With everyone more dependent on streaming alternatives to cable, many are looking to pick up a streaming device. Due to its ease of use and a number of apps supported, my favorite streamer is Roku. However, there are over 5 on the market now. Which Roku should you buy? Before we get into the details, let’s cut the chase on which Roku is best in 2021.
The Best Roku Device: Roku Express 4K+
Runner Up: Roku Ultra
Why Roku Express 4K+ is the Best Choice
Many review sites and other cord-cutter sites will tell you to go for the Ultra. They are looking at the price and assuming the value is in the hardware and trying to convince you to pay double for what amounts to the same functionality. Let’s look at a direct comparison of these devices:
|Roku Express 4K+||Roku Ultra|
|Voice Search Remote||✓||✓|
|Processor||ARM® Cortex-A53*||ARM® Cortex-A53|
|Memory||1 GB||2 GB|
As you can see, all the core streaming functionality is nearly identical with both Roku devices. They both stream video up to 4K resolution with HDR. They both support DTS Digital Surround, with Dolby Audio (Both over HDMI passthrough.) They both support 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless. They even have the same exact processors! The Roku Ultra does have 1 GB more memory but it doesn’t add much to menu responsiveness relative to the Roku Streaming Express 4K+. The biggest difference from a streaming standpoint is the Ultra supports Dolby Atmos, where the Express 4K+ does not.
Why Choose The Roku Ultra?
Hardware isn’t a reason to choose Roku Ultra over the Roku Express 4K+. The few milliseconds of response the memory might afford isn’t worth the additional $30 for the same streaming functionality. However, there are a few features the Ultra has which the Express 4K doesn’t offer:
- If you want to use ethernet, then you will want the Roku Ultra. The Roku Express 4K+ only connects to your home network wirelessly by default. If you want Ethernet connectivity with the Express 4K+, you will need to purchase an additional dongle.
- Also, if you need more than 100 streaming apps installed on your Roku at the same time, you may want the Ultra. It has double the memory to hold more apps.
- The most useful advantage the Ultra has is “private-listening mode.” The remote that comes with the Ultra has a headphone jack that allows you to plug a pair of earbuds into the remote. This mutes the TV, so it doesn’t disturb others around you and outputs the auto to your headphones. The Ultra also includes a nice pair of headphones.
If any of these three features seem like a “must-have”, then the Roku Ultra may be worth the additional money. However, most folks looking to cut the cord want a device that streams top-of-the-line video, possibly with surround sound capability. The Roku Express 4K+ meets those needs.
For a more detailed breakdown of each Roku device on the market please see our review of all the Roku devices.
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