Roku Express12 minute read
12 minute read|
Updated for July, 2019
Roku is essentially a device that turns your standard television into a smart TV with a simple setup of a streaming box. You don’t even need to have cable. All you’re required to have is a TV and the internet, and you are able to stream TV shows, apps, games, and movies just by using the remote. The Roku Express is the basic model for an excellent price.
- Simple setup
- Extremely affordable price
- Intuitive remote
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Access to 500,000 TV shows and movies
- Over 5,000 streaming channels
- Free Roku mobile app if you use a smartphone
- Eliminates the need for cable TV service
- Has occasional glitches
- Wi-Fi fails over time for some users
- Will not work with older TVs
Some of the links on this page may link to our affiliates. Learn more about our ad policies.
Value and Functionality
Ease of Use
Introduction to Roku Express
Roku Express offers you an easy TV streaming experience in HD. This next-generation version Roku player is more powerful than previous models with enhanced Wi-Fi and remote capabilities. The Roku device itself is straightforward to get started. You plug the tiny box into your television with the high-speed HDMI cable (included), connect it to your internet using the remote, and begin streaming whatever shows or movies you like.
Roku is among the companies that pioneered streaming to your television. They connect users to the streaming content they want to watch and allow media creators and publishers to build larger audiences.
All Roku products run Roku OS software. Developers are able to release a streaming channel or piece of media worldwide. That content is then delivered to millions of devices. These include Roku players, Roku Streaming Sticks™, Roku Express, and Roku TVs. The company’s media content partners upload a massive variety of new streaming shows and channels every week. This creates a variety of channels, series, and movies to select from, often eliminating the need for cable television.
History and Popularity
Roku is an American company that is now publicly traded and based out of Los Gatos, California. Roku produces a variety of digital streaming media players that allow customers to access Internet-streamed video or audio services through televisions.
Roku was founded in October of 2002 as a limited liability company (LLC) by ReplayTV creator Anthony Wood. Roku means “six” in Japanese, representing the fact that Roku is the sixth company Anthony Wood started.
In April 2007, Wood was announced as vice president of Netflix. After Netflix decided against building its own streaming media player, in February of 2008 a new Roku company was incorporated. This company was based in Palo Alto, California, with Netflix investing $6 million in manufacturing a streaming device.
In 2015, the company announced it would sub-lease buildings in Los Gatos, California from Netflix. On September 28, 2017, the company held its first public offering of stock and started trading on the NASDAQ exchange.
How to Purchase and Set up
The device and remote are simple to use to search for specific shows and movies. Do take note: TV compatibility for this device is HD televisions up to 1080p 1920 x 1080 with up-scaling from 720p.
You can purchase Roku Express through a few outlets including Amazon. If you’re a prime member, it’s eligible for free two-day shipping. You also have the possibility of purchasing a two-year or four-year protection plan on the device for under $5 if you choose.
The Roku Express package comes with the small Roku device box, an HDMI power cable to connect to the TV, and the remote control with batteries. The remote requires two AAA batteries after the included set runs out of power. The device itself is quite compact, measuring only 1 x 3.3 x 1.4 inches.
Features and Options
If you use a smartphone, there is a free Roku app for both Androids (such as Samsung) and Apple iOS if you have an iPhone. With the app, you can also search for shows, control the Roku like your phone is a remote, and use private listening or voice search.
The Roku Express does not have recording capability. However, you can connect the other end of the HDMI cable to a recording device if you are a bit more tech-savvy and would like to record shows or movies.
To get local channels specifically, you would need a subscription to a service such as YouTube TV or Hulu which you can use through the Roku device. This is because Roku directly connects you to the internet and its streaming media through its software. So, local channels require an additional subscription of some sort.
Other Roku Options
In addition to the Roku Express, there are also a few other devices from the company that you might like to compare it against. The Roku Express is the value-driven option of the bunch, at an outstanding price of around 30 dollars. This is ideal for those who want a basic model, and just like to watch some TV or movies, but do not want to spend much money. In addition to the Express, there are:
The Premiere model has a premium HDMI cable as opposed to the basic model. It also supports 4K Ultra high definition up to 60fps. For those who have newer 4K televisions and care about the latest, most crisp picture, this is an additional bonus. The Premiere also has video HDR (high dynamic range) support. This version is only a small bump in price.
Roku Streaming Stick
The Streaming Stick has a voice remote (so you don’t have to deal with scrolling with the buttons). This allows you to tell the remote what you want to watch, but you still have a power button as well as the volume controls on the remote. The stick itself plug directly into your TV rather than having the small box connected via the cord. It is also only a small amount more than the Roku Express.
Roku Streaming Stick +
The Streaming Stick + much like the Premiere supports 4K Ultra high definition up to 60fps and video HDR. This model also has an advanced wireless receiver for your Wi-Fi with up to four times the range. Like the original Streaming Stick, this one also has the voice remote. The price begins to jump a bit once you get into the Streaming Stick + compared to the Express.
The Ultra is the version with all the bells and whistles. It supports 4K Ultra high definition up to 60fps, has video HDR, the voice option remote, quality JBL headphones, a remote finder, gaming buttons, a headphone jack, as well as microSD, USB, and Ethernet ports.
This version is for the more tech-savvy and those who are interested in playing games in addition to streaming TV and movies. The price is notably more with the Ultra than the Express. However, as of 2018, all models are around $100 or under (though prices can fluctuate a bit on sites such as Amazon).
Quality and Cost
The quality of the Roku Express is, generally, fantastic for the price. You need to have a reliable Wi-Fi signal for the device to work as it should. However, for the majority of users, it runs well and offers streaming content of thousands of shows and movies without many, if any, glitches.
If your Wi-Fi signal is weak or goes down often, you may have more trouble with this product. If you’re concerned about that being an issue, or you tend to have problems with technology, purchasing the product protection plan is exceptionally cheap. Therefore, it might be worth looking into for your situation.
Overall, the ratings are outstanding on the Roku Express. The Express has well over 4,000 user ratings and an average of 4.5 stars. We’ve tried it and found it definitely works more reliably on a strong signal. For example, hooking it up in a different room using a Wi-Fi extender as our signal (and our Wi-Fi extended signal as opposed to the main one) made it freeze up a bit here and there. With a reliable connection, however, it functioned beautifully.
When you consider the number of channels, shows, and movies you can watch for a very reasonable price, the value of the Roku Express is good. Compared to cable television bills of years gone by, the one-time purchase for this device is comparable to the price of an average cable bill from the mid-‘90s.
Yet with Roku, you can pick what you want to watch at any time, rather than sitting around waiting for your shows to come on at their scheduled times. The protection plan is also cheap for both two or four years, and we love that.
Delivery and Packaging
With Amazon Prime, you are able to get free two-day shipping on the Roku Express device. It comes in a small box with easy-to-follow instructions. There are a number of unboxing and setting up videos online if you feel uncertain about installing your Roku. The packaging is straightforward, with the remote, the device, cord, batteries, and even double-sided tape to attach the small box to your TV if you like.
More Things to Know
Internet and Subscriptions
Again, you do not need cable television for your Roku to work. However, you absolutely do need a strong Wi-Fi signal (so, you must have basic internet). On the remote, there are easy to navigate buttons to take you to places such as Netflix and Hulu.
If you don’t have any of these subscriptions, you will still find preloaded channels on your Roku and plenty to watch. If you want to be up-to-date on some of the most popular shows and movies, you may want to add a subscription such as Netflix or Hulu to use in conjunction with your Roku.
The intuitive remote will learn over time what types of shows or genres of movies you prefer. So, it will offer suggestions for media you might enjoy watching. This is an excellent way to discover a new series you might have otherwise missed but end up loving.
The Roku Express will also work in most other countries as long as you have Wi-Fi and a compatible TV. Just as in the United States, you’ll need a subscription to something such as YouTube TV to get local channels. The same issue apply wherever you are.
The beautiful thing about the Roku device is that there is no subscription plan you have to cancel if you decide you no longer want to use Roku. You just disconnect it from your TV or stop using it. Only with services, you can utilize through the Roku unit, such as Netflix, would need to be canceled if you decide you no longer wanted to pay for them.
There are over 1,000 answered questions that were asked by users or potential users on Amazon’s Roku Express page. So, for more specific issues, you can search through the questions section. Or go ahead and ask one yourself if it’s a topic no one has touched on.
The Bottom Line
Overall, we still can’t quite believe the value of the Roku Express and the sheer number of options the device offers. With thousands of television shows, stand-up comedy specials, kid’s channels such as PBS Kids (if grandkids are around), and movies to choose from, it makes the price of the Express model, in particular, look unbeatable.
We like the simplicity of setup, the intuitive remote (because finding a new show or movie you love is always a delightful thing), and the affordability. Especially for those who don’t want much—just some channels to pick from and movies already on the Roku—without paying for any additional subscriptions the low cost of this piece of technology is well worth the value.
While glitching may be an issue in rare cases, you can call someone knowledgeable about technology if this happens to you. Roku Support is also available to make sure your internet signal is working correctly, that you have a compatible TV, to walk you through how to reset your Wi-Fi if needed, and ensure the unit is installed correctly.
The cost, the quality, the number of videos and answered questions online for the Roku Express make this a winner in our book. If you don’t want to pay for cable television but like the “company” TV can offer when you’re alone, or you want to provide something for grandkids to watch when they visit, having a Roku will open a whole world of streaming, on-demand options for you, and we love that.