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Which Roku should I buy in 2021? We compare the Express 4K Plus, Streaming Stick Plus, Ultra and more

So many Roku choices. Let's narrow them down.

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Looking for a new Roku? You aren't alone. When it comes to bringing the seemingly endless number of streaming services to your TV, Roku stands out for its affordable pricing, solid features and excellent performance. While Amazon, Apple and Google all have impressive streaming players too, we've found that nothing matches Roku's simplicity and value. 

But with a large portfolio of players ranging from a basic $25 Express, the midrange $40 Express 4K Plus and $50 Streaming Stick Plus all the way to the top-tier $100 Ultra -- not to mention soundbars and even speakers -- picking the right Roku for your needs isn't easy. 

Struggling to figure out which one to get? We're here to help.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The new Express 4K Plus is one of the cheapest streaming TV options with 4K HDR. (Even if your current TV doesn't support those formats, your next one probably will.) Thanks to the AirPlay update, this Roku device is one of the least expensive ways to connect your iPhone or other Apple device to your TV. It lacks Dolby Vision support, but we think most people will be fine without that. At $10 cheaper than the company's Streaming Stick Plus and other 4K HDR streamers, it's our top pick.

Read our Express 4K Plus review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku's Streaming Stick Plus may have debuted in 2017, but thanks to software updates it's still a fine choice for nearly anyone thinking of getting a Roku -- or even a Chromecast with Google TV or Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. At $50 it's affordable, supports 4K HDR and takes advantage of the latest Roku features including Apple AirPlay for casting from an iOS or Mac device. We don't think it's worth $10 more than the Express 4K Plus, but if you can find it on sale and prefer this simpler design it is still a good choice. 

Read our Streaming Stick Plus review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Roku Ultra is nearly identical to the Streaming Stick Plus as far as functionality, with a few additional features. It's a box, not a streaming stick; it supports Ethernet for wired connectivity; and it can take advantage of Dolby Vision for 4K HDR streaming. It also has a few nifty remote features including an improved bundled controller that has a headphone jack and two programmable buttons plus a remote finder feature to help you locate it when it inevitably gets lost under the couch. 

Most will be happy saving the extra cash and getting an Express 4K Plus or Streaming Stick Plus, but if you want the best Roku has to offer, the Ultra is for you.

Read our Roku Ultra (2020) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Roku Express is the company's most basic streamer, and it keeps things simple. It can use all the apps on Roku's platform, but streams are limited to HD (not 4K) and the remote is the bare-bones IR option that lacks voice controls and requires you to point at the tiny box. It's not flashy, but it gets the job done and comes with everything you might need (including an HDMI cable) in the box.

Read our Roku Express (2019) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Looking for an audio upgrade as well as a new Roku? Check out the Streambar. This compact soundbar plugs into your TV's HDMI ARC port, improving the sound for all of your sources from cable boxes to game consoles. The best part is that it's also a 4K HDR-capable Roku streamer itself. We've found the Streambar easy to set up, and it sounds good for the size, particularly with dialogue. If you want stronger bass, however, consider adding Roku's wireless subwoofer ($180).

Read our Roku Streambar review.

 

For improving your Roku experience

Voice Remote Pro

Sarah Tew/CNET

The $30 Voice Remote Pro isn't a player, but it can give your Roku a nice boost. Like the enhanced remote that comes with the Ultra it adds a few new features like a rechargeable battery and a 12-foot mid-field microphone. The latter is particularly useful for being able to say "Hey Roku, find my remote" and having the device beep so you can find it if it's lost under the couch cushions. 

Read our Voice Remote Pro review.

 

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