If you’ve come to this review with the intention of spending the bare minimum on a streaming player then congratulations: You found what you’re looking for.
The $30 Roku Express is the least-expensive streamer on the market and a great value. Its performance is excellent, it loads apps quickly and it gets you in the door with Roku, our favorite overall smart TV streaming system. Yet even at the measly price of $30, the Roku Express isn’t the only solution, and neither is it necessarily the best value.
When you’re shopping at the ultra-budget level there’s three main streaming options — Roku Express, the Express Plus ($40), the Fire TV’s ($39 at Amazon) interface isn’t as easy to use as the Roku: Its search results and other areas of the menus push you more toward Amazon’s own video content.($35) and the ($40). The Fire TV Stick is the best of the four in terms of features (with Alexa built-in) and speed, thanks in part to the . However, the
Both the Fire TV Stick and Express Plus offer voice remotes that can also control your TV’s volume, mute and power, and in my book those extras are worth the extra $10 over the Express. But if you don’t care about those extras and simply want to smartify a bedroom or second (or third) TV for the least amount of money possible, the Roku Express is the streamer to get.
A set top fit for a flat screen
The Roku Express ($35 at Amazon) isn’t really a “box” and it’s not a dongle either. It’s a tiny device, just 1.5 inches across, which is designed to attach to your slim TV or on top of your AV unit with a sticky tab on the unit’s bottom. Unlike some of the more expensive models in the Roku line that offer the voice remote, the Express needs a line of sight between the IR remote and the unit itself.
At the back of the Express you have two ports — one for the USB charger and one for HDMI — and all the necessary cables are included in the box. If you want to, you can use the USB power port on your television, but this does mean you need to wait the 30 seconds or so for the Roku to boot up when you turn the set on. It’s not an intolerable wait (see below), but using the included power pack means you’ll be ready to go instantly.