Roku LT (2013) review: The best budget streaming-video box

6
This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?
Sorry, you are not old enough to view this content.
  •  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.5
  • Design: 8.0
  • Ecosystem: 9.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Value: 9.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Roku LT offers nearly the full Roku experience for $50. More than 1,000 channels are supported, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Amazon Cloud Player, and Vudu. It also has cross-platform search that scours several major TV and movie services to find content.

The Bad There's still no official YouTube channel. Some services, including Netflix, have an outdated interface compared with what's on other streamers. The Apple TV still works better within Apple ecosystem.

The Bottom Line The Roku LT is the best budget streaming-media device, easily topping the $35 Chromecast.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

Editors' note (March 4, 2014): Roku has announced a new $50 Streaming Stick that essentially replaces the Roku LT reviewed here. The Streaming Stick will hit stores in April; the Roku LT will begin to be phased out soon.

Before Google's $35 Chromecast, the Roku LT was the original impossibly priced streamer that seemed too good to be true, offering up tons of streaming content in a tiny box for just $50.

The Roku LT hasn't changed much since its introduction in 2011 as Roku's online-only budget box. You get the full Roku experience, now up to 1,000 channels, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Amazon Cloud Player, and Vudu. There's still no YouTube app, although there are some decent workarounds. The Roku LT's video output is limited to 720p, but only the most picky viewers will notice much of a difference.

The box's exterior changed this fall, keeping its quirky purple look, but matching the sleek design of Roku's other streamers. The LT doesn't have the neat remote with a headphone jack found on the Roku 2 and Roku 3, but its simple clicker is still a good one, with convenient direct access buttons for services like Netflix and Amazon Instant. (And a Blockbuster button nobody but Blockbuster executives were asking for.)

For most buyers, the Roku LT is still a better value than the Chromecast. It's only $15 more, but offers up much more content; the Chromecast is still limited to Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Google's media apps. And the Roku LT's onscreen interface means you don't need a smartphone or tablet to control it.

If you're buying a streaming box for your primary TV, I still recommend spending extra for the Roku 3. Yes, it's twice as much, but it's still relatively affordable and its improvements -- especially its speed and the headphone-jack-toting remote -- make it worth it for a device you're likely to use frequently. But if you're looking for a streamer in a secondary location, like a bedroom or basement, the Roku LT is a fantastic option and an unbeatable value.

720p image quality: Does it matter?
If you're a techie, the Roku LT's 720p output may strike you as frustratingly backward; it's rare to see any device sport anything less than 1080p these days. But as annoying as that outdated spec may seem, the real-world difference is surprisingly minor.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov 18, 2013
  • Type Streaming player
  • Connectivity Protocols Wi-Fi
  • Functionality Content streaming