What Is Roku?

Roku is a streaming device platform and channel. Learn more about Roku and how it compares to other streaming platforms.

Editor's choice

Roku Ultra

Price: $99.99

Resolution: 4K, HDR10+, Dolby Vision

Features: USB and Ethernet ports, Bluetooth capability

Cheapest

Roku Express

Price: $29.99

Resolution: 1080p

Features: Full Roku interface with simple remote

Best value

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Price: $49.99

Resolution: 4K, HDR10+, Dolby Vision

Features: Voice remote with TV controls and long-range Wi-Fi

*Amazon.com list price as of 11/29/21 at 9:00 a.m. MST. See full disclaimer regarding pricing and features for more information.

Roku is one of the most popular brands in the digital media player industry. Its streaming devices have helped shape the way we now consume video content. But Roku is more than just a device. It’s also an operating system, an advertising platform, and a production company.

What is Roku?

The Roku streaming player is an open-source platform available to developers and content providers alike. It offers more than 1,200 channels of entertainment ranging from movies and television shows, a world of professional and amateur sports, outdoors and fitness programs, religious and spirituality offerings, and tons of family and children’s entertainment, including games.

The Roku media player leverages your high-speed internet connection to access thousands of hours of premium, hybrid, and free content and presents it in an easy-to-use format that makes navigation as simple as pressing a couple of buttons and arrow keys.

When you combine Roku with your cable subscription, you have the world at your fingertips.

How Roku works

You can purchase a Roku media player from any big box store or online. Every Roku model is different, but the setup process is simple no matter which one you buy.

Within minutes of unpacking the box, you can be watching your favorite movie, streaming news from around the world, playing ridiculously fun games, and possibly discovering something awesome you didn’t know existed five minutes earlier.

A Roku device itself can’t replace traditional cable and satellite TV service. But it works best as a TV supplement with access to more than 1,200 channels of extra content. Roku users will find easy access to on-demand content, pay-per-view and subscription sports services like NBA League Pass and MLB Extra Innings, and the deepest collection of fresh and never-before-seen programming from innovative creators and developers.

Roku’s open platform

The open platform approach makes Roku distinct in the streaming media player marketplace. Its freely-distributed software developer kit (SDK) allows anyone to create their own Roku channel. This has attracted some of the largest content owners and media companies, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu + Live TV, HBO Max, Pandora, and Spotify.

Its real strength since its inception, however, has been its ability to appeal to smaller media companies seeking a larger audience at a fraction of the cost of starting a cable or premium channel. This has given Roku users access to some of the most interesting and unique content available anywhere in the world.

How Roku stacks up

No media player can quite keep up with what a cable or satellite subscription offers, but no media player in the industry offers anywhere near the number of channels available on Roku.

Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, and Chromecast are other popular streaming media players in the marketplace, and each offers something a little different from Roku. They all offer the ability to tap into the most popular entertainment sources for movies, news, television shows, sports, and weather.

Apple TV and Google TV are available through other sources like select Blu-ray players and Smart TVs. Though, Roku is also available through several different brands of Smart TVs through its Roku TV deals with the likes of TV brands such as Westinghouse, Hitachi, and Magnavox. Roku TV gives consumers the power of Roku without the need for purchasing a separate media player.

Roku versions

The Roku streaming player comes in three distinct models.

Roku Express: This entry-level media player offers video resolution as high as 1080p HD with wireless internet connectivity. It works on virtually any HD TV with an HDMI cable. The Roku Express retails for $29.99.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K: The latest mid-level product from Roku is the Streaming Stick 4K which retails for $49.99. This compact device plugs directly into the HDMI port on your HD TV and includes 4K video resolution with long-range Wi-Fi. It boots up fast and comes with a voice remote with basic TV controls.

Roku Ultra: This is Roku’s high-end streaming media player, which retails for $99.99. It has an Ethernet slot for faster internet speeds, comes with headphones that plug into the remote for private listening, and offers Bluetooth connectivity. There’s a lot more to the Roku Ultra, which is why it tops our Best Streaming TV Devices guide.

Final take

If you’re considering enhancing the current offerings of your traditional cable or satellite TV provider, Roku will serve as a great set-top streaming media player. Its sheer volume of entertainment options makes it one of the best values in the streaming media-player marketplace, and its open-source platform ensures continued access to leading-edge content creators.

What Is Roku? FAQ

Do you have to pay for Roku?

There are no fees for using a Roku device. Once you purchase your device, you will have access to several free channels and games. Only subscription-based streaming channels like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max require monthly or annual fees.

Can you watch live TV on Roku?

You can watch live TV on Roku by downloading channels that offer live streaming content. We’ve ranked the top live TV streaming services in our comprehensive guide, which includes Roku-compatible services like YouTube TV, Hulu, fuboTV, and Sling TV.

Is Netflix free on Roku?

Netflix is not free on Roku. You can download the Netflix channel for free on your Roku device, but you’ll still need a Netflix subscription in order to watch any content.

Do I need Roku with a smart TV?

You don’t necessarily need a Roku device if you already have a smart TV. Most smart TVs come with built-in apps. In fact, brands like Philips, JVC, and RCA have the Roku TV experience built into them.

It’s also important to note that in order to use a Roku device, you will need a TV that has an HDMI port.

Disclaimers:
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

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