Roku Express (2017) review: Crazy-cheap streamer is plenty fast enough to satisfy

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The Good The Roku Express is ultra-affordable, easy to use and packed with streaming apps. Unlike last year, it loads menus, apps and videos quickly.

The Bad The menus can seem dated compared to rivals, and some apps use old-school layouts.

The Bottom Line Quick, simple and less expensive than the competition, the Roku Express is the perfect basic streamer.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Ecosystem 9
  • Features 5
  • Performance 7
  • Value 10

Update: Winter 2018/2019

The Roku Express reviewed here was released in October 2017, and it remains our top pick for the best ultra-budget video streamer you can buy in the US. 

That said, if you have an older analog TV that uses composite yellow/red/white AV inputs and not HDMI inputs, get the Roku Express Plus 2017. And if you can spend another $15 to $20, the Roku Streaming Stick 2017 is a better product overall and definitely worth the money, in my opinion.

Check out CNET's best media streamers for more information on competitive products.

The original review of the 2017 Roku Streaming Stick -- first published November 8, 2017, and otherwise mostly unchanged -- follows.

At just $30 in the US and £30 in the UK, the Roku Express is one of the least costly ways to add Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, Plex and scads of other streaming apps to your TV. If you just want to spend as little as possible on a streamer, it's your best bet this year.

On the other hand, a few bucks more for something like the 2017 Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon Fire TV stick gets you an even better experience. The Roku stick can control your TV's volume and power and has a voice search remote. Fire TV has the advantage of Alexa voice control via the remote or an Echo speaker.

But maybe you don't care about any of that, and all you want is a streamer that does the job very well for very little cash. That's the Roku Express.

Fast facts

Unlike last year's pokey version, the 2017 Roku Express is damn quick. Roku claims an operational speed that's 5x faster, and comparing the two, it felt pretty close to that at times.

Moving around Roku's menus, launching apps and loading videos happened with only minimal delays on my fast Wi-Fi networks at home and in CNET's lab. Even thumbnail-heavy, difficult apps like Netflix, Hulu (with the new design) and Sling TV sped along nicely, presenting images and videos without annoying pauses.

Clicking around frenetically didn't trip up the player and cause freezes, like it did last year. Netflix, which took forever to load on the old version, shows up within a few seconds. In short, the Express finally moves as quickly as its name implies.