There are plenty of media streamers around but few offer as extensive range of apps and channels as Roku.
The company has been manufacturing online streaming boxes for several years, including a couple of Now TV boxes as Sky owns a share in the firm, but which should you choose?
Different price points are catered for, with various features added or trimmed back, so it's best to be aware of the options before you choose a Roku player.
Before we get to the individual boxes, it's worth knowing how they all work.
All Roku players run Roku OS, a user interface that is designed to make finding content as easy as possible.
Roku calls its apps "channels" and offers perhaps the widest selection out there, including Amazon Video, Netflix, TVPlayer and all the UK's terrestrial catch-up services. US boxes are equally well served.
Features of Roku OS include Roku Search, which lets you search by movie title, actor or director, and it will return results based on your terms. The results will show you what you can watch for free, what you need a subscription for and what you can rent or buy.
Roku Feed shows you what films are out in the cinema, you can then set reminders so the player will let you know when those films are available to watch on Roku's channels.
You don't just have to find content through the players though, as you can open videos on several different channels, including Netflix and YouTube, on your smartphone and cast them across to the Roku player, in a similar fashion to Chromecast.
Roku in the UK
Roku offers three different streaming devices in the UK.
Roku Streaming Stick
Buy the Roku Streaming Stick (UK) from Amazon.co.uk
- Price: £39.99
- Features: Up to 1080p, point anywhere remote, dual-band Wi-Fi, HDMI
The most affordable way to get Roku into your home in the UK is with the Streaming Stick. It works in a similar way to Chromecast in that it plugs directly into one of the HDMI sockets of your TV, hidden from view. You'll need to plug a Micro-USB cable into either the mains or into a USB socket on your TV if you have one to power it up.
Just because it's small doesn't mean it's not powerful. The Streaming Stick runs the same Roku OS as the slightly larger players in Roku's repertoire and has access to the same channels. When we reviewed the Streaming Stick, we did find navigation could occasionally suffer from lag, but not enough to put us off using it.
Full HD 1080p is supported for content that offers it, otherwise you'll have to make do with 720p. The Streaming Stick also supports Dolby Digital Plus surround and DTS Digital Surround pass through over HDMI.
The Roku Streaming Stick also comes with a remote control and luckily it's one that doesn't rely on infrared, but on RF frequency instead. You can wave it around wherever you want and the Stick will pick it up. It's a pretty basic remote control with just a few buttons, but does have quick launch app buttons for Netflix, Google Play, Rdio and YouTube. Unfortunately it doesn't come with a headphone output like on Roku's flagship media streamer (more on that later). You can also control the Stick using a companion app for Android, iOS and Windows devices.
It's worth noting the Streaming Stick doesn't have an ethernet port but has Wi-Fi built-in. We'd recommend you have a fast, stable broadband connection to get the best possible streaming quality.
The Roku Streaming Stick is a great, affordable way to add a vast amount of content to your TV. It's easy to set up, is hidden out of view and comes with a remote control included, which is more than can be said for the Google Chromecast, one of its main competitors.
- Roku Streaming Stick review
- Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Google Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick: What's the difference?
Buy the Roku 2 from Amazon.co.uk
- Price: £69.99
- Features: Up to 1080p, dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet, HDMI
The Roku 2 has been in Roku's line-up for some time, but in 2016 the company upgraded the processor to put it on par in terms of performance with the Roku 3.
It's a relatively compact box, measuring 89.9 x 89.9 x 25.4mm and weighs around 140 grams.
The Roku 2 demands an extra £30 over the Streaming Stick, but you get a lot more for your money. It operates much faster, has built-in dual-band Wi-Fi as well as an Ethernet port for a wired, stable connection. You also get a USB port for playing back any photos, videos and music you have stored on external devices and microSD card slot to expand internal storage. This is only so you can add more channels or store game save data rather than being able to download programmes for watching at a later date.
Yes, that's right, the Roku 2 is fast enough to handle gaming content which can be controlled using the remote control. Unfortunately the supplied remote doesn't support motion control, that's saved for the Roku 3. Also, the remote that comes with the Roku 2 relies on infrared, so make sure it's always in the line of sight.
Because the Roku 2 and Roku 3 are so similar in terms of performance and the only real difference being the supplied remote, the 2 represents great value for money.
Buy the Roku 3 from Amazon.co.uk
- Price: £79.99
- Features: Up to 1080p, point anywhere remote, dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet, HDMI
The Roku 3 does everything that the Roku 2 can do, it has the same processor and same access to channels. It also has a USB port, microSD card slot and Ethernet port, as well as being able to decode Dolby Digital Plus and DTS Digital Surround over HDMI.
Where the Roku 3 differs is in the supplied remote control. The remote that comes with the 3 works with RF frequencies, so you can point it anywhere and not have to worry about being able to see the player, and it also has a built-in headphone jack. This allows you to plug a pair of headphones into the remote to listen to whatever is playing on screen. The TV gets muted so you can listen quietly to yourself and not disturb anyone around, perfect for late night viewing.
The remote also supports motion control for gaming, so will make games such as driving ones much better to play.
The extra features of the Roku 3 are good and worthwhile and considering it costs £80, an extra £10 on top of the Roku 2, it still represents great value for money and the extra remote features could prove to be genuinely useful.
Roku in the US
There are six different streaming options in the US, with 4K support on the higher-end devices.
Roku Streaming Stick
Buy the Roku Streaming Stick (US) from Amazon.com
- Price: $49.99
- Features: Up to 1080p, point anywhere remote, dual-band Wi-Fi, HDMI
Roku upgraded the US version of the Streaming Stick last year, giving it an improved processor which Roku says delivers more power than the Chromecast and former Fire TV Stick. It was also given dual-band MIMO wireless connectivity and a clever private listening mode via the companion smartphone app.
The new Streaming Stick costs around $50 in the US, making it more expensive than both the Express and Express+, but with the only real difference being the private listening feature, as well as a slight performance boost.
- Price: $29.99 (Express), $39.99 (Express+)
- Features: Up to 1080p, dual-band Wi-Fi, HDMI, composite video output for older TVs (Express+ only)
The Express and Express+ are actually smaller than the Streaming Stick, but they don't plug into an HDMI port on your TV. Instead they act as very small set-top boxes and come supplied with some tape to attach them to the underneath of your TV, with an HDMI cable connecting the two and a Micro-USB taking care of power.
The Express+ is designed with older TVs in mind because it lets you connect via a composite jack and A/V cable (red, white and yellow). The Express+ can still be plugged into HD TVs via HDMI though, and supports HDMI upscaling to 1080p.
They perform just like any other Roku player, serving up the same generous selection of channels and come with a remote control too, which some would say makes them more attractive than a Chromecast which relies on your smartphone to operate.
At $30 and $40 respectively, the Roku Express and Express+ represent one of the cheapest smart upgrades for your TV, offer the biggest selection of streaming services and decent performance to boot.
- Price: $69.99 (Premiere), $99.99 (Premiere+)
- Features: Up to 4K, HDR (Premiere+ only), point anywhere remote (Premiere+ only), dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet (Premiere+ only), HDMI
The Roku Premiere and Premiere+ look more like the Roku players we've already come to know and love. They're small black boxes that replace the Roku 2 and both support 4K streaming at 60fps, something the Roku 2 can't do. Both Premiere models are fitted with quad-core processors, so they should be lightning fast in operation.
The Premiere+ gets the added benefit of HDR (High Dynamic Range) functionality, so if you subscribe to the services that support it, i.e. Netflix and Amazon Video, you'll reap the full rewards. Both boxes also offer a night listening mode, which compresses the dynamic range of sound to the same level, so loud explosions for example are kept at the same volume as everything else.
The Premiere+ also receives an Ethernet port, USB port and microSD card slot, but both boxes get an optical output.
The Premiere gets an infrared remote control, the same one that comes with the Express models, while the Premiere+ gets an RF blaster so you can wave it around anywhere. It also adds a headphone jack for private listening.
Buy the Roku Ultra from Amazon.com
- Price: $129.99
- Features: Up to 4K, HDR, Dolby Digital Plus, advanced point anywhere remote, dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet, HDMI
Finally, the Roku Ultra is the flagship model that has all the bells and whistles. It supports 4K HDR streaming, as well as Dolby Digital Plus over HDMI. All the other US-bound Roku players only support Dolby pass-through over HDMI.
The Ultra also has an Ethernet port, USB port and microSD card slot for playing back stored media and expanding the internal storage, as well as an optical output.
The supplied remote control has a headphone jack for private listening, but gets the added functionality of a lost remote finder. If you've lost the remote, you can press a button on the box and the remote will make a sound to help you track it down. The remote also has voice enabled search and motion control for gaming.
- Roku Express vs Roku Express+ vs Roku Premiere vs Roku Premiere+ vs Roku Ultra: What's the difference?
Roku Mobile App
Roku also has a mobile application for iOS and Android devices to accompany whichever streaming device you have. With it, you can access channels you already have installed, search the channel store for new ones to add and use it as a remote control.
A recent change added a new navigation bar along the bottom of the screen that provides quick access to some of the most popular functions, including channels, what's on, where you'll find recommended content that other Roku users have been watching, quick launch for the remote control and access to photos which you can send to your streaming device to view on your TV.