Here at Reviewed, we take TV watching very seriously. For more than a decade, we've tested and reviewed the top televisions in our Cambridge, Mass., laboratories to help you find the very best. So when TV streaming devices entered the market, we took significant note.
After years of evaluating (and living with) all the different devices out there, Roku has consistently topped our lists. Whether you're looking for a device to deck out your home theater, a quick way to stream Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime in a guest bedroom, or in need of a new TV that will combine everything in one, we've found the best Roku devices.
In our guide to the best streaming devices, the Roku Ultra (2020)(available at Amazon for $89.81) topped all the other brands out there. The latest Ultra supports 4K and HDR video, has an intuitive interface, a stellar voice remote, and supports almost every major streaming service.
But it's safe to say we're a fan of many of the products in the Roku lineup.
These are the best Roku devices we tested:
Roku Streaming Stick+
TCL 6-Series TV
Note: This year, the streaming device maker introduced the Roku Streambar (available at Amazon), which combines a compact soundbar with a streaming device. We haven't reviewed it yet, but will update this guide once we do.
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Though Roku's lineup has undergone some changes in the past few years, the latest Roku Ultra is the current flagship model and will be the best option for most people. It supports 4K/HDR (including Dolby Vision), Dolby Atmos sound and an impressive selection of streaming services, including Apple's own TV app.
It was the first non-Apple device to fully support the app, letting you access your iTunes purchases and rent or buy movies from Apple just like you would on the Apple TV.
Roku’s interface has become slightly more cluttered with ads than it used to be, though these are primarily for the Roku Channel, a free ad-supported streaming service that includes mostly basic cable-level movies and TV shows. It’s not great, but your favorite apps are still front and center, make it easier to move from Netflix to Amazon to Disney+ without getting lost.
Otherwise, the interface looks just like it has for the past few years. It's relatively easy to navigate, and Roku makes it even easier with a voice remote control that includes dedicated buttons to four major streaming services (typically Netflix and some mix of Hulu, Disney+, and a few others). There's even a remote finder on the device.
A notable detraction from Roku devices at present is their failure to strike a deal with AT&T's HBO Max. HBO's other streamer, HBO Now, is still supported by Roku and costs the same as HBO Max, but misses added content from Warner Bros., CNN, Comedy Central, and more.
However, for watching Netflix, the Ultra was the best streaming device we tested among all the brands.
The Roku Ultra's remote continues to be the best around. It’s the easiest to use, it has dedicated buttons to go straight to the services you probably use most, and programmable buttons you can point to other apps. It also has volume and power buttons for your TV, so you may only need a single remote if you don’t use cable.
Best of all, the remote has a headphone jack so you can plug in any old pair of headphones and instantly have wireless audio for whatever you're streaming—perfect for late-night binge-watching, especially if you share a living space with someone who goes to bed early. (You can also do this with the Roku app for your smartphone.)
Add it up and Roku makes a very tight case, especially for the price. It's fast, easy to use, has the best remote, and it has access to a wide array of content. Outside of people on a tight budget and those with very specific technical needs, the Roku Ultra is your best bet.
In the past, streaming sticks have typically been lower-end offerings compared to the full-size streaming boxes, but the Roku Streaming Stick+ is a real exception. It offers 4K resolution and HDR support (though still no Dolby Vision) in a stick form factor, and in our tests it was nearly as fast as the full-size Roku Ultra.
Though it only works over WiFi, the Stick+ did just fine streaming 4K/HDR content. The antenna is built into the USB power cable, a design Roku claims offers improved reception.
The Streaming Stick+ ships with a remote control that is nearly identical to the Ultra’s as well, offering voice command and full control over your TV’s power and volume. The remote doesn’t have a headphone jack, though you can still listen wirelessly with any Roku via your phone and the Roku app.
Our favorite Roku TV right now looks fantastic and is offered at an enticingly low price. With this TV, you won't need to purchase a separate Roku. It's already integrated into the television.
The TCL 6-Series, available in 55- and 65-inch models, is a budget-friendly QLED TV that brings the benefits of quantum dot technology (namely better brightness and color production) to the masses.
We were quite impressed with the TCL 6-Series’ contrast as well; the TV’s relatively deep black levels look all the better thanks to its ability to get very bright, particularly with HDR content. We also, obviously, love the TV’s built-in Roku software. The system is speedy, easy to use, and supports virtually every streaming service on the market.
That said, you can’t really offer a QLED TV in this price bracket without some concessions. The 6-Series’ 60 Hz panel doesn’t handle motion as well as higher-end QLED TV’s whose panels feature a native refresh rate of 120 Hz. Additionally, the 6-Series’ optimal viewing angle is quite limited.
Still, this TV is jam-packed with value, especially if you’re hoping to land a Roku TV that’s bright enough to accommodate a room that gets a lot of natural or artificial light.
This guide was tested and put together by Reviewed Executive Editor TJ Donegan. He's been testing consumer electronics for a decade, focusing on cameras, tablets, smartphones, televisions, laptops, headphones, and—of course—streaming boxes. He's owned a Roku since the early days of the company and has since amassed streaming devices from every major manufacturer, too.
To test TVs, Reviewed's home theater team includes Michael Desjardin and Lee Neikirk. Michael is a senior staff writer who for the past six years has focused on technology. He's a film enthusiast and TV expert who takes picture quality very seriously. Lee is the home theater editor who designed Reviewed's TV testing methodology after receiving calibration certification from the Imaging Science Foundation.
To test Roku devices, we focused on its hardware—the remote, the device itself, how it connects to your TV, how fast it is, and how it feels to use it.
We tested the devices' software by evaluating things like ease of use, the presence of ads, the ability to use things like voice search to discover content, and any other relevant features like mobile apps.
Our goal was to find the best possible streaming box for most people who want to stream plenty of TV and movies.
What To Know About Roku Devices
There are a few key things to keep in mind when selecting a streaming box or a streaming stick. The first is making sure you get a device that works with your TV.
Do You Need a 4K Streaming Device If You Don’t Have a 4K TV?
In short, yes. Almost every new TV is going to come with a 4K screen these days, which means that it has four times as many pixels as older 1080p Full HD screens.
Nearly every device on this list supports 4K (and it’ll say so on the box and in the model name, typically).
Even if you don’t have a 4K TV yet, you’re likely to have one at some point and it’s not worth pinching pennies on a 1080p device just to have to replace it with a 4K-ready one later.
Does Roku Support HDR?
While 4K resolution is fairly simple, HDR—or High Dynamic Range—is much more complex. Basically, it is a mode that lets your TV adapt to make part of the screen brighter or darker depending on what is playing. This in turn affects the color shading and vibrancy.
HDR TVs also typically support wider color gamuts, meaning you get more vivid colors that are beyond what older TVs were capable of displaying. There is a lot of detail we’re skipping here, but in a nutshell, if you have an HDR TV you’ll want a box that supports HDR so you can get the most out of it.
Roku supports HDR with supported TVs. As long as you are using any newer HDMI cable, you should be able to just play HDR content through these boxes without having to change anything in the menus.
Is My Privacy Secure with a Roku Streaming Device?
Reviewed takes data privacy extremely seriously, and unfortunately, most streaming services do not. In most cases, you can opt-out of letting the box itself track and monetize your viewing habits, but you’ll still see ads and such. Just be aware that each streaming service may have its own ad tracking built-in, and this is often not something you can opt-out of.
You can opt-out of most of these settings by going to Roku's account or settings pages and navigating to the section on privacy.
Other Roku Devices We Tested
The Roku Premiere has changed forms several times in the last few years, going from a slightly lower-end version of the Roku Ultra to a slightly higher-end take on Roku’s entry-level Express model.
The latest version is actually slightly lower-end compared to the Roku Streaming Stick+, offering worse WiFi connectivity and no Ethernet port.
On top of that, unlike Roku's Streaming Stick+ and Ultra, the Premiere's remote requires line-of-sight for control, does not work for TV volume or power, and doesn't include voice support, which makes it much more difficult to use the search function. It’s a Roku, so you are getting a great experience overall, but it’s only slightly cheaper than the Streaming Stick+ and we’d prefer the better remote and faster WiFi speed in most situations.
That said, if you can't get the Streaming Stick+, the Premiere isn’t a bad alternative. You’re still getting the excellent Roku platform and it still supports 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos sound with a compatible TV and audio system.
The very entry-level model in Roku’s lineup is the Express, and it offers a very barebones experience. Though you do get Roku’s excellent, clicky remote, it does not support voice searching or wireless listening, and it doesn’t have buttons to control your TV’s power or volume.
The platform is fully featured, so you are getting access to all the same streaming services, but the device maxes out at 1080p video. The box itself is quite small, so it’s a nice option for a second bedroom, den, or kitchen TV where you just want streaming support and don’t care about the high-end options like 4K, HDR, and more.
Just note that, unlike some earlier models of the Roku Express line, this model requires an HDMI port to connect. It includes the cable, but if you have an older TV or A/V setup that requires separate analog RCA jacks, this box no longer supports that.
For most people, it’s worth the extra money to jump up to the Streaming Stick+, but if you’re on a tight budget or just don’t mind the missing features, this is a viable alternative.
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.