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Best Roku devices 2021

best roku devices
(Image credit: Roku)

The best Roku devices have every single streaming service of note, and offer everything from inexpensive Full HD streaming, to premium 4K picture quality coming straight out of a soundbar. As long as you pick one of our favorite Roku sticks or players, you will get snappy streaming at a competitive price. 

Roku was one of the first big brands to develop a stand-alone streaming player, and now it's the top streaming platform in the industry, with Amazon Fire TV nipping at its heels. But, like any other product with a decade-plus history, Roku's lineup has gotten a little tangled, and has maybe one too many devices. Roku just announced two new devices, the Roku Express 4K Plus and the Roku Soundbar Pro, and we will decide if they make it to this list after reviewing them.

  • Check out the best Roku VPN to access more content

Roku sells sticks and boxes, budget gear and premium players, and even soundbars and speakers. Heck, there are even Roku TVs, but that's a conversation for another day.

Buy the best Roku streaming device for your setup, and your home will be filled with entertaining TV shows, movies and music. Buy the wrong one, and you could wind up with a bunch of bells and whistles you'll never need — or a device that does half as much as you need it to. 

On this page, we've singled out five different Roku devices for five different scenarios. This isn't to say that other Roku devices aren't worthwhile, but this is at least where you should start your search. Depending on what kind of TV you have, how fancy you want your remote to be, and how much money you want to spend, here are the five best Roku devices for your entertainment center.

(Image credit: Roku)

1. Roku Streaming Stick+

The best Roku device overall

Size: 3.7 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches | Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Ports: None | Remote: Voice remote | Device Type: Stick

Full 4K HDR capabilities
Huge app selection
Customizable interface
Remote lacks an audio jack
Search could be deeper

The Roku Streaming Stick+ is an extremely powerful little streaming stick, especially considering that it retails for only $50. This device features snappy navigation, full 4K resolution and a powerful wireless chip, meaning that you'll be able to load UHD content quickly and watch it without interruptions. You can search through hundreds of apps with the included voice remote, or connect via smartphone app for private listening. While the Roku Streaming Stick+ lacks all the bells and whistles of the fanciest Roku devices, that helps keep the price down and the experience streamlined. For most viewers, this device provides the best balance of form and function. That's why we named it the winner of the Tom's Guide Award for top streaming device.

Read our full Roku Streaming Stick+ review.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. Roku Ultra (2020)

The best premium Roku device

Size: 4.9 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches | Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Ports: Ethernet, USB | Remote: Enhanced voice remote | Device Type: Box

Great performance
Inventive remote control
USB port
Almost nothing new from last year's model

The Roku Ultra is expensive, but true to its name, it will give you the most comprehensive Roku experience that money can buy. As with other high-end Roku devices, you get thousands of channels, full 4K resolution and extremely fast navigation. But with the Ultra, you also get an Ethernet port for a steadier Internet connection, as well as a USB port to provide your own videos and music. 

Also, the 2020 Roku Ultra is a bit faster in places (though you might not notice it all the time) and offers improved wireless streaming range. The voice-enabled remote includes two programmable buttons, as well as a headphone jack for private listening, and a handy "remote-finder" feature if it gets lost in the couch cushions.

Read our full Roku Ultra (2020) review.

(Image credit: Roku)

3. Roku Premiere

The best Roku device for inexpensive 4K

Size: 3.3 x 1.4 x 0.7 inches | Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Ports: None | Remote: Standard IR remote | Device Type: Box

Excellent 4K HDR performance
Offers every major streaming app
Decent navigation
Awkward design
Subpar remote

Streaming gadgets that support 4K tend to be pretty expensive. Boxes that support UHD content can range up to $200. That's why the $40 Roku Premiere is such an attractive prospect. This gadget combines Roku's top-notch interface with the ability to stream 4K HDR content, for a lower price than any other UHD gadget from a major manufacturer. Just be aware that you'll have to make a few compromises: an odd design, an IR remote without voice search and somewhat slower navigation. Still, you'll save at least $10 over comparable devices, and you can put that money toward a few 4K movie rentals.
Read our full Roku Premiere review.

(Image credit: Roku)

4. Roku Express

The best cheap Roku device

Size: 3.0 x 1.5 x 0.8 inches | Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Ports: None | Remote: Standard IR remote | Device Type: Box

Improved design
Good performance
Customizable interface
Too light to sit still
Imprecise remote

The Roku Express has come a long way since its first iteration in 2016. Back then, the device was underpowered and inconveniently designed. Now, the Express is a worthwhile investment for 1080p TV owners who want the simplest streaming solution. At $30, the Roku Express is the cheapest streaming player from a major manufacturer, and you get plenty of features for that price. In addition to thousands of streaming channels and a highly customizable interface, you can access voice search and private listening through a smartphone app. The only big downside is the standard IR remote, which doesn't always always work as well as it should.
Read our full Roku Express review.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. Roku Smart Soundbar

The best Roku device for audiophiles

Size: 32.2 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches | Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Ports: Optical audio | Remote: Voice remote | Device Type: Soundbar

Good sound quality
Full Roku built in
Easy setup
Treble isn't a big step up
Slow navigation
Hard to gauge volume on non-Roku systems

With or without a streaming device attached, most flat-screen TVs simply don't have great speakers. The Roku Smart Soundbar solves two problems at once, by combining a high-quality sound system with a full Roku player. This device provides louder treble, more refined bass and a variety of options to enhance music, voices and other soundscapes. You can also pair the device with the Roku Wireless Speakers to create a surround sound system, or the Roku Wireless Subwoofer for room-thumping bass. The remote control is nothing fancy and the navigation could be snappier, but the Roku Smart Soundbar is a comprehensive device that takes almost no time to set up.
Read our full Roku Smart Soundbar review.

  • isamuelson
    We have both the Streaming Stick+ (in our living room) and a Fire TV 4K (in my man-cave where I have the surround sound set up, reclining couch, etc).

    We first got the Streaming Stick+ as I already had the 3rd gen Fire TV Pendent which was working fine for me. When I saw how the remote worked on the Streaming Stick+ to control our TV, I wanted to get one for my TV in the man-cave.

    But after numerous tests with my DTS decoder, I found that various MKVs that I ripped from my Blu-Ray collection would refuse to play from my Plex media server with the Roku Plex player app. I like to rip my audio as a full copy (rather than convert it to AC3, etc) so that when DTS is being passed through to my DTS decoder, I'm hopefully getting the best possible sound. My DTS decoder doesn't have an HDMI input/output so I have to feed it from the optical out from my TV to the decoder via pass-through.

    The Roku Plex app would play the video with no sound for some reason and I was unable to ever get it to work. However, my Fire TV 3rd gen had no issues what-so-ever with passing the DTS signal through to the DTS decoder. Also, the Fire TV Plex app had the option of doing either HDMI or Optical pass-through which might be the reason.

    Most of the movies are ripped in AC3 (since that's the original audio track), but for some reason, even some of those refuse to play through the Roku Plex app. I don't know if it's an issue with the Plex app on Roku or a Roku hardware/software limitation or a combination of both. I also discovered that some movies (John Wick 2) would refuse to play at all through the Roku but John Wick 1 and 3 worked fine on the Roku and they were all ripped the same way. For the Fire TV, all 3 movies played with no issues.

    So with that, I ordered the Fire TV 4K stick and I have been very pleased with it. Also, the voice commands with the remote allow me to switch from one HDMI port to another as well as to the cable port (where I have a digital antenna attached) so I no longer need the TV remote for anything, unless I want to change channels when watching over-the-air channels which is rare on my man-cave TV. Roku, when I try to tell it to switch to a different HDMI port, just tells me that the function is no implemented.

    The Roku works great for the upstairs living room though except when we want to watch some of the movies from the Plex media server that refuse to work on the Roku for some reason. It's going to depend on what you like (Amazon pushed content UI vs. a cleaner interface on the Roku).

    One thing I do like with the Roku is that when I want to search for free movies, it looks across all the different channels that would provide it and shows them first. For Amazon, it will only show content via Amazon Prime which is a shame but I understand that Amazon is trying to run a business with their Prime Video service. I also wish on the Fire TV I could actually tell it to use the "All Apps" view as the default where I can see all the apps I have installed as opposed to being forced the Amazon suggested videos to watch and having to scroll through my apps. A hold on the "Home" button will bring up a menu where I can then choose "All Apps" or you can scroll down to the carousel apps list and navigate to the left to find the "All Apps" button there. I find the "Home" button short-cut is faster, especially depending on where you've scrolled through all of Amazon's suggestions and are far down below the "Apps" list.

    Overall, I do like both devices. Each has their pluses and minuses and for our house, they each serve a purpose in the room they are in. The family TV is used more by my family to stream Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ whereas my man-cave is more for the movie experience via my Plex server so we don't have to go to the shelf to pull out a Blu-Ray and turn on the Blu-Ray player, insert the disc and wait for it to load up and possibly have to skip through dozens of previews before we can even get to the movie itself. Works great for the TV shows I have on Blu-Ray too. No disc swapping (and it saves wear and tear on the discs). Roku can play most of my content, but for others, I'd either have to re-rip them, possibly downgrading the audio, or else just not be able to watch them. Fire TV seems to handle all of my ripped Blu-Rays without an issue.