Roku has been a competitor in the set-top streaming box market for several years, and has emerged as one of the leading options for people that want to purchase a device that lets them stream video from places like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
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The current entry-level Roku device is called the Roku Express (available here from Amazon). With a low price and good functionality, this is one of the most popular options on the market for people that want a device like this.
Our review below will walk you through the different technical specs and features of the Roku Express, then we will compare it with some of the other Roku devices, as well as its main competitor, the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
The Roku Express is a very basic looking device. Once you open up the package and remove the Roku Express, you will see that it’s quite small. It’s actually smaller than the remote control that comes with it. The full contents of the Roku Express, when ordered from Amazon include:
- HDMI cable
- Power cord
- Roku remote
- Roku Express
- Power plug
- Adhesive strips
On the back of the Roku Express are two ports and a Reset button. The two ports are a mini-USB port and an HDMI port. The mini-USB port is what you use to connect the power cable.
The USB port lets you connect the Roku Express’ power cable, and the HDMI cable lets you connect the device to your TV. If your TV has a USB port, you may be able to connect the USB cable to that port to give the device power.
Ease of Setup
Before you are ready to use your Roku Express, make sure that you have a television with an HDMI port to which you will be connecting the Roku Express, and that you know the name of your wireless network and the password for it.
Setup of the Roku Express is fairly straightforward. Simply decide where you want to put the Roku Express, connect your HDMI cable to the HDMI port on the back of the device, then connect the other end to an HDMI port on your TV.
Next connect the USB cable to the USB port on the back of the Roku Express, then plug it in. That’s it.
Now you can turn on your TV and switch to the input channel to which you connected your Roku, then proceed with the instructions on the TV to complete the setup.
The Roku Express has become a pretty fast device, certainly an improvement over the performance of the previous entry-level Roku device models. Previously I had recommended that people get one of the more expensive models if speed and performance were a factor, but I find that the performance of the Express is more than suitable for most use cases.
The amount of time it takes the Roku Express to boot up from being turned off until it is in a usable state is very short. Moving around the menu is instantaneous, and the Express responds to button presses immediately, with most channels launching in a matter of seconds.
Videos also start playing within a second or two of selecting them, although this timing is going to be based more on your Internet connection than anything else.
The Roku Express requires a wireless network, as there is no ethernet port on the device. Additionally, unlike other Roku models like the Roku Streaming Stick+, the Roku Express does not include the advanced wireless receiver.
However, provided that your Roku Express is going to be in a location that is relatively close to your wireless router, and you have other nearby devices that are able to connect to your wireless network, it’s unlikely that you will experience an issue.
But if you are planning to put the Roku Express in a room or location that may not have a strong wireless signal, then you may have a better experience with the Roku Streaming Stick+.
Comparison with Other Rokus
When considering the Roku Express in relation to the other Roku models, it’s important to remember that this is the base model of the device.
This means that many of the features that you would find on more expensive models, such as 4K or HDR streaming, are not found on the Roku Express.
Additionally, the Roku Express does not have voice search on the remote control, it doesn’t have the remote finder feature or a headphone jack, nor does it have an ethernet port or USB port. You can go to the Roku Express page on Amazon to see a full comparison of the Roku Express to the other Roku models available from Amazon.
However, the Roku Express is able to stream in 1080p, you can use the Roku app on your smartphone to control the device, and it has full access to the full Roku catalog.
Comparison with Amazon Fire TV Stick
When you are considering getting a device for your home, it’s important to look at other similar products that you might enjoy more.
In the case of the Roku Express, its biggest competition is the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Both devices have access to a number of different channels. The Roku Express interface does promote the use of some channels owned and partnered with Roku, while the Fire TV Stick has more of a focus around Amazon services and channels. However, you can get a Prime Video app on the Roku to let you stream Prime videos and purchase videos from Amazon. One important factor to consider when comparing the channel selections between these two is that the Fire TV Stick lacks a dedicated YouTube channel. There are work arounds that let you watch YouTube videos on the device, however, so this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
The Fire TV Stick is also slightly more expensive than the Roku Express, although the remote on the Fire TV Stick does have a voice control function, which may be important to some people.
My personal preference between these two devices would be the Roku Express. I find the navigation to be simpler, though this could certainly be chalked up to personal bias, as I’ve been using Rokus for a very long time.
If you are looking for a simple way to watch HD video from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and more on your TV, then the Roku Express is a great choice.
It’s affordable, easy to set up and use, and has access to a massive selection of different channels.
The Roku Express may be missing certain more high-end features, such as 4K streaming and additional media-connectivity options, but it does everything that should be reasonably expected from a product in this price range. Buy the Roku Express here from Amazon.
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