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Best Roku devices 2021

best roku devices
(Image credit: Roku)
Roku Ultra is on sale for $30 off!

Right now Amazon has the Roku Ultra for $69, $30 off its normal price. That's 30% off the MSRP of one of our favorite Roku devices, which has all the video standards you need, plus built-in Ethernet for reliable streaming quality.

The best Roku devices are pretty fantastic ways to stream. Roku's elegant menu system puts apps (and not ads) first, 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. We just reviewed Roku's new Express 4K Plus, which made it to this list as the best Roku device under $40.

  • Check out the best Roku VPN to access more content

And while Roku typically has every single streaming service of note, a spat with Google currently has pulled YouTube TV out of the Roku Channel Store. It didn't delete the app off devices, though.

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

Specifications
Size: 3.7 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches
Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Ports: None
Remote: Voice remote
Device Type: Stick
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive+Full 4K HDR capabilities+Huge app selection+Customizable interface
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Great performance+Inventive remote control+USB port
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-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: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

3. Roku Express 4K Plus

The best Roku device under $40

Specifications
Size: 3.3 x 1.5 x 0.7 inches
Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Ports: None
Remote: Network Voice remote
Device Type: Box
Reasons to buy
+Excellent 4K HDR performance+Decent navigation+Improved remote
Reasons to avoid
-Awkward design-No Dolby Vision or Atmos

Getting crisp 4K streaming at under $40 is rare, and always comes with a caveat or two. The new Roku Express 4K Plus fixes one of the big annoyances of the Roku Premiere it replaces, by giving you a better remote. This remote doesn't require a direct line of sight, so you can point it in whichever direction you please. That upgrade, plus fast performance and UHD streaming makes the Roku Express 4K Plus a great option for those trying to get a 4K Roku (and all the apps that it comes with)  at the lowest price.

That said, we still have two reasons to consider paying a little more. Its design is a little too light, so you might spend a minute fiddling with it to have it lie flat on a surface — making the Streaming Stick Plus' easy-to-use design even better by comparison. Also, there's no Dolby Vision or Atmos Audio, but some might not see that as worthy of going higher up the price-chain. The Roku Express 4K Plus won a Highly Recommended award in the 2021 Tom's Guide Awards for Best Streaming Devices.

Read our full Roku Express 4K Plus review.

(Image credit: Roku)

4. Roku Express

The best cheap Roku device

Specifications
Size: 3.0 x 1.5 x 0.8 inches
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Ports: None
Remote: Standard IR remote
Device Type: Box
Reasons to buy
+Improved design+Good performance+Customizable interface
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Size: 32.2 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches
Max Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Ports: Optical audio
Remote: Voice remote
Device Type: Soundbar
Reasons to buy
+Good sound quality+Full Roku built in+Easy setup
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is an editor for Tom's Guide, covering gaming hardware, security and streaming video. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

  • 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.
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