When it comes to streaming players, one of the biggest would hands-down be Roku. They’ve been in the game for a while now and have since become synonymous in the world of set-top boxes, in the same way that Apple has with smartphone with their iPhone.

Back in the fall, Roku refreshed their entire lineup of boxes and gotten rid of their numbering system. And instead gave each line a specific name and certain features.

I’ve been testing out the Roku Express and I would say it’s one of the best bang for your buck.

Design & Hardware

 

The Roku Express is the smallest out of Roku’s newest lineup. It’s about half the size of its remote. You’ll find the Roku logo on the top with a gloss finish while the rest of it has a matte finish, meanwhile the front is glossy.

For ports, the Express has an HDMI port and a micro USB port for power. Roku also sells an Express+ model which is the same as the Express but adds support for RCA output, so then it can work with TVs without HDMI. The player’s remote has a matte finish with rubberized buttons. On the remote, you’ll find the typical Roku layout of buttons with a Home, Back, arrow keys, a skip back, options button and play/pause and fast-forward and rewind buttons. There is also dedicated buttons for Netflix, Spotify, Google Play Movies and TED. The Express takes two AAA batteries which are included in the box, also included in the box is a (relatively short) HDMI cable.

 

Unlike some other new Roku players, the Express does not have Roku’s point anywhere remote, that means you’ll have to directly point it at the front of the Express player to be able to control it. Thankfully, you can also control the Express using the mobile app.

The Express is able to output at 1080p, since it’s so small. And that makes the Express a good option as a starting point when getting into the world of streaming players.

The Roku Express retails for $39.99 CAD while the Express+ is $49.99 CAD and both are available from Amazon.ca, Best Buy, Walmart.

Software

The player is being powered by Roku OS and the interface is very straightforward. Roku says there is more than 2,500 streaming channels which offer more than 100,000 movies and TV shows and that’s just for Canadian Roku users.

 

The homescreen for Roku OS is just a simple grid of icons which can easily be rearranged using the options button on the remote. There is 5 sections to the OS, the first is Home which where you’ll find all your installed channels. The next is My Feed which is where you can find your bookmarked movies and TV shows and it will tell you which streaming channel you’ll be able to find it on. So it will search Netflix, Google Play Movies & TV, Crackle and the Cineplex Store and give you options of where to stream/purchase it.

The next section if Search, whereas you guessed it, is where you search for content. In Streaming Channels is where you’ll be able to add more channels for even more stuff to watch. Then the final section is Settings which is self-explanatory.

Roku OS also has features called Hotel and Dorm Connect, so users will be able to access public Internet networks when away from home. So if you’re staying at a hotel and it has a “I agree” or login page to use their WiFi, then you’ll still be able to connect to it on your Roku.

In addition to the private listening via the headphone jack on the remote, users can using private listening via the Roku app on Android and iOS which can also double as a remote including a keyboard, voice search.

Roku has done a great job with their Roku OS interface, the only issue is that it can sometimes seem to simplistic. And even though there are thousands of streaming channels available for Roku, there are some like Amazon Prime Video which are available in the US but not in Canada (yet), even though Amazon has brought their Prime Video service to Canada. But this could just be Amazon taking their sweet old time to try to bring their Roku app outside the US.

Final Thoughts

 

Roku has come along way with their players, they’re much more refined while still being powerful and offering great features. With the new lineup, Roku has a player that fits just every budget

Like I mentioned earlier, the Express is a great point to start off for someone’s first streaming player. It allows users to watch their favourite streaming services like Netflix without having to break the bank on a pricey set-top box.

Pros

  • Small form factor
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to set up
  • 1080p content looks great

Cons

  • Some streaming channels aren’t available in Canada
  • Slow at times
  • IR remote can be frustrating at times

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