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.
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.
I did run into more delays loading some apps compared to the more expensive Streaming Stick, but they didn't happen frequently enough to become frustrating. Netflix also loaded a bit faster on the Stick. In general, however, the Express' operational speed was very good, especially considering the price. Upgrading from an older Roku, other streamer or Smart TV, you'll notice the difference.
Here's where I mention that if you don't have good Wi-Fi, no streamer will work well.
For many people, the Roku Streaming Stick's point-anywhere, TV-control remote is worth the slightly steeper price. Heavy Alexa users might not mind the pushy Amazon menu system, and phone-centric (or Google Home-centric) people might prefer a $35 Chromecast. And I definitely recommend that people with a 4K HDR TV get a so-equipped streamer like the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. But if you're fine with a basic, bare-bones conduit to Netflix and all the rest, take the Express.