Which Roku Is Right For Me?
In March 2013 Roku announced their new Roku 3 player. The new player is more powerful than previous models and includes a refreshed UI; you can read more about the Roku 3 here. The new UI is also available on the series 2 boxes, the LT model and certain HD models. We still recommend the LT model if you are looking for an inexpensive box, especially for a second TV in the house. However, future enhancements on the Roku platform will most likely be limited to the series 3 box so we recommend you look at that model over anything else. You can get the Roku 3 from Amazon or Roku’s website for about $100.
For the money, features, and availability, a Roku box can be a cordcutters best friend. The only problem is that once you make the decision to buy, you are faced with the daunting task of figuring out which model is best for you. There are 4 different models and although the official Roku site does a decent job of comparing them, we thought we could do a little better.
While the processor speed and internal memory of each box isn’t well-known, what really matters most to users are the connections, outputs and features of each device. Here’s a good comparison of each device:
|Video Connections||HDMI, Composite||HDMI, Composite||HDMI, Composite||HDMI, Composite|
|Video Output||480i, 480p, 720p||480i, 480p, 720p||480i, 480p, 720p, 1080p||480i, 480p, 720p, 1080p|
|Audio Connections / Output||Analog stereo (mini-jack to left/right/composite video RCA), Digital over HDMI||Analog stereo (mini-jack to left/right/composite video RCA), Digital over HDMI||Analog stereo (mini-jack to left/right/composite video RCA), Digital over HDMI||Analog stereo (mini-jack to left/right/composite video RCA), Digital over HDMI|
|Remote Technology||Infrared (included)||Infrared (included)||Infrared (included) |
RF / Bluetooth (sold separately)
|Infrared (sold separately) |
RF / Bluetooth (included)
|USB||None||None||None||Yes (streams media)|
It’s important to note that no matter which Roku you choose, every model has access to Roku’s ever-growing channel library; which totals over 400 at this point. Still confused on which box may be best for you? Here are a few of our picks:
Best Value: Roku LT
Released in October of 2011, this little purple box is a steal at $50. While it doesn’t provide full 1080p HD, it still tops out at 720p which is good enough for most consumers. What’s missing? You aren’t going to be able to play games through the Roku LT. Most games on the Roku platform require the bluetooth remote and a microSD card and the LT is the only box that doesn’t have these capabilities. But at $50 it makes a great gift and definitely makes sense if your home has multiple TV’s in your home that you want connected.
Most Future Proof: Roku 2 XS
This might be obvious from looking at the chart but the Roku 2 XS is one little box that won’t disappoint. If your home setup allows for it, the built-in ethernet port is a great choice as opposed to a wi-fi connection. Also, the included USB port allows users to stream pictures, movies or music from a flash drive or external hard drive. Even at just under $100 those features, in addition to the included bluetooth remote, are a welcome addition to any living room setup.
What’s On The Horizon?
As with any technology, there is always something “coming soon”. Set-top boxes like the Roku are no exception and the company wants to continue their dominance in the space. In January, Roku announced a new “streaming stick” that will be available sometime in the next few months. The stick looks like an oversized USB flash drive, packing in all of the technology that’s in a standard Roku box. The new product operates off a relatively new technology known as MHL, which provides power through a HDMI port (so you don’t need an external power source.) It’s important to note that most TV’s that are already on the market don’t have MHL-compatible HDMI ports but it is going to be built into a lot of new televisions. Look for Roku to also include their software in other devices such as Blu-Ray players.
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