Roku recently announced a change to its portfolio of streaming boxes. Five new devices replace the old numbered players from the entry-level Roku Express and Roku Express+ to the 4K HDR-compatible Roku Ultra.
The recently updated Roku streaming stick still exists alongside the new options, making your choice pretty vast. We have put the latest devices up against each other to help you work out how they differ in order to find the right one for you.
Read on to find out the differences and similarities between the Roku Express, Express+, Premiere, Premiere+ and the Ultra.
Roku Express vs Express+ vs Premiere vs Premiere+ vs Ultra: Design
These new devices represent a new line-up for Roku, but the tried and tested design remains. The sleek black boxes and familiar Roku remote are all present.
The base models of the Roku Express and Roku Express+ measure 35.6 x 83.8 x 17.8mm and are easily dwarfed by the slender and practical remote.
The Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra also offer the clean design but they are slightly larger at 124.5 x 124.5 x 21.6mm, due to their improved processing power, optical outputs, ethernet inputs and SD card slots.
Roku Express vs Express+ vs Premiere vs Premiere+ vs Ultra: Hardware
Each of the new Roku streamers has been improved with new technology compared to the last series. Even the base model Roku Express is said to be faster than the Roku 1 it replaces, but with a budget price tag that allows it to compete with Google's Chromecast.
The Roku Express+ has the added bonus of backwards compatibility in the form of composite A/V cable connectivity. This means it not only works with older televisions, but it will also work with HD screens and offers upscaling to 1080p over HDMI to boot.
The Roku Premiere is essentially the replacement for the old Roku 2 and a step up from the Express range with a quad-core processor and 4K streaming support (up to 60 frames per second). This extra grunt also comes with improved wireless connectivity meaning you shouldn't have issues streaming over busy Wi-Fi networks.
To use the 4K streaming feature, you'll need to have the necessary content via subscription or purchase, but with Netflix and other content providers available through Roku, this shouldn't be a problem.
If you really want all the bells and whistles though, the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra are the ones for you. These two streaming devices are the only devices in the line-up that not only include 4K at 60 frames per second, but HDR (high dynamic range) picture quality enhancement too.
The Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra also sport Ethernet input and improved wireless connectivity. They offer 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless compared to 802.11 b/g/n with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 support on the Roku Express models, giving you more choice when it comes to connecting your box to your home network.
The flagship models also include USB connectivity and a microSD card slot which means you can easily access your own video content or view photos on your television. For the most compatibility in this area, you'll want to spend the extra on the Roku Ultra which is capable of playing back everything from .MP4 to .Flac to GIF files and a multitude of others in-between.
Roku Express vs Express+ vs Premiere vs Premiere+ vs Ultra: Audio
In terms of audio, all the new Roku models support Dolby pass-through via HDMI but only the Roku Ultra supports Dolby Digital+ via HDMI or the additional optical output. As mentioned above, the Roku Ultra also supports a range of different audio formats so you can play your own audio and video content through the box via microSD card or USB input.
All models up from the Roku Premiere include a night listening mode which compresses the dynamic range of the sound to ensure there are no unexpected loud elements of your viewing, such as gunfire or explosions in action films, which would disturb the neighbours if you're watching late at night. Everything is set to the same level so there are no surprises.
There's also the option of private listening on the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra via the use of a headphone jack built into the remote control. This is perfect for when watching at night or if someone is trying to read, for example. This functionality is available for the other devices via the mobile app, but it's a nice addition to be able to do this without the need to use your phone.
Roku Express vs Express+ vs Premiere vs Premiere+ vs Ultra: Remote controls
The remote control is one of the biggest things that differs from device-to-device. Even on the Roku Express, having the remote is an added bonus over say the Chromecast which doesn't come bundled with a remote control and assumes you'll be happy to use an app on a tablet or smartphone.
The Roku remote is familiar to any Roku fan but easy to use for anyone that is new to the range as well. The standard remote on the Roku Express and Roku Express+ models uses your basic IR blaster - so you will need to ensure the device is in your line of sight, but otherwise it's a fantastically simple remote and a bonus to have.
Having said that, you can of course opt to use the mobile app available on both Android and iOS. There's also compatibility with a range of universal remote controls, so whatever your preference there's plenty of choice.
The Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra go one step further with an 'enhanced' remote that loses the IR blaster in favour of RF technology, meaning you can tuck the streaming box away and out-of-sight, but still easily use the remote without problem.
The enhanced remote includes the headphone jack for private listening and on the Roku Ultra, it also includes the 'lost remote' feature. This feature allows you to press a button on the box and the remote will alert you to its position, which is a great addition if you're like us and forever losing the remote down the side of the sofa.
On the Roku Ultra, the enhanced remote also includes gaming buttons and the added bonus of voice search, which you can only otherwise get through the app with the other devices.
Roku Express vs Express+ vs Premiere vs Premiere+ vs Ultra: Price and availability
The Roku Express is the most affordable of the new line-up starting at $29.99, followed by its A/V compatible brother the Roku Express+ at $39.99. The slightly more powerful and 4K capable Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere+ come in at $79.99 and $99.99 respectively, while the all-powerful and functional Roku Ultra is going on sale for $129.99.
All the Roku streaming products are available to buy online with the exception of the Roku Express+ which is exclusive to Walmart. The Roku Premiere, Premiere+ and Ultra can be pre-ordered before their launch in the US on the 9 October. There is currently no word on UK pricing or availability.
Roku Express vs Express+ vs Premiere vs Premiere+ vs Ultra: Which should I buy?
The Roku Express is now the most affordable of the Roku range, giving you easy access to over 350,000 movies and TV shows from all the favourites including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Sling, Google Play Movies, FX Now, Lifetime, History and more. For those with an older TV, it also offers great connectivity via the A/V cables, while still supporting upscaling via HDMI.
If you are looking for 1080p upscaling, 4K streaming, HDR improvements and other enhancements like Dolby Digital+ output and night listening mode, then you'll want to stump up a little more cash to get one of the higher end streamers.
On paper, the Roku Premiere+ seems like a good choice for those after a good balance between functionality and price, with its 4K streaming, HDR and the enhanced remote features.
For those willing to spend the extra dollar, the Roku Ultra offers support for more audio formats, support for Dolby Digital+ via HDMI or the additional optical output and a couple of extra remote features over the Premiere+.