Scarlett Johansson sues Disney Amazon's record $888M fine in Europe Simone Biles at Olympics: What's next? Team USA's Olympics face masks Suicide Squad review 4th stimulus check update
CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Improve your Roku: A $20 remote upgrade gets you voice control, a headphone jack and more

There's also a $30 option that locates a lost remote when you say, "Hey Roku, find my remote." Here's how to boost your Roku experience.

017-roku-voice-remote-pro-2021

With Roku's voice remotes, you can upgrade just about any Roku streamer or TV.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As people are still stuck at home and streaming more TV than ever, looking for ways to improve things around the house has become part of the routine. If you own a basic Roku player or Roku TV, one way you can do that quickly and easily is by upgrading to Roku's $20 voice remote or new rechargeable $30 Voice Remote Pro. Either also make for good replacements if you lost or broke your main remote.

With either clicker, your Roku can start to take advantage of features such as voice control -- without having to point directly at the Roku TV, box or streaming stick. Those who get the Voice Remote Pro also gain a rechargeable battery and the ability to find lost controllers by simply saying, "Hey Roku, find my remote," to have it start beeping. There's even a headphone jack for private listening.

Here's how you can make the upgrade. 

Now playing: Watch this: Roku Voice Remote Pro review: 'Hey Roku' only goes so...
5:13

Knowku the remoteku: Comparing the Roku remotes

06-roku-enhanced-remote

The Roku enhanced remote, left, provides a few important extra features over the company's "simple" option, right. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

First, let's break down the five different remotes Roku has. 

Simple remote

This controller is included with older Rokus, cheaper streaming sticks like the Express and Premiere and cheaper or older Roku TVs. It uses basic infrared, aka IR, to send commands to the Roku, so it won't work if you don't point it directly at your Roku or if something gets in the way. This remote also lacks a microphone, so if your Roku remote lacks a mic button then it's a Simple version. 

Voice remote 

This remote, available for $20 (see below for retailers), has three upgrades:

  • Doesn't rely on IR, so you can "point anywhere" to control your Roku
  • A built-in mic so you can search and issue commands with your voice
  • Power, volume and mute keys for controlling your TV, so you don't have to use your TVs original remote

Note that the last item only applies to streaming players; all Roku TV remotes (Simple and otherwise) have volume and power control.

03-roku-2019

The Roku enhanced voice remote has customizable shortcut buttons labeled 1 and 2.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Enhanced voice remote 

This remote, available on Roku's site for $30, has all the features of the voice remote above as well as three more extras:

  • A headphone jack that lets you listen privately, using your own headphones without disturbing others
  • Two shortcut keys that can be customized to open apps and perform other functions
  • A tiny speaker that allows it to emit sound, so it can be used with the remote finder feature in the Roku app
006-roku-voice-remote-pro-2021

The side of the Voice Remote Pro has a switch for physically turning off the always listening mid-field microphone. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Voice Remote Pro 

This remote, also available at Roku's site for $30, has all the features of the Enhanced remote but adds the following upgrades.

  • A rechargeable battery
  • Midfield microphone for "Hey Roku" voice commands without needing to press down on the remote. 

Gaming remote

Roku also sells a "gaming remote" on its site, but it's basically identical to the enhanced voice remote (without the customizable shortcuts), also costs $30 and is largely useless since Roku devices don't support many games. We'll ignore it but if Roku's enhanced voice remote and Voice Remote Pro are somehow sold out and you don't want to wait, this can take its place by offering most of the same functionality including private listening and voice search. 

Read more: Which Roku player should I buy? 

Which upgraded Roku remote should I get? 

01-roku-enhanced-remote

For those who don't care about the private listening mode, the regular enhanced remote is a quick $20 upgrade. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you've been frustrated about having to constantly point your remote directly at the TV -- and don't care much about the private listening, chargeability or hands-free voice control -- the $20 regular voice remote is a quick, simple and relatively cheap upgrade. 

If you constantly lose the remote or don't want to deal with swapping in AA batteries, the $30 Voice Remote Pro is perfect for you (even if the Roku voice assistant still leaves plenty to be desired). It also has customizable buttons and a headphone jack for private listening, making it a nice choice over the regular Enhanced remote for the same price.

Yes, any Roku device can use Roku's app to allow private listening by connecting your phone to a pair of headphones, but having the jack on the remote itself is more convenient for frequent users. CNET's David Katzmaier has been using an older Streaming Stick on a bedroom TV, paired with an enhanced voice remote from a Roku Ultra, for the last couple of years. "I don't want to say 'marriage saver,' but it's definitely a worthwhile upgrade for us," he says. 

Roku's site currently has the $20 voice remote on "backorder" but the company also sells the accessory at a host of retailers Walmart, B&H Photo and Video, Rakuten and Amazon for roughly the same price.

Best Buy and Kohl's will also sell you the voice remote, but for some reason both are still charging $30.

The Voice Remote Pro can be found for $30 at a number of outlets including Roku's siteBest BuyWalmart and Amazon.

While you might not be as stoked as Katz with your Roku remote upgrade, hopefully the new remote can help make your streaming experience a bit better.

How to pair a new Roku remote with an old Roku or Roku TV

05-how-to-set-up-a-roku

Pressing down on a button below the battery slot can pair your Roku with a remote.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One of the best aspects of Roku is its cross-device compatibility -- you'll get pretty much the same simple experience whether your Roku is a couple of years old or brand new. This compatibility also extends the remotes. The new remotes listed above will likely work on your old Roku too, even if it's no longer listed as a compatible device on Roku's own site. 

It should be noted that Roku says the fancy Voice Remote Pro works with "all Roku TV models, Roku audio products, and most recent Roku players." 

There are two ways to pair a Roku remote with a TV or streaming device. The simplest way is to power on your Roku and hold the pairing button for a few seconds until you see a prompt on your screen saying the remote is pairing. This button can be found next to the batteries on most remotes or on the bottom of the back of the Voice Remote Pro. Using this method is how I easily connected the Voice Remote Pro to a Streaming Stick Plus and a 2019 TCL Roku TV without needing to fiddle around with Settings. 

Read more: How to set up a new Roku

The other option is to head into Settings. In earlier tests, I used a few different remotes and a few Rokus. To represent older Rokus I dusted off a Roku 2 that was originally announced in 2015 and shipped with a Simple remote. I was able to pair it with a new enhanced voice remote and the process was as simple as it is on newer devices. 

Here's how:

1. Power on the Roku and TV.

2. Using your old IR remote, or the Roku app on your phone, head to Settings.

3. Scroll to Remotes.

4. Click Add a new remote.

5. On your new enhanced remote, insert batteries and hold down the button toward the bottom of the battery compartment for five seconds.

The TV and remote will then pair.

Even though the Roku 2 is now almost seven years old, the remote was still able to use all of the newer features including voice search, shortcuts and listening through headphones. It also was able to power on and control the volume on the Samsung TV it was connected to. I previously did a similar test pairing a 2018 Roku Ultra enhanced remote to my 2017 TCL P605 Roku TV and had similar success. 

I have not yet been able to test the Voice Remote Pro with the Roku 2.

How to add a new remote to a new, cheaper Roku or Roku TV

Most new Rokus ship with a voice remote but the company's cheapest options, the original Express and Walmart-exclusive Express 4K, still rely on the weaker remote. Some newer Rokus, like our current Editors' Choice pick the Streaming Stick Plus and new Express 4K Plus, ship with the voice remote but not the enhanced voice remote that has the headphone private listening feature. 

Luckily, upgrading to either remote is simple and the same as with older Rokus. Simply follow the steps above and you'll be able to add either new clicker to your existing Roku.