premiere+

Roku Premiere - how does roku work

 

The two Roku Premiere models are the next runner ups. It’s competitive in pricing when compared with the Roku Streaming Stick+.

There are a few differences in features and functions. The basic premiere model is missing the more enhanced remote functions such as voice remote and volume control for the TV

The Premiere+ is basically the same model but with the advanced remote, which the Roku Streaming Stick+ and Roku Ultra model comes stock with.

Who is this for?

This is a great model if you’re looking for a lightweight, portable device that gives a nice punch. Handles 4K UHD resolution and HDR very well.

If you’re comparing the Premiere vs Premiere+ then get the Premiere+ due to the advanced remote. Voice and volume control comes in handy!

If we had to nudge you in a certain direction, we recommend just getting the Roku Streaming Stick+ over the Premiere and Premiere+.

Roku Streaming Stick+ Specifications

  • 1080p HD, 4K UHD up to 2160p at 60fps, HDR10, HLG
  • DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Audio, and Dolby ATMOS pass through over HDMI; Digital stereo over HDMI
  • Works with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Advanced wireless receiver for up to 4X the range
  • 802.11ac dual-band MIMO
  • Free Roku mobile app with remote control, private listening and voice search

✅ Roku Streaming Stick+ Pros & Cons

👍🏼 Pros

  • Small, lightweight, portable
  • Inexpensive, competitively priced
  • Handles 4K, UHD content
  • Great entry level device
  • Comes with a premium HDMI Cable

👎🏼 Cons

  • Premiere model doesn’t have advance remote yeah
    (solved by upgrading to Premiere+ or using the Free Roku App)
  • No dual-band connectivity

Roku Express

The Roku Express is the last and final model. It’s a great entry-level model and of course the cheapest, not by much.

If streaming media content is really not your priority and you wanted to dabble just a bit into it.

This model is for you.

However, if you pay just a little bit more for either the Premiere+ or Streaming Stick+. The difference in price would completely outweigh the functions and future potential usage.

How Does Roku Work?

how does roku work: channels storeThe Roku Products come with the remote, streaming media device, HDMI cable and all power connections.

It’s simple to set up.

  1. Power up the Roku Device with included AC adapter
  2. Connect to the back of your TV with an HDMI cable
  3. Let is startup
  4. Connect to your wireless internet connection
  5. Create a free Roku account & activate your device

After quickly setting up the device, you’ll be presented with a nice and easy to use Roku interface.

Roku also has the largest, most extensive list of free, paid channels and even games to choose from.

as a note: streaming services, photo, themes, games are considered as channels

You’ll see all that in the initial boot up of the Roku, everything is easily accessible.

So, Roku essentially works as a middle man, connecting you to all available free and paid channels, which then allows you to stream media content online to your TV.

Media content could be anything ranging from movies, TV shows, sports, music and more.

We’ll break down some more examples in the next section, but to give you an example.

You can stream free or paid programming from services such as

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • Google Play
  • HBO,
  • SHOWTIME
  • PBS
  • YouTube

There are tons of channels to choose from such as ranging from news, sports, international, kids. You’ll also find broadcasted channels such as ABC, NBC, FOX.

Popular Roku Channels

We actually have an article on 20 Best Roku Channels here. However, we are going to list some popular free choices if you were to get a Roku device.

  • The Roku Channel
  • Pluto TV
  • Crackle
  • PBS
  • Comet
  • NewonTubiYoutube
  • Roku Pricing & Cost Breakdown

Roku Media Streaming Product

Roku devices start as low as $29.99 and above but nothing more than $100. It’s pretty cheap and competitively priced compared to other streaming media players.

One notable competitor would be Amazon with its Amazon Fire TV product line.

The other more expensive alternatives are Nvidia Shield (Android based) and Apple TV.

How Much Per Month?

Roku has a large number of free channels to select from. You could use Roku itself without any monthly fees if you’re happy with just the free channel content.

Roku featured free section, how much per monthThere is a cool section in Roku called the “Featured Free”, where you can find a good number of cool shows & movies.

Here are some free channels that provide some really good content as well

  • Roku Channel
  • Crackle
  • YouTube
  • PBS
  • Crunchyroll
  • Popcornflix

Check our post on the Best 20 Free Roku Channels. This may be all you ever need, so go and check that out.

To some, you might need to add a premium streaming service like SlingTV, FUBU, Netflix, Hulu for more up to date premium content.

Check out our post on 30+ streaming services and alternatives to cable TV.

This could run anywhere from as low as $9.99 to $60ish, depending on the service and add-ons. However, this is still a better alternative to cable TV

Roku VS Smart TV?

Lets just first breakdown what a smart TV is before we go any further.

A “Smart TV’ is basically just any standard TV with additional programming such as apps, built-in Wi-Fi, where you can connect anywhere in your house.

You’ll easily recognize some of the apps since they are the popular ones such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO, YouTube to name a few. However, it’s not an extensive list and usually only have the bare minimum.

Keep in mind that TV manufacturers sole focus isn’t the maintenance of apps, it’s producing TVs. Whereas, a company such as Roku produces a streaming media player with the sole purpose of providing more channels, updates and constant OS/Interface revisions.

You’ll find that with Smart TVs, the app interface is more clunky, limited selections and potential for stagnant updates.

We’ll just list the advantages here of a Roku over a smart TV

  • A large list of channels (apps)
  • Consistent updates & revisions
  • Easy to use interface
  • Fast and smooth
  • Roku is cheaper to replace than an outdated Smart TV

Roku VS Cable TV?

Time has changed the way we view TV now due to the changes in technology, the way we communicate and just the way life is now….

Cable TV does offer more convenience and ease where all you needed to do was sit back, turn on the TV and flip through channels until you found something good.

The experience is much different when using a Roku or any other related streaming device.

You’re usually actively scrolling and looking of specific movies, TV shows you can stream on demand. The same applies to live TV, where you are searching for a certain channel versus channel flipping.

However, with the price increases in cable and the available time we have to watch TV. We don’t really need cable with those extra 200+ channels.

Who has time for that anyways…..

The Roku provides a lot of what we need nowadays with just the free channels and maybe 1 or 2 premium services at the fraction of the price of cable.

I know it might seem bias, but we are cord cutters after all 😛 Roku for the Win!

Roku Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does Roku cost?