Best Roku to buy in 2021


While AmazonApple and Google all have impressive streaming players, I’ve found that nothing matches the simplicity and value of Roku products. The company stands out for its solid features, excellent performance and affordable pricing.

The company offers a large selection of Roku TV players including a basic $25 Express, the $30 midrange  Express 4K Plus and Streaming Stick 4K all the way to the top-tier $89 Ultra — not to mention soundbars and speakers. As a result, it may be confusing to know which model is the best Roku to buy for your needs. Fortunately, CNET is here to help.


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Which Roku is the go-to? We break it down



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The new Express 4K Plus is one of the cheapest streaming TV options with 4K HDR. (Even if your current TV doesn’t support those formats, your next one probably will.) Thanks to the AirPlay update, this Roku device is one of the least expensive ways to connect your iPhone or other Apple device to your TV. It lacks Dolby Vision support, but we think most people will be fine without that. At $40 (and currently $30 on sale), this Roku streaming device cheaper than the company’s Streaming Stick 4K and other 4K HDR streamers, so it’s our top Roku model pick.

Read our Express 4K Plus review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The successor to 2017’s Streaming Stick Plus, after years of waiting Roku finally gave the streamer an upgrade in 2021 with the Streaming Stick 4K. At $30, this Roku remains affordable, supports 4K HDR (and Dolby Vision) and takes advantage of the latest Roku features including Apple AirPlay for casting from an iOS or Mac device. 

We don’t think it’s worth more than the Express 4K Plus, but if you can find this Roku stick on sale and prefer this simpler Roku model design — or really want Dolby Vision support — it is still a good choice. 

Read our Streaming Stick 4K review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Roku Ultra is nearly identical to the Streaming Stick 4K as far as functionality, with a few additional streaming device features. It’s a box, not a streaming stick; it supports Ethernet for wired connectivity. Like the Streaming Stick 4K, it supports Dolby Vision and also has a few nifty remote features including an improved bundled controller that has a headphone jack and two programmable buttons plus a remote finder feature to help you locate it when it inevitably gets lost under the couch. 

Most will be happy saving the extra cash and getting an Express 4K Plus or Streaming Stick 4K, but if you want the best Roku has to offer, the Ultra is for you.

Read our Roku Ultra (2020) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Roku Express is the company’s most basic Roku model streamer, and it keeps things simple. It can use all the apps on Roku’s platform, but streams are limited to HD (not 4K) and the Roku TV remote is the bare-bones IR option that lacks Roku remote voice controls and requires you to point at the tiny box. It’s not a flashy Roku model, but it gets the job done and comes with everything you might need (including an HDMI cable) in the box. At the time of writing, though, it’s nearly the same price as the Express 4K Plus and Streaming Stick 4K, so just get one of those.

Read our Roku Express (2019) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Looking for an audio upgrade as well as a new Roku? Check out the Streambar. This compact soundbar plugs into your TV’s HDMI ARC port, improving the sound for all of your sources from cable boxes to game consoles. The best part is of this Roku player that it’s also a 4K HDR-capable Roku streamer itself. We’ve found the Streambar easy to set up, and it sounds good for the size, particularly with dialogue. If you want stronger bass, however, consider adding Roku’s wireless subwoofer ($180).

Read our Roku Streambar review.

 

For improving your Roku experience

Voice Remote Pro

Sarah Tew/CNET

The $30 Voice Remote Pro isn’t a streaming service player, but it can give your Roku streaming device a nice boost. Like the enhanced remote that comes with the Ultra it adds a few new features like a rechargeable battery and a 12-foot mid-field microphone. The latter is particularly useful for being able to say “Hey Roku, find my remote” and having the device beep so you can find it if it’s lost under the couch cushions. 

Read our Voice Remote Pro review.

 

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