Buying A New Roku? Here’s What You Need To Know

Buying A New Roku? Here’s What You Need To Know

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Roku’s streaming video product lineup has never been as robust as it is right now. From the super-affordable Roku Express to the Streambar Pro that combines a best-in-class streaming experience with a high-quality soundbar, Roku has a wide array of streaming sticks, boxes and speakers to choose from.

Whether you’re bingeing a new series on Netflix or watching Harry Potter for the umpteenth time, we break down all of the different options in Roku’s lineup to help you decide which streaming product is best for you.

The best Roku streaming device

The Roku Ultra is both the best Roku player and our pick for a streaming device. The Ultra gives you access to thousands of streaming services playing at the highest-quality 4K possible. It’s also quick to start streaming and easily navigable using the handy voice-controlled remote.

The best soundbar and streamer

For less than $200, Roku’s Streambar Pro is the best streaming soundbar, with clear, rich audio. It can effortlessly fill a sizable room with sound and is fully integrated with the Roku platform. Just connect it to your TV via the included HDMI cord, plug it in and you’re set.

The Ultra set-top box is Roku’s most powerful and capable streaming product, and it’s our pick for a streaming device. It offers 4K HDR and Cinematic Dolby Vision streaming, along with Dolby Atmos for any compatible sound system — essentially, the latest standards for the best picture.

But it’s the performance where the Ultra ultimately shines brightest — like quickly loading channels, switching between shows and, most importantly, streaming your video.

Included in the box is everything you need to get started: an HDMI cable, a Voice Remote with wired headphones, batteries and a power adapter. This Voice Remote in conjunction with the Ultra itself enables a handy locator function in case you misplace it.

The best soundbar and streamer: Roku Streambar Pro Jason Cipriani/CNN

Roku’s Streambar Pro is a full-size soundbar and advanced streaming player combination. That means you get full 4K streaming of your favorite shows or movies, plus an easy-to-install soundbar. It’s our top pick for a soundbar, thanks to its performance in the audio space.

We appreciate that it sounds better than most TV speakers and for under $200 does an excellent job creating virtual surround sound, easily mimicking directional audio without the extra home theater speakers. Its four 2.5-inch full-range drivers produce a full range of sound, fit for taking in action flicks like “Captain America: Winter Soldier” or listening to clear dialogue on the evening news.

Since the Streambar Pro is also a streaming player, it supports all major visual standards (think HDR and Dolby Vision), and you get everything you need in the box, including a voice remote with TV controls, a power cable, an HDMI cable, wired headphones and an optical cable. Those headphones can be plugged into the remote for a private listening experience.

Roku’s device lineup is expansive, so you’ll want to consider what TV you’ll be using it with and how much you want to spend. Devices range from $30 to $180, with the more expensive Roku products better suited for higher-end 4K TVs with features like Dolby Vision.

Once you decide whether you want a streamer that works with more basic HD or higher-quality 4K, it’s good to know that every Roku device runs Roku OS, giving you access to thousands of streaming services. We’re fans of the interface for its easy navigation, support for popular industry standards and agnostic approach with smart home services — and each device comes bundled with a remote and works with the mobile app for ease of control.

Roku’s entire lineup also features smart home integration, allowing the streaming device to use Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s HomeKit for all your home automation needs.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

The Roku Express is the cheapest and simplest streaming device in Roku’s lineup — it’s best for older TVs without 4K and for those on a tight budget. The small box is capable of streaming 1080p HD content from your favorite services like HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.

At this price point, you can’t expect the best performance, but although the Express shows some occasional slowdowns when switching between channels, you won’t notice a thing once you’re streaming a show. Like all Roku devices, you’ll get software updates for the Express, so even at this price, you’ll still get access to future features and capabilities.

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