Skip to Content

What is Roku and How Does it Work? (Everything Explained)

What is Roku and How Does it Work? (Everything Explained)

What a Roku is, how it works, and why its so popular are questions that have become quite common with the rise of streaming devices. This blog post is intended for individuals keen on understanding the functionality of Roku and its contribution to the modern entertainment world.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the foundational aspects of Roku, its software, hardware capabilities, and unique features that set it apart from other streaming devices like the Firestick, Nvidia Shield, Chromecast with Google TV, Apple TV and others.

In the current entertainment ecosystem where streaming is king, Roku stands tall among the crowd:

  • According to a report by Statistica, Roku secured over 71.6 million active accounts worldwide as of Q1 2023, highlighting its dominance in the landscape.
  • The userbase increased by 20 million since 2021, this shows us how rapidly Roku is growing.

Consider getting a Roku? Explore our guide on the best Roku streaming device to help decide which one to get.

Whether you’re a seasoned tech-user or a curious novice, by end of this post, you will have learned everything you need to know to understand what Roku is and how it works.

Key Takeaways

Roku allows you to stream shows and movies from streaming services and different Roku apps. It’s popular as it has a very intuitive user interface, is easy to learn, and has no monthly fees required.

Several app icons on Roku home screen, text overlay

Streaming on Roku is a bit different than using cable; instead of channels, you have apps representing different media providers.

All Roku streaming players uses the internet (and not cable) to access streaming services, but you can still connect cable services such as Xfinity, Spectrum and more (source)

Theres many different roku devices

The Roku Stick 4k, Roku express, and Roku Ultra are quite different from other streaming devices like the FireStick.


Hands down, the most powerful Roku device is the Roku Ultra (see details) and outshines other models due to improved performance, minimal bugs, less issues when streaming, and more.

When Roku is chosen over Fire TV (e.g. firestick 4k) it’s typically because Roku one of the easiest streaming devices to us.

Roku stands out as one of the easiest streaming players to use

Otherwise the two compete very closely regarding features (See our post: Roku vs Firestick)

The Roku remote is straightforward to use, and alternatively, you can also control your Roku with the Roku mobile app.

White Simple Light Blogger Bio Link Website 1

More key takeaways that will help you understand Roku better:

  • Roku is a dynamic platform for streaming purposes. It functions as both software (Roku OS) and hardware, providing an extensive range of media streaming devices such as the Roku Stick 4k, Roku Express, Roku Ultra, Roku TV, Roku Voice Pro remote and Roku Streambar.
  • Its devices connect to your Smart TV or any modern TV via an HDMI connection, with products ranging from lower-end to high-powered 4K Ultra HD devices.
  • Roku also offers several free to watch channels, and also houses various subscription-based streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Prime video, Apple TV. You can also run Plex, Jellyfin and Emby, which are media player platforms that double as streaming media services.
  • An added feature in Roku devices is voice-enabled commands that assist in searches and instructions
  • The Roku Channel, its flagship free content hub, combines ad-supported shows and movies with premium subscriptions. It hosts over 100 free live TV streaming channels.

What is Roku? (And what makes it so popular?)

1 What is Roku

Roku is a comprehensive streaming platform, operating as both hardware and software, that connects to your TV via an HDMI connection, enabling access to a variety of media streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, among others.

The platform offers an array of products including streaming devices like Roku Stick, Roku Express, Roku Ultra, and Roku TV, all designed to convert any modern TV into a smart TV.

The key features of Roku include a user-friendly interface, voice-enabled commands, and the Roku Channel, a free content hub hosting over 100 free live TV streaming channels.

Roku offers more than just streaming services; Roku devices serves multiple functions. It can transform existing televisions into smart TVs, providing extensive streaming capabilities without the need for additional equipment.

The power of Roku lies in its ability to streamline a multitude of multimedia sources into a singular, user-friendly platform. It’s designed to make it easy to watch shows, movies, and other content from popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.

Are you interested in learning more about the functionality of Roku? Check out our detailed guide on “what is Roku and how does it work?”.

The Purpose of Roku

2 The Purpose of Roku

Roku’s purpose allows users to play content from the web via (free and paid) subscription based services on your TV.

Each Roku device is equipped with a sleek interface and smoothly plays high-definition or 4K video… providing that your TV has an HDMI port and you have working internet connection to support it.

It connects your TV to streaming services through the internet, eliminating the need for a computer or other device.

One advantage is the compactness of a Roku device, making it perfect for travelers or those with limited space. It consolidates multiple remotes, operating systems, and subscriptions into a single, cohesive unit. Beyond the device itself, the Roku interface brings a refreshed simplicity, presenting a grid of channels for you to choose from.

In a nutshell, Roku’s purpose is to streamline your streaming experience, making it easier than ever to access a breadth of content whenever and wherever you want. It aims to create a seamless, customized, and immersive viewing experience, consolidating the complex web of streaming services into an accessible and user-friendly platform. Using Roku, anyone can turn their living room into a personal entertainment hub.

We have created an in-depth article on the entire list of Roku Channels in list format. It will help you understand the diverse options Roku offers.

3 What makes Roku so popular

Roku is a leader in the entertainment sphere, forging the path for a new wave of content consumption. It serves as a conduit that connects viewers to vast internet-streamed content, right from their television screens.

Offering full control to its users, Roku allows you to decide what, when, and where you want to watch – very similar to a Firestick, Apple TV, or Nvidia Shield TV Pro.

Essentially, it allows streaming through Roku Channels as well as Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube. One advantage of this approach is that it eliminates the need for separate devices or accounts for different streaming services.

All your favorite shows and films, from across a multitude of platforms, are conveniently accessible from one single device. Another standout feature is the flexibility in terms of payment.

Roku itself doesn’t require a subscription, it’s free to use; you only pay for the subscriptions to the channels you choose to access. See What Does Roku Cost Per Month? (Subscription Fees & Charges) for more on this.

History and development of Roku

4 History and development of Roku

Roku came into existence under the visionary guidance of Anthony Wood, who launched it as his sixth enterprise, hence the name Roku, the Japanese word for the number six. The first device made under the Roku brand was the Developer Player which was introduced in 2008.

This marked the first step towards the integration of software and hardware capabilities for optimized streaming experiences.

Since then, Roku has grown by leaps and bounds, continually revamping its hardware offerings while simultaneously enhancing its operating system. With a user-interface designed for simplicity and diverse content to cater to all tastes, Roku has undeniably revolutionized the entertainment industry by setting new standards for streaming platforms.

Roku Devices

5 Roku Devices

Roku’s more premium offerings deliver even more functionality. For example, the Roku Ultra supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, providing a theater-like experience in your living room.

Other models like the Roku Express HD or Roku Streaming Stick are perfect for budget-conscious viewers seeking to add smart capabilities to their existing televisions. Roku even extends its services beyond streaming devices, offering smart TVs that merge the capabilities of a smart TV and a Roku device.

Explore the different Roku models to find the one that suits you best

Ranging from streaming stick to smart TVs, Roku delivers an assortment of exceptional products to cater to varied user requisites. No matter the need, Roku possesses an adept solution.

Roku couples high-end technology with user-friendly operations, all neatly wrapped up in a compact design. Its range of products equips users with a seamless interface that brings internet-streamed content right on their television screens.

Essentially, these devices make your TV smarter and more flexible, offering a level of customization that traditional cable connections simply can’t match.

Roku TV

6 Roku TV

Embedding its exceptional streaming capability within a television, Roku TV is an all-inclusive entertainment solution. It successfully blends the ease of access to a massive range of internet-streamed channels, courtesy of Roku software, with high-quality television viewing.

As a result, users are liberated from the necessity of an additional streaming system. But that’s not all; along with integrated streaming, Roku TVs also come with a set of advanced features like “Live TV Pause,” which puts you in control of your viewing experience by allowing you to pause or replay your favorite scenes at your convenience.

Deciding between two great options? Compare Roku vs Roku TV in our comprehensive guide where we compare how the Roku device is different from Roku TV.

Roku Streaming Stick

7 Roku Streaming Stick

An exemplification of innovation, the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku Express are a compact and travel-friendly devices that sticks onto an HDMI port in your television.

Don’t let its small size fool you, though! This sleek gadget packs a punch, offering comprehensive access to a library of more than 500000 movies and TV episodes across both free and premium paid channels.

It also features voice control capabilities, enabling you to use voice commands to search for your favorite content or control various functions of your TV.

See: Roku Express vs the regular Roku Stick and what the differences are

By offering personalized home screens and headphone jacks for private listening in the remote, Roku Streaming Stick is a perfect blend of performance, convenience, and affordability, transforming your ordinary TV into a powerful entertainment hub.

Roku Express

8 Roku Express

Roku Express serves as a compact version of the Roku Box, providing the same vast scope of streaming services, but in a more portable and convenient form.

It is just the right choice for new cord cutters as it simplifies streaming without compromising on cost. Plug it into your TV’s HDMI port, go through the easy setup process, and you are ready to stream. Photo sharing, video casting, and music streaming become a breeze with Roku Express. It also includes High-Speed HDMI cables, permitting quicker transmission rates for better image and audio quality.

Whether you want to watch a football match, catch the latest Netflix original, or check out trending YouTube videos, the Roku Express places all this power at your fingertips.

Discover the performance and affordability of the Roku Express in our Roku express streaming media player review.

Roku Ultra

9 Roku Ultra

Built with power and speed in mind, the Roku Ultra offers a streaming experience that goes beyond the norm. It blends a robust quad-core processor with best-in-class wireless connectivity to deliver smooth and responsive streaming.

One of the key advantages of the Roku Ultra is its Ethernet port for wired streaming, bringing stability and continuity to your viewing experience.

It sets itself apart from other Roku counterparts by offering features such as Private Listening Mode through the included premium JBL headphones and a lost remote finder. Navigating the channels becomes easier with voice commands via the enhanced voice remote. Whether it’s HD, 4K, or HDR content you desire, Roku Ultra packs a punch with picture quality that’s optimized for your TV.

Our detailed Roku Ultra review breaks down its features, performance, and value for money.

Roku Streambar (advanced soundbar)

10 Roku Streambar advanced soundbar

The Roku Streambar is a compact device that doubles as both a soundbar and a media streaming player (very unique compared to other soundbars). It improves your TV’s audio quality while providing access to popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime in 4K HDR.

It’s used to enhance the TV viewing experience. It upgrades audio quality without a costly sound system and simplifies streaming by consolidating it into one device.

Don’t miss our detailed review of the Roku Streambar for insights on its features and performance.

Understanding Roku (as a Company)

The Roku Company is not just a hardware manufacturer. It’s also the architect of an innovative, comprehensive digital media distribution and streaming platform. Pioneered by Anthony Wood in 2002, Roku made significant strides in molding the streaming culture by developing media streaming devices – the Roku series.

As increasing numbers of consumers ‘cut the cord’, moving away from traditional television broadcasts toward internet-based content consumption, Roku has played an instrumental role in this transition. The company was also the first to integrate Netflix streaming, way back in 2008, showing a commitment to meeting consumer demand that continues up to this day.

One of the advantages of Roku as a leading player in the digital media space is the broad scope of channels and services it provides. With the Roku operating system integrated into various devices, including smart TVs, soundbars, and the Roku streaming stick, consumers have a variety of options to bring internet streamed content into their homes.

The Roku Channel Store, which boasts hundreds of apps spanning categories such as news, sports, family entertainment, lifestyle, and more, is a robust portal into the vast universe of streaming content.

The rise of cord-cutting and on-demand viewing habits is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Roku, through its reliable, easy-to-use devices and expansive channel store, sits perfectly within this media landscape. By providing consumers with the tools they need to navigate this new world of entertainment, Roku is consistently paving the way in the digital media space.

How Roku connects to your TV (Basics of Setting Up Roku)

When setting up a Roku device, the first aspect to consider is the device’s connectivity to your television. Essentially a bridge between your TV and the internet, your Roku device requires two basic connections – internet for streaming content, and a physical link to your television, commonly through an HDMI port.

This initial setup stage may slightly vary depending on the Roku device model you have but usually, it’s simple. Usually, this involves hooking up the device to an electrical outlet, then connecting it to your TV via the HDMI cable.

Setting up Roku can be confusing for beginners. Learn how to set Roku up for installation in this guide.

Internet and HDMI connection requirement for using Roku

A steady internet connection is critical for the smooth functioning of your Roku device. Similar to a desktop computer or smartphone, your Roku device relies on internet connectivity to stream shows, movies, and other content.

The majority of Roku devices can connect to the internet via a Wi-Fi network. However, some models also support a wired Ethernet connection. That is the way your Roku device gets internet access.

To display the streamed content on your television, your Roku device needs a physical connection to your TV, primarily through an HDMI cable. Keep in mind; this applies to standalone Roku devices like the Roku Streaming Stick or Roku Ultra. Roku TVs, meanwhile, are essentially smart TVs with built-in Roku features.

All you need to do is connect your Roku TV to the internet to access the Roku platform. One advantage of an HDMI connection is its support for high-definition (HD) video, ensuring you can enjoy your favorite shows or movies in the best possible quality.

Steps to connect Roku device to the TV

The process of connecting a Roku device to a TV is typically straightforward.

  • Let’s start with a Roku player or streaming stick. First, plug the Roku device into an electrical power outlet.
  • Second, insert the Roku device into an available HDMI port on your TV. This enables the video and audio transmission from the Roku device to your TV.
  • Finally, turn on your TV, and make sure it’s tuned to the correct HDMI input that the Roku device is connected to.
  • You can now follow the onscreen instructions to complete the setup, which includes connecting to your home’s internet network.

If you’re just starting out with your new device, you might want to check out our more detailed guide on how to set Roku up for installation. It provides clear, step-by-step instructions that can help make the process much smoother.

Setting up Roku TVs is just as simple since they have Roku technology integrated already. Just unbox your Roku TV, connect it to an electrical outlet, and turn it on.

Creating a Roku account

Creating a Roku account is an integral part of setting up your Roku device, mainly because it allows you to download and manage streaming channels.

Moreover, it keeps track of your device and preferences, optimizing your streaming experience. Get familiar with your Roku with our detailed Roku Account Guide.

Upon first using your Roku device or TV, the setup process will prompt you to create a Roku account, or sign in if you already have one. Remember, your Roku account is free, but you might need a valid credit card while registering.

This payment method is used for any content purchases or subscription fees you incur while using your Roku device.

There are also Roku TVs that have built-in Roku OS

Roku’s diverse product range also includes Smart TVs that come with Roku features built-in – aptly named Roku TVs. These TVs ingeniously integrate the Roku streaming platform, making it simpler to access and manage your favorite content.

Besides streaming channels, Roku TVs can connect to cable, an antenna, gaming consoles, and other external devices. All of these show up on your Roku’s home screen for quick access.

Another advantage of a Roku TV is that it requires fewer cables and less setup hassle. Instead of dealing with an extra gadget, cables, and remotes, your Roku TV brings everything together, providing an enjoyable streaming experience directly out-of-the-box.

If you want to explore more about Roku TV, check out our post: What is a Roku TV and how does it work?

How Exactly Does Roku Work?

Roku is a supportive ally for modern-day consumers in the entertainment arena. It functions as a bridge between traditional cable television and emerging internet streaming services, providing a seamless, centralized hub for TV, movie, and music fanatics.

Instead of being tethered to a TV schedule and sticking to the options cable TV or satellite providers offer, with Roku, you have a universe of choice at your fingertips, ready for consumption at your leisure, whenever you want.

The cornerstone of Roku’s functionality is the internet; it’s a conduit through which web-based multimedia content flows, into your awaiting television screens. Whether you’re browsing through the latest must-watch Netflix orginals or planning a vintage movie marathon on Turner Classic Movies, Roku is the guiding compass that makes it all possible, all in an easy-to-use device or TV set.

Follow our step-by-step guide on how you can install the Roku app on your device.

Operating System

Delving deeper into this groundbreaking device, let’s unravel the secret to Roku’s enormous popularity – its laudable operating system.

The Roku OS isn’t just the backbone of every Roku device but is also licensed to various television manufacturers seeking to future-proof their products in the age of web-streaming.

Roku OS is designed for user-friendly navigation, allowing consumers of all tech-savviness levels to easily understand how to search and browse the 500,000+ movies and TV episodes that Roku devices offer access to.

The aesthetic appeal and straightforwardness of Roku OS interfaces, both on your TV screen and smartphone app, make Roku a pioneer in streaming convenience. Sleek, goal-oriented, and far from intimidating, Roku OS is a testament to Roku’s commitment to consumer-centric design ethos.

Interface and Features

Adapting to Roku’s interface is a breeze, even for the most technologically-averse amongst us. The simple and uncluttered home screen greets visitors with a column of options down the left side, including ‘Home’, ‘Featured Free’, ‘My Feed’, and ‘Streaming Channels’.

The options are seemingly endless, ensuring you’re never at a loss of options when you’re looking for some leisurely entertainment. Besides video content, Roku holds a trove of diverse features tucked under its belt.

Roku’s universal search capability is a game-changer, allowing users to pull up content from a host of top streaming channels. This removes the hassle of juggling multiple streaming services trying to locate a particular show or movie, making Roku a time-saving, efficient entertainment powerhouse.

What Roku Channels are and how they work

Venturing further into Roku territory, an alluring draw is the multitude of channels users can browse through, install, and manage. Channels in the Roku interface are basically apps in the smartphone world—a single point of entry into the content and services your favorite streaming platforms offer.

There’s also Roku private channels, which allow users to access secret, hidden channels on Roku using a code.

With thousands of channels to choose from, Roku significantly broadens your entertainment horizon. Channel installation is a simple affair via Roku’s on-screen menus or its companion smartphone app. Managing these channels, organizing them according to your usage preference, and removing ones no longer needed is as easy as maneuvering through a smartphone.

Customizing Roku Settings for the Best Viewing Experience

Last but not least, one magic trick up Roku’s sleeve is the degree of customization possible. Like a chameleon, each Roku device can be set up to mirror the viewing preferences of every individual user.

Whether you’re a night owl who wishes to keep their Roku’s light emission to a minimum or someone who favors subtitles for all content, Roku’s settings menu is the golden key to make these possible.

From the Roku home screen, accessing the settings menu gives you a slew of visual, audio, and system options to tinker with.

Roku understands that no two individuals are the same, so why should their viewing environment be? With Roku, every user gets the personalized experience they deserve.

We’ve created a guide on how to lower brightness and change other Roku settings to enhance your viewing experience.

Roku Remote: Control options for your Roku

Roku reimagines controlling your entertainment experience, employing two primary control methods: the classic Roku Remote and the innovative Roku Mobile App. These control methods empower users with choices in interfacing with their Roku devices.

The physical Roku Remote is shipped together with your Roku device. It is an exceptional piece of hardware that incorporates function-specific buttons, some of which directly launch popular streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+. Notably, the physical Roku Remote does not require pointing directly towards the Roku device to function. This is an advantage as it allows for a more flexible and relaxed usage.

The Roku Remote also features volume control buttons and a mute button, simplifying audio adjustments during your immersive streaming experiences. Another interesting inclusion in some higher-end Roku models is a headphone jack on the remote, aiding silent viewing where you can enjoy your favorite shows without disturbing those around you.

Having trouble with your remote? Visit our posts: how to replace your Roku remote, how to program Roku remote and Roku not responding to remote for all your remote-related queries.

For those who want to understand how to program Roku remote, our detailed tutorial offers clear instructions and helpful tips.

Roku Remote and Mobile App

In an age glued to smartphones, the Roku Mobile App is a game-changer. Available for free on iOS and Android devices, this app works as a comprehensive Roku Remote replacement. It houses all the standard Roku Remote functions in a digital interface that is both visually appealing and intuitive to use.

One advantage of the Roku Mobile App is its ability to turn your smartphone into a full-featured voice remote. The app’s incorporated microphone enables users to quickly search all Roku channels for movie titles, actors, or genres using just their voice. Likewise, voice commands can be given to adjust volume or switch between channels.

Another notable feature within the app is the Keyboard input option that incredibly simplifies typing for text searches or login entries. This stands as an improvement compared to the tedious task of scrolling through on-screen alphabets with a physical remote.

Lost your remote? You can use the free Roku remote to control your Roku without the remote. We explain how in our helpful guide.

Screen Mirroring on Roku

Screen Mirroring is another transformative feature in the Roku repertoire, enabling content to be shared from device screens directly to the Roku-anchored TV screen.

This feature adds to the user’s convenience by making the process of viewing content from various devices onto the larger TV screen much more straightforward than before.

See: Everything you need to know about screen mirroring on Roku

Screen Mirroring is compatible with Android, Windows, and Amazon Fire OS devices. However, do note that screen mirroring and casting, though similar, are different: while mirroring replicates the device’s screen onto the TV, casting sends a video or movie link to the TV to fetch and play.

Voice Search and Control on Roku

With voice-assistant tech revolutionizing human-machine interactions, the voice control feature included in Roku devices is indeed a noteworthy addition. The Voice Search functionality on Roku is typically available on remotes accompanying higher-end Roku devices or via the Roku Mobile App. This makes finding and playing your beloved content a comfortable endeavor.

Simply initiate the voice command mode and speak your search phrase or command into the microphone. Whether you are looking for a specific show, movie, actor, or even a specific genre, Voice Search swiftly fetches results from across multiple satellites channels, making sure the desired content is just a command away.

An exciting voice command capability is adjusting volume levels or muting the audio. For instance, uttering “volume up” or “mute” into the microphone would perform the respective actions. Voice control not only delivers speedier navigation but also enhances the user experience with the convenience and ease of voice commands.

Private Listening Feature

The Private Listening feature, available both on the Roku Remote and Roku Mobile App, is yet another useful feature designed to keep the peace in shared spaces. By simply plugging in a pair of wired headphones into the Roku Remote or connecting wireless headphones via the mobile app, users can enjoy content without causing disturbance.

This becomes more useful during late-night binge sessions or in circumstances when a tranquil, undisturbed listening environment is preferred.

Available Content

Enter into the remarkable world of Roku’s broad spectrum of entertainment channels. With over 500,000 movie and TV episodes from top free and paid channels, you’ll find a bottomless pit of choice.

The initial advantage you’ll notice is that there are both free and subscription-based offerings, with tailored options for every budget. Some popular examples of free channels include Tubi TV, Crackle, BBC Sport, and Vevo. For those interested in premium offerings, HBO Now, Showtime, and CBS all Access are among many available.

Channels aside, Roku also doesn’t shy away from the latest films and series. They help you gain instant access to the newest box-office releases through rent or purchase, often sooner than they arrive on Netflix. Sounds too good to be true? Let’s not forget the benefit of the Roku platform supporting private listening. Yes, you heard that right. All you need to do is plug in your headphones on your mobile device, without distorting anyone’s peace.

Channels available on Roku (free, subscription, on demand, and single-purchase channels)

As mentioned earlier, Roku channels are one of Roku’s central strengths lies in the sheer volume of options it offers. Catering to versatile demographic preferences, Roku features a deluge of channels suitable for everyone.

The free channels available are diverse. They range from entertainment capsules like YouTube to news networks like CNN, ABC News, and Newsy. Roku additionally allows you to rent or purchase the latest films before they’re available on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

Further, the advantages of Roku don’t just end there. It brings to the forefront an abundance of premium subscription channels. For instance, if you’ve an HBO Now subscription, don’t delay incorporating it into your Roku box. Or how about SHOWTIME if you don’t miss out on big-ticket premium shows?

For single-purchase channels, Vudu offers an exceptional choice of top-quality films in 4K UHD settling for nothing short of theater-esque quality. It’s true what they say; with Roku, let the world of streaming come alive in your living room.

To understand the channel options, check out best free Channels on Roku and how to get channels on Roku.

Supported Apps and services

Unleashing a symbiotic relationship between hardware and software, Roku is adaptable, intuitive, and supports a vast array of apps and services.

Known for the robust integration of popular streaming apps, Roku ensures you don’t miss out on your desired services. With dynamic services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Pandora in your favor, you’ll hardly run into any stumbling blocks.

Side Note: You can also get IPTV on Roku.

But wait – there’s more! Roku empowers users to even steam music platforms seamlessly. With apps like Spotify and iHeartRadio available, your Roku transforms into a virtual jukebox.

Specific Roku models also support mirroring for Android and Windows devices, which means you can display whatever is on your device onto your TV screen. This level of flexibility amplifies the practical virtues of investing in a Roku device.

What Channels and content may not be available?

While Roku provides a sweeping breadth of channels and streams a legion of apps and content, not everything is up for grabs. Geographical restrictions can truncate your options. For instance, some channels may not be open for streaming outside the U.S due to copyright and licensing agreements.

Also, certain new networks may baffle with your Roku device simply because it does not meet the criteria put forth by the network provider.

On another note, it’s worth mentioning that even though Roku’s comprehensive library is its main draw, it still doesn’t have EVERYTHING.

Specific niche, regional, and smaller networks might not be available. So, if you’re into those, it’s always prudent to check for availability before you make the leap to Roku. A small trade-off for a much more extensive and engaging entertainment experience.

Comparing Roku to Other Streaming Devices

With a wide range of streaming devices available, selecting one that best suits your needs can be a challenging endeavor. To assist you in deciphering the differences and advantages, we will delve into an in-depth and detailed comparison of Roku with its most significant competitors – Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast.

Roku, with its wide range of models and price points, is recognized as one of the leading streaming players globally. It offers a comprehensive and organized streaming experience, supports 4K and HDR content, and has a convenient and user-friendly interface. It appeals to novices and tech-savvy individuals alike, making it a strong contender in the market.

One advantage is that Roku is universal in its compatibility, as it manages to create an ample playing ground for streaming services without favoring any particular one. This makes Roku a preferred choice for those who wish to explore a wide array of content from various sources. There is also a distinct emphasis on free-of-charge channels, making it a cost-effective option.

We’ve conducted comprehensive comparisons between Roku and its competitors. Here are a few: Roku vs Firestick, Roku vs Apple TV 4k and Roku vs Chromecast with Google TV.

Roku vs. Amazon Fire Stick

When the Roku streaming experience is compared with Amazon Fire Stick, a clear distinction is observed in their interfaces. The Roku interface projects simplicity, leaving no room for confusion or complexity. In contrast, the Amazon Fire Stick interface leans heavily towards Amazon’s ecosystem of products and services.

In terms of content availability, both devices extend support to various favorite services. However, Roku, with its neutral stance, provides an unbiased list, whereas Amazon Fire Stick prominently features Amazon Prime content. One advantage to this is the easy accessibility to Amazon’s vast content library for Prime subscribers.

Performance-wise, both devices offer adequate speed and responsiveness. Although Amazon Fire Stick promises a slightly better overall horsepower, Roku’s lineup of devices, coupled with a lightweight, unobtrusive interface, delivers a compelling streaming performance.

Roku vs. Apple TV

When comparing Roku to Apple TV, the premium feel and seamless user experience of Apple products are immediately evident. Apple TV boasts a polished interface and the ability to stream 4K HDR content, much like Roku’s high-end devices.

In the comparison of Roku Ultra vs Apple TV 4k, which device reigns supreme? Read our in-depth review to find out.

However, it’s important to note the stark price contrast. Apple TVs are on the expensive side of the streaming device spectrum, ensuring a premium experience that incorporates accessibility to a massive content library, high-quality hardware, and the ability to step into Apple’s ecosystem seamlessly. On the other hand, Roku devices are available at various price points, thus appealing to a broader audience.

One advantage of Apple TV is the integration with other Apple devices, which is pivotal for those heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem. However, a standout feature of Roku remains its rich, unbiased library of channels and its focus on free content.

Roku vs. Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast presents a different kind of streaming experience entirely, leveraging a “casting” technique to project content from your smart device or computer onto your TV. This makes the Google Chromecast less of a standalone device and more of a supportive accessory for other devices.

Roku devices, on the other hand, are more independent, capable of functioning solely with their provided remote control or Roku mobile app. They provide a traditional method of switching between apps or channels to view content. Here, Roku’s strength lies in the abundance of its content and its user-friendly nature, making it an appealing alternative.

In our comparison review of two streaming devices the Roku vs Google ChromeCast, we breakdown the pros and cons of each.

While Google Chromecast provides a unique way to stream content, the extensive range of functionalities superimposed in Roku’s repertoire, right from its wide array of models to the rich content, proof of seamless navigation, and remote control, enhances Roku’s value proposition. However, the low cost of Chromecast and its portable form factor remain enticing for travelers and budget-conscious individuals.

Choosing the Best Roku Device

The Roku brand offers a range of devices that cater to diverse streaming needs. As a consumer, your choice depends largely on your specific viewing habits, your budget, and the type of TV you currently own. Let’s delve deeper into three of Roku’s most popular models: Roku Streaming Stick+, Roku Ultra, and Roku Premiere+.

Debating which Roku streaming player is the best? We can help you make an informed decision.

The Roku Streaming Stick+ offers a balance between pricing and performance, making it an excellent selection for most users. It supports HD, 4K, and HDR with excellent picture quality, and features a long-range Wi-Fi receiver neatly tucked into the power cord. The compact form factor of the stick makes it an ideal option for wall-mounted TVs or users who want to take their Roku on their travels.

The Roku Ultra, on the other hand, is Roku’s top-of-the-line media streamer. It supports 4K, HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision video, as well as Dolby Atmos audio. In addition to advanced picture and sound capabilities, it offers an Ethernet port for wired connectivity, a USB port for local media playback, and a feature-rich remote with programmable buttons.

On the contrary, the Roku Premiere+ model, now discontinued, was an economic product that supported 4K and HDR10 video alongside its provision for wireless streaming. However, it doesn’t include some of the high-end perks found on the Ultra, like the voice remote with headphone jack or the USB media player. It’s not available anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t purchase an old model online somewhere.

When deciding on which Roku device is the best fit, it’s crucial to evaluate your individual requirements and priorities. For example – if you’re seeking an economical choice that nonetheless offers 4K and HDR capabilities, the Roku Ultra or Ultra LT models would be a good fit.

…If you want a device packed with advanced features and have the budget for it, the Roku Ultra could be the way forward. The Roku Streaming Stick 4k+ serves as a middle ground with its portable design and superior Wi-Fi connectivity. If you don;t have a Smart TV, then the Roku TV may work well for you as it combines the media player and TV all-in-one.

Understand the difference between Roku devices with our comprehensive comparison guide.

Cost and Subscription of Roku

Different Roku devices fall within varying price ranges, starting from $29.99 for the Roku Express to $99.99 for the Roku Ultra. While the initial cost of purchasing a Roku device is a one-time expense, it’s crucial to mimic that there might be supplementary expenses involved.

We have a detailed post on this, where you can see What Roku Costs Per Month as well as associated subscription fees & charges.

Beyond the up-front cost of acquiring the Roku device, additional costs may arise from accessing certain content. While Roku provides countless free channels, some channels or services require a separate subscription fee or rental costs.

For instance, platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ each have their respective subscription fees. Even though these expenses are not direct payments to Roku, they’re part of the overall cost equation of owning a Roku device.

For the most part, the content you’ll find on Roku is accessed over the internet, so make sure to consider data usage, especially for those on limited internet data plans. Heavy streaming, particularly in 4K, can quickly eat into your data allowance.

In essence, while the Roku device itself might entail a one-time cost, potential supplemental expenses are factors to consider when gauging the overall cost of owning and utilizing a Roku streaming player.

As an intuitive hub bridging viewers and a plethora of streaming channels, Roku has garnered considerable acclaim and an extensive user base. One aspect that often begets questions concerns subscription charges for these channels. It is important to note that the very act of using a Roku device or the Roku software doesn’t demand any recurring payments. However, a substantial number of channels hosted by Roku—Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, to name a few—very much require a subscription.

Free content and premium content

Dwelling further on the nature of content offered by Roku, we encounter two primary categories—free, ad-supported content and premium, subscription-based content. Free content spans across various genres, from movies and TV shows to news and sports, offering a robust dose of entertainment without the potential burden of subscription costs.

The Roku Channel, for example, is one of the standout hubs for such content, hosting an array of choices for viewers. Conversely, premium content on Roku is typically propounded by subscription-based services like Netflix and HBO Max.

These channels offer high-quality, often exclusive content trade-offs in return for recurring payments. Advantages of premium content can include early or exclusive access to shows, ad-free content, and the ability to download content for offline viewing.

Browse through our entire list of Roku Channels in list format to discover new content to stream.

Troubleshooting Common Roku Issues

All electronic devices, Roku devices being no exception, are predisposed to occasional glitches. Thankfully, a majority of these prove are easy to rectify with simple troubleshooting measures. One of the frequently reported glitches surrounds broadcasting lag, commonly resolved by restarting the Roku device. Similarly, software glitches can appear from time to time.

For these instances, updating the Roku software often restores normal functionality. Wading deeper into troubleshooting, connectivity issues might sometimes rear their heads, which can usually be fixed by resetting the router or checking the network settings on your Roku.

Here are some commonly encountered issues and their proposed solutions.

  • If your Roku device is not turning on, double-check the power connections. For unexpected freezes, go for a manual restart.
  • If Roku seems to forget your settings regularly, it’s often attributed to an inadequate power source – ensure that your Roku device is connected to a wall outlet.
  • For issues related to Wi-Fi connectivity, a simple reboot of the router can solve the problem. In case the Roku remote isn’t working, make sure to replace the batteries or try resetting it.

See our post on: Roku Not Working: Every Roku Problem Solved

While a large proportion of issues can be resolved through basic troubleshooting, occasions might arise where you might need to seek professional assistance. From accessing customer support through the official Roku website to navigating the comprehensive ‘Support” section, users can access a broad range of solutions, guided by a pool of common questions and updated resources. Alternatively, if the solution to your problem isn’t readily available online, reaching out to Roku’s customer service via phone or email can lead to efficient resolution. You can also look towards public forums or community posts, where users share experiences and tips. Keep in mind that reaching out to the official Roku support channels is usually the safest and most reliable route to resolve any issues.

Encountering issues with your Roku? We’ve got your back: Roku TV Won’t connect to Wifi and Roku Stick won’t connect to Wi-Fi.

My Personal Opinion of Roku for streaming

Having explored the world of Roku, I find the product to be a commendable solution for those seeking convenience and versatility in entertainment. The blend of affordability, ease of use, and diverse content sets it apart from its competitors. Roku’s ability to compile a vast array of channels, both paid and free, into one compact device makes it an attractive choice for consumers.

The quick setup process and the wide range of products cater to various user requirements. Whether you are looking for a basic streaming device or a full-fledged 4K Ultra HD experience, there is a Roku product designed with you in mind. The integration of voice command further propels it to be a game-changer in the streaming sphere.

Considering Roku as your Streaming device choice? Here’s some advice

When considering Roku as your streaming device, keep in mind its potential to revolutionize your television viewing habits. Its ability to consolidate a plethora of streaming services into one compact package simplifies your viewing experience. If you relish the thought of replacing a multitude of apps and remotes with a single device, then Roku could be an ideal choice for you.

One advantage of Roku devices is their adherence to budget-friendly principles—there’s a device for every budget. It targets not only the users of premium streaming platforms but also those who prefer free content. You are not charged for exploring the interfaces after the initial purchase, which is a notch above several comparable products in the market.

It’s also worth mentioning the variety of products available. So when choosing, don’t solely base your decision on cost; consider what you aim to achieve from your device. Whether you’re seeking a simple streaming device or a fully-integrated smart TV setup, there’s a Roku device ready to cater to your needs.

Bottom Line

Wrapping up, we’ve established that Roku stands at the forefront of revolutionizing our viewing experience—navigating far beyond the conventional nature of television. This user-friendly device with its intuitive interface connects easily with your television, bringing an array of live channels, streaming services, and much more, right to your fingertips. With Roku, high-quality entertainment is not restrained by time or space—you choose what you watch and when you watch.

Roku has bridged the gap between internet streaming and traditional television viewing. Its innovative strategy has successfully brought together popular streaming platforms, music channels, live TV and airing networks—providing limitless entertainment options.

One advantage is that it doesn’t impose an additional subscription fee for its service. All you spend, apart from the price of your chosen Roku device, are the subscription charges of individual streaming platforms, if any.

Roku is not just hardware; it’s combined with a user-friendly software that enables viewers to search across hundreds of channels with ease. The recent incorporation of Roku Voice adds convenience to the user experience, allowing you to use voice commands to operate your device.


Can you watch live TV on Roku?

These even correct? correct these FAq. should only be 100 words anyway

Yes, Roku devices offer an array of classic and live TV programs, presenting a combination of free, premium, and subscription options. You can access news broadcasts, sports, and entertainment programs in real-time through diverse channels like Sling TV, Hulu Live, and YouTube TV. A side note to remember: keep in mind these services usually require a separate paid subscription. For example, Sling TV offers various packages featuring live local channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.

Live TV channels can also be accessed through The Roku Channel, which is Roku’s own content hub featuring over 200 free live and linear TV channels. Another method to view live TV on a Roku device is through the use of an antenna combined with the Roku TV. The TV’s Live TV Pause feature allows over-the-air broadcasts to be paused for up to 90 minutes. This assortment of live TV options on Roku caters to a broad spectrum of user preferences, creating an enriching and diverse viewing experience.

To learn how to watch live TV on your Roku device, read our guide on the best ways to watch live TV on Roku stick and Roku TV.

Can you record shows?

Currently, Roku does not have a built-in DVR (Digital Video Recorder) feature across its devices. However, that doesn’t mean recording shows is impossible. Roku users can employ external technologies or services to record shows and movies.

For instance, by subscribing to live television platforms like YouTube TV and Hulu Live, among others, users can leverage these platforms’ respective cloud DVR services. Such services allow users to record, store, and retrieve content as needed. Also, an example of an external device combining DVR functionality with Roku is Tablo DVR. This physical set-top box enables recording of over-the-air content and viewing it from any of your devices. One advantage of this approach is it bypasses the need for cable subscription fees.

Do you need a smart TV for Roku?

Not necessarily. Roku, as a brand, has a wide gamut of devices that can be connected to practically any television with an HDMI port. Whether you own a non-smart TV, an older model smart TV, or even a portable monitor—Roku devices work with them all. You can think of Roku in terms of an add-on device that instantly upgrades your TV’s smart functionalities.

However, if you’re in the market for a new Smart TV, Roku has a line of TVs where its streaming capabilities are built-in. Brands like TCL, Hisense, and Sharp manufacture TVs that come with Roku’s interface installed. These provide the Roku experience straight out-of-the-box, all under a singular remote control.

Can you use Roku with without internet?

Roku offers an incredible range of media options compatible with more than 500,000 films and TV episodes from both free and paid services. The “My Feed” section allows you to follow films and TV shows across various existing services and notifies you when new content is available or prices drop. This ensures Roku integrates seamlessly with your existing services such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and others.

But can you use Roku without internet? While Roku is indeed designed to be an internet streaming gadget, some functionality remains usable even without an internet connection. After initial setup, you can access local photo slideshows, music or video through use of a USB drive, or content through an antenna or cable connection in Roku TVs.

What are some Advanced Roku features (i.e. Guest mode, Hotel and dorm connect feature)

Roku houses several advanced features to further streamline user experience. Two of particular interest are the Hotel & Dorm Connect and the Guest Mode features.

The Hotel & Dorm Connect feature allows users to connect their Roku device to Wi-Fi networks that require secondary authentication. This means if you’re using a Roku device while staying in a hotel or dormitory, your Roku device can access the Wi-Fi network even if there’s a secondary sign-in page.

On the other hand, the Guest Mode feature is primarily aimed at Roku owners who are renting out their houses or apartments. Once the Guest Mode is activated, it automatically signs out, removing all the guest’s data from the Roku device. Furthermore, the auto sign-out time frame can also be customized. Permanent residents also benefit as personal data and preferences are locked behind a PIN preventing unwanted interference. These purpose-built features reiterate Roku’s commitment to user-centered innovation. Figure this out

To discover the advanced features of Roku, head to our post that covers advanced Roku tips and tricks.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ