Roku

One of the easiest ways to watch television online is with a Roku device. The device connects to your TV and to the Internet, and handles work necessary to put the content on your TV. It's really easy to use. It supports the most streaming services, but doesn't have them all. For example, if you are heavy into iTunes or the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV device may be a better choice for you. For most people, Roku fills the bill, although the Amazon Fire TV is a good choice.

As A Single Solution

It's possible to use a Roku device as your single sources for television content. Most broadcast network shows -- CBS is a primary exception -- are available through a Hulu subscription. Most new content is available on-demand the next day. Favorite shows that aren't part of the Hulu package can be purchased from Amazon, Hulu, or Google Play, among other sources, giving you an even greater selection of content. Live sports from ESPN is and other live TV cable channels are available with a Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, or DirecTV Now subscription. CBS content is available through a CBS All Access subscription.

While the additional purchases and subscriptions will increase your overall cost, you may still come out cheaper, depending on how much you save by dropping cable or satellite.

Devices

Roku has three main type of devices:
  • The standard Roku set-top box. There are four models.
    • Roku Ultra - The new top of the line Roku set-top box has a four-core processor, and supports Ultra HD (4K) TV plus it sports an optical digital audio port, and Ethernet port, and a USB port. It also supports voice search via the wireless remote, which includes a headphone jack for private listening and gaming ability.
    • Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere+ - These devices also have a four-core processor and support Ultra HD (4K) TV. The Premiere+ also has an Ethernet port and a wireless remote for private listening.
    • Roku Express and Roku Express+ - The new entry level devices perform as well as the top-level devices from 2015. The $39 starting price makes it one of the most cost-effective ways to start streaming. The Roku Express+ also supports older composite input television sets.
  • The Roku Streaming Stick. It plugs directly in to an HDMI port on your TV, and is hidden from view.
  • Roku TV models. These are full television sets with built-in Roku functionality.
While a Roku TV is a great option if you need a new TV, the set-top box or Stick is perfect if you want to keep your current TV (and most people do). You can upgrade your TV simply by adding a Roku device.

Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra
The new Roku Ultra set-top box is the fastest, most powerful device Roku has ever released. It sports a quad-cord processor, as well a LAN port, an optical digital audio port, and a micro-SD card for additional channel storage. It also supports Ultra HD (4K) video.

The wireless remote supports games, voice search, and private listening with the included headphones.

The Roku Ultra requires a TV with an HDMI input. Most modern TVs come with multiple HDMI inputs, so this shouldn't be a problem. The Roku 4 is priced at $129.

Roku Premiere+

Roku Premiere+
A great option usually is to add a Roku Premiere+ to your TV. The Roku Premiere+ also has a four-core processor, making it quite responsive. It also features dual-band wireless, support for the latest Netflix app with profiles, plus "casting" capability for Netflix and YouTube, and mirroring support for certain Android phones and tablets. It also supports Ultra HD (4K) video.

Roku Premiere+ also comes with a wireless remote, that allows private listening via headphones. It also sports an Ethernet port and a microSD slot for channel storage.

The Roku Premiere+ also require a TV with an HDMI input. It sells for $99.

Roku Premiere

Roku Premiere
Another excellent option is a Roku Premiere set-top box. It's essentially the same device as the Roku 3, but without the wireless remote. The Roku Premiere comes with a standard infrared (IR) remote. It also supports Ultra HD (4K) video.

While the Roku Premiere is similar to the Roku Pemiere+ device, it is a slightly difference device, missing the Ethernet port and microSD card slot.

A Roku Premiere comes with a standard IR remote, which requires line-of-sight. It sells for $79.

Roku Express+/Express

Roku Express series
If you have an older TV that doesn't have HDMI inputs, you still have an option for adding a Roku box. The Roku Express+ box has a composite output for those older TVs. The Roku Express and Roku Express also have an HDMI output. Like the more expensive models, the Roku Express+ and Roku Express have support for the updated Netflix app, offering profiles.

The Roku Express+ box allows you to use your older TV to be able to play online content, without having to purchase a new TV. It connects wirelessly to your local network, and allows you to watch content on your older TV.

The Roku Express+ sells for $39. The Roku Express sells for $29. The difference is the composite output. If you don't need that, save the $10 on this entry model. If you need composite output, get the Roku Express+. If you don't require composite output, get the $29 Roku Express instead.

Roku Streaming Stick

Rook Stick
The other Roku device is the Roku Streaming Stick. It's priced at $49, and is designed for HDMI-equipped TVs. It supports dual-band wireless, as well as the updated Netflix app (with profiles) and the latest YouTube app, plus "casting" from Netflix and YouTube, and mirroring support for select Android phone and tablets. It also supports private listening, via your smartphone (or tablet) app.

The new Roku Streaming Stick also has a four-core processor, supports all the same streaming channels, and is cheaper than the Premiere, Premiere+, and Ultra. It could be the best bargain of the bunch. The Roku Streaming Stick sells for $49.

Roku TV

Roku TV
The Roku TV device is actually a series of televisions that have full Roku functionality built in. Currently, models under these brands are available: Sharp, Insignia (a Best Buy exclusive), TCL, Hisense, and Haier.

Some models support UHDTV (sometimes called 4K) and all perform on par with the other devices. This may be the right option for you.