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Photo from Amazon
Fast Wi-Fi and Ethernet
No Dolby Vision or HDR10+
With a name like Roku Ultra, you'd expect a beefy streaming device that doesn't leave you wanting for much. That’s exactly what you’re getting here. This rounded square of components pushes 4K HDR content from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and more. There’s also a glutton of 720p and 1080p content available spread across thousands of downloadable apps, all of it upscaled to look best on your 4K TV.
For the sake of performance, the Roku Ultra uses a quad-core processor and fast dual-band Wi-Fi AC radios with 2x2 MIMO for maximum bandwidth. There’s also an ethernet port onboard, and you can play external media with its microSD and USB ports. Sadly, like many Roku products, there's no Dolby Vision and HDR10+ in video apps, but Dolby Atmos is present to enhance the cinematic soundstage.
The Ultra ships with Roku's standard TV interface, which is clean and very simple to use, as well as the new remote. The latter supports voice commands through Alexa or Google Assistant devices, has a remote finder feature, features two extra programmable buttons, and a 3.5mm jack for private listening, perfect for the complementary JBL headphones Roku includes.
Essential Roku experience
Dolby Atmos included
Tops out at 1080p
Smaller than a bar of soap, and running around $30, the Roku Express is the smallest and most inexpensive in the Roku lineup. While you're capped out at standard 1080p for content and its single-band Wi-Fi N radio is a bit outdated, it otherwise offers everything you love about Roku. It's also one of the cheapest streaming sticks you can find with Dolby Atmos support.
With over 1,000 apps available in the Channel Store, you'll never run out of content, and using the Roku app for iOS or Android makes everything simple to find. With it, you can use your voice to search for movies and shows by title, actor, or director.
The app's private listening feature lets you enjoy audio through your headphones while the house is sleeping, and cast media to the TV when you want to watch something Roku doesn’t have. Happy owners of 4K TVs need not apply, but for everyone else, the Roku Express is all you need.
Affordable 4K streaming
Fun voice remote
No Dolby Vision
Don’t want yet another set-top box on your TV stand? Get the Roku Streaming Stick+. Its compact form factor lets you plug it directly into the side or back of your TV, out of the way and with minimal wires to show. It’s powered via a wall adapter or any available USB port, but if your set features MHL capability, you can ditch external power altogether. The size of the Roku Streaming Stick+ is perfect for hotel rooms while you’re traveling.
The Roku Streaming Stick+ is well-balanced for its middling price tag. It features 4K HDR streaming, and while you won't be getting Dolby Vision or HDR10+, there's full support for HDR10 and HLG, which still look remarkable. Unlike the 1080p version of the Streaming Stick, the Streaming Stick+ comes with a voice remote, which lets you find new stuff to watch and interact with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant products. Roku has the most apps and one of the easiest user interfaces, and are great if alternatives like the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick don’t impress.
Composite + HDMI options
Easy to use
Remote lacks voice
No Dolby Atmos
It's hard to imagine anyone would use a TV without HDMI these days, but if that person is you, the Roku Express+ is what you want. This is the only Roku device available that uses old-school composite connections, but it also supports HDMI with included cables for both connection types.
Otherwise, this is your typical Roku experience. Included is an easy-to-use remote with all the controls you need for search and playback. There are no voice capabilities, and it’s missing a headphone jack for private listening, but you can still access those features via the iOS and Android app.
As you'd expect, the Roku Express+ is light on high-fidelity functionality. Video tops out at 1080p, and you miss out on Dolby Atmos for audio, but you still get full Dolby Digital passthrough for older surround sound setups. We'd recommend Roku's newer, more capable units for most users, but the Roku Express+ serves a vital role if you're technologically bankrupt.
Awesome QLED picture
Roku built-in with Dolby Vision
Sound could be better
Rather not deal with dongles and boxes? Roku’s smart TV platform is available on many quality TV sets, though we believe none offer better value than the TCL R625. A direct successor to 2017's hottest budget 4K set, the TCL R625 takes a giant leap with QLED. This technique improves overall color gamut and accuracy thanks to a dramatic decrease in color mixing. It’s not quite OLED, but QLED is the first LCD tech to challenge it, and the TCL R625 successfully implements the goods at the market’s lowest price point.
You’ll also note this is the only way to enjoy Dolby Vision's director-envisioned enhancements on Roku, as Roku's streaming sticks only support HDR10 and HLG. Roku sells a pair of wireless speakers specifically for TVs like this, and you can even add an optional wireless subwoofer, though you’re looking at upwards of $300 for those upgrades alone. If you're looking to get your first 4K or smart TV and you love Roku, the TCL R625 — available in 55-inch or 65-inch flavors — is where you should start.
Lacks Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision
Of all the products Roku has released, the Smart Soundbar might be most intriguing. Roku offers a full-sized mountable soundbar, complete with four 2.5-inch drivers that’ll handily beat the default speakers on most TVs. It's pricier than your typical Roku device, but remember this is an all-in-one that brings you a smart streaming experience and vastly improved sound performance.
Unfortunately, Roku passes on both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, the latter of which is strange considering all its latest streaming sticks and boxes have them. But there are plenty of other reasons the Smart Soundbar should be on your radar. It supports up to 4K HDR10, has multiple sound modes that can improve bass response or speech clarity, Bluetooth 4.2 for music playback from your smartphone, and includes a voice remote for interacting with voice assistants, finding fresh content, or controlling your home.
You also get HDMI ARC, which allows the TV to send any audio playing back to the soundbar over one cable and lets you control all connected ARC devices with a single remote. You can even pair the Roku Smart Soundbar with one of the company’s wireless subwoofers for an even more immersive experience.