By Kaitlyn Wylde
June 09, 2020
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If you’re still clinging to your cable subscription or your ex's Netflix account because you're under the impression that streaming devices are all expensive, you'll want to look into Roku — like, yesterday. Roku is an affordable entertainment service that has an expansive library, featuring more than 500,000 movies and TV shows. Instead of paying for thousands of channels when you only watch a handful, you can customize your experience to streamline the content you actually want to see.

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To use most Roku systems, all you need is a TV with an HDMI connection. But even if you have a prehistoric TV, the Roku Express + model comes with composite audio and video connectors so that you can bring your TV up-to-date without replacing it. In total, there are seven different kinds of Roku models, each providing varying degrees of capability and connectivity. From high speed to high definition, there’s a Roku device for all viewing preferences. Unlike many other streaming devices, Roku devices are all under $100 and can be easily purchased online or in electronic stores.

Once you pick the device that’s right for you and connect it to your TV, you can instantly start curating the home screen of your dreams. Add the channels you like, search for the movies you want to see, or watch live news coverage, all with one simple interface that’s purposefully engineered to make sense to today’s viewer.

How to pick the best Roku device for you

Roku Express ($29.99)

This is the most basic and affordable model. This device can attach directly to your TV’s HDMI port so you can enjoy a wire-free set up — though it does come with an HDMI cable if you prefer to connect that way. It also comes with a simple remote that has four shortcut buttons, so you can literally rely on one tap streaming. The picture quality is 1080 pixel HD and customers appreciate how straightforward this model is and how reliable the quality is.

Roku Express+ ($39.99)

This upgraded model comes with a voice activated remote that also has proper TV controls (channel, volume) and a high-speed HDMI cable included. If you don’t want to have to use a separate remote for controlling the TV, this option will simplify your set up.

Roku Premiere ($39.99)

If picture quality is important to you, this 4K and HDR video capable option will be most appealing. If you’re a 4K lover you’ll also appreciate the dedicated 4K channel that helps direct you to all the best 4K content that’s available across all apps.

Roku Streaming Stick + ($49.99)

The stick model is the express option. You can connect this device directly into the HDMI port and it is compatible with 4K TVs. This option comes fully loaded with brilliant picture quality, a voice control remote, and a dual-band wireless processor for enhanced speed. Plus, the remote control has 4x range.

Roku Streaming Stick + Headphone Edition ($59.99)

If you like everything the Streaming Stick has to offer, but are looking for an enhanced voice remote with TV controls (volume, channel buttons) and headphones for better audio control, this is the model for you.

Roku Ultra LT ($79.99)

If wireless capabilities and speed are important to you, the Ultra LT is the tier you’re looking for. It’s the fastest Roku device, with top image quality, extra storage, and it comes with a pair of headphones too.

Roku Ultra ($99.99)

Roku’s top of the line device comes with everything its predecessors boast, plus premium JBL headphones and a remote finder function — which is a game changer.

Roku TV (prices vary)

Roku TV is the software embedded into over 100 smart TV models from top TV manufacturing brands like Sharp, TCL, Philips, JVC, Westinghouse, Hitachi. Roku TV is basically an iPhone/Android app on the big screen. The Roku operating system offers a simplified and unified viewing experience. If you want Alexa or Google to turn on your TV and queue up your favorite show, this is the kind of future TV you’ll want to look into. The picture quality of the Roku TVs range from HD and 4K to High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Vision. Although it’s a more pared-down TV experience than what you might be used to, it’s still highly customizable.

So you bought a Roku and want to know how to get casting — here’s how

The first time you use the device it requires a brief set up. First, verify that the device and Roku are on the same WiFi network. Next, ensure that the app you want to cast from is installed on both phone and TV/Roku devices. From there, process is the same for casting all videos:

  1. Go to Roku app on a mobile device, find the content you want to cast.
  2. Click the casting icon (usually in the corner).
  3. Choose Roku when prompted to select a device.
  4. The appropriate Roku channel/app will launch and casting will begin.

Roku Ultra vs. Roku Streaming Stick Plus: Which one is better?

Roku Streaming Stick Plus is a better bang for your buck. Because content is the same across all devices, so long as you have good WiFi, the difference in buffering speed shouldn't be an issue. Customers frequently praise the device’s speed regardless, and the easy set up, and minimal buffering time.

What can I watch on Roku?

You’ll find a mix of free channels, like NBC News, and subscription channels, like HBO Now. Unlike your cable subscription, if you realize there’s a channel you’re paying for that you’re no longer interested in, you can easily cancel your subscription without ever having to pick up the phone, and without any penalties or guilt trips. If you have a cable subscription, you can log onto it via the provider’s app to get access to the cable networks you’re paying for, without having to use a cable box.

Examples of available channels

Big-Name "On Demand" TV

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • AppleTV+
  • Disney Plus
  • Prime Video
  • HBO NOW
  • Showtime
  • YouTube TV
  • Sling TV
  • Fox News

Free Movie Channels

  • Pluto TV
  • The Roku Channel
  • PBS
  • Stirr
  • Tubi
  • XUMO
  • Crackle
  • Hoopla

Free Kid-Friendly Channels

  • PBS Kids
  • Sesame Go
  • Phonics for Kids
  • Classic Cartoon TV
  • Pokémon TV

Music

  • Spotify
  • iHeartRadio
  • Pandora
  • Amazon Music
  • more

International Channels

  • Telemundo
  • Euronews
  • Greek TV
  • Encore (Chinese)

Sports Channels

  • ESPN
  • Fubo TV (soccer)
  • WWE
  • NFL
  • Fox Sports
  • NBA
  • MLB

Travel Channels

  • Tastemade
  • National Parks
  • RV Road Trips

Is Roku worth the money?

Though you will likely need to pay for a few channel subscriptions to get the full experience (especially if you are eliminating your cable subscription), because the device itself is so inexpensive and you can cancel subscriptions at any time, it’s absolutely worth the money. Users love the devices and find that even the most basic model is more than effective.

How much does Roku cost?

You can score a Roku for $29.99 to $99.99.

Where to buy Roku

Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Kohl's, and Staples all sell Roku devices. Some retailers even have exclusives on certain devices. For instance, you can only buy the Roku Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition at Best Buy and the Roku Ultra LT at Walmart.

Does Roku offer a military discount or student discount?

Roku currently doesn’t offer military or student discounts, although some retailers where Roku devices are sold might offer them.