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Roku Streaming Stick, Streaming Stick+, Express, Express+ and Ultra: What’s the difference?

We compare the Roku Streaming Stick, Streaming Stick+, Express, Express+ and Ultra streaming devices, to see how they differ in specs and video features.

Roku has just evolved and that means a whole new host of smart streaming devices have been launched, to make your television better. While the Roku Ultra, Streaming Stick, Express and Express+ have all been upgraded to bring them up to date, there’s also a fresh new member of the family in the Streaming Stick+.

All of this means you now have more options than ever for watching 4K, HDR content at 60fps on your big screen at home. It also means prices have dropped for even more affordable access to the streaming hardware. All that and Roku has updated its Roku OS 8 too, for even more options on whichever hardware takes your fancy.

Here’s everything you need to know about the latest generation of Roku streaming hardware, so you can decide which one is perfect for your entertainment streaming needs.

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Roku Streaming Stick+ is the affordable (and compact) 4K and HDR streamer

Roku has unveiled the new Streaming Stick+ as an option for those that want the compact and simple form factor of the standard Streaming Stick, but with the high resolution abilities of the Ultra.

The tech-filled Roku Streaming Stick+ is capable of 4K resolution with HDR support and playback at 60 frames per second. That’s a big jump over the standard Stick’s Full HD output, yet in a very similar form factor.

The Wi-Fi range of the Streaming Stick+ is also far better than the previous generation, thanks to 802.11ac dual-band MIMO wireless. This same functionality has been packed inside the standard Roku Streaming Stick, although the Stick+ cleverly packs its wireless receiver into the power cord, for up to four times the wireless range of last year’s Streaming Stick.

Roku has also added voice controls for both sticks via the included remote control for easier search. Despite all that smarts, the new Streaming Stick+ is priced at £80. That is of course a step up from the Roku Streaming Stick, which costs £60 here in the UK.

Roku Ultra is the top-end streamer for quality and personal audio

If connectivity and storage are important for you, then the flagship Ultra is your best bet. This takes the form of a reasonably dinky box rather than a stick, which churns out 4K, HDR and 60fps image quality, just like the new Streaming Stick+. However it also offers Ethernet connectivity as well as Wi-Fi, plus microSD expansion and storage space.

Beyond the box itself is the Ultra remote, which has a built-in microphone for voice controlled search. The remote also features an audio jack that allows you to plug in headphones and listen to your TV content privately.

The Roku Ultra is priced at $99 in the US and can be picked up for around £140 here in the UK.

Roku Express and Express+ have been upgraded for 2017, but are still the budget models

The Roku Express and Express+ have been supercharged, this time with five times more powerful processing than the previous generation offered. All the same, you can expect more basic performance than with the standard Streaming Stick, thanks to the simple chipset that powers these devices.

In the case of the Express+ there is an option to connect via HDMI and composite A/V ports, which differentiates it from the standard Express model.

The Roku Express is £35 while the Roku Express+ is currently US-only, costing $40.

Roku OS 8 offers lots of powerful now skills

All of these streaming devices should support the nifty new Roku OS 8, which packs plenty of killer new features.

The most major plus for the new Roku operating system is the addition of voice controls. That means you can use the microphone in the controller (where bundled) to switch inputs, tune the antenna, launch a channel and more.

One cool part of this is called Fast TV Start which, as the name suggests, lets you quickly go from off mode to powered on and watching a show, using voice command alone. The example Roku gives is you can say “Launch Hulu” and the box will turn on and open that app (aka channel), ready to stream in no time at all.

The Roku Smart Guide is another winner with listings of TV via the HDTV antenna and streaming options all in one place. That allows you to flit forward seven days to plan viewings or look back up to 14 days to watch seamlessly via on demand. That antenna viewing now also has support for private listening where available – ideal for use with the Roku app or via a remote with headphone jack.

There is also a 4K Spotlight Channel update that allows you to more easily find 4K and HDR content all from one place.

The new Roku players and Roku OS 8 are all available from November 2017.


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