The new Roku Express 4K + (2021) is proof that if you wait long enough for technology to spread, you can buy it at an incredibly low price. That was the case with high-capacity SSDs, USBs, and RAM, and now it’s also true for 4K HDR streaming devices.
What the Roku Express 4K + offers is 4K HDR streaming at up to 60 frames per second over HDMI 2.0b with support for HDR10 +. There’s no Dolby Atmos support or Dolby Vision support, two high-end spatial audio formats, or HDR, but you get most of the functionality from streaming devices that used to be over $ 100 for just $ 39.99 -Dollars.
It lacks the high-end formats of the Roku Ultra, and its range is slightly shorter than that of the more expensive one Roku Streaming Stick +The Roku Express 4K + is Roku’s answer to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV – it’s affordable, has the same streaming apps, and comes with a remote control.
We have to spend another week with this new Roku to really put it through its paces, but after spending a weekend on it we’re almost convinced that this is the budget 4K streaming device after the Roku was looking for last decade, now in its perfected form.
Roku Express 4K + price and release date
The Roku Express 4K + will be available in the US starting mid-May for $ 39.99 (about £ 28, AU $ 50), while a cheaper version called the Roku Express 4K will be available exclusively at Walmart for $ 35 around the same time – unfortunately not either. The version has been announced for the UK or Australia, but just like the Roku Express, there is a possibility that it will be available there in the future.
The main difference between the two models is that the Roku Express 4K + (described here) uses a Bluetooth remote control while the standard Express 4K uses an IR remote control. For an additional $ 5, it’s definitely worth buying the bluetooth remote that will control the TV.
It gets a little more confusing when you talk about the new Roku lineup. It starts with the basic HD-only Roku Express ($ 29.99) followed by the new Express 4K + ($ 39.99), but then there’s the Roku Streaming Stick + ($ 49.99) that also runs in 4K streams as well often only costs $ 39.99 when it’s for sale and the Roku Ultra This also transmits 4K content – but it can also do Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. Those aren’t even the soundbar streaming player hybrids that are Roku Streambar and Roku Streambar Pro (earlier than Roku Smart Soundbar) or TVs with built-in Roku, which sometimes go for around $ 150, like the TCL 3 series TVs.
To make it short? Roku makes great products, but the lineup is getting harder and harder to keep track of – even for someone whose job it is to cover streaming devices.
Despite the potential for confusion, it makes sense why Roku called it Roku Express 4K + – it looks just like Roku Express.
At 0.7 x 3.4 x 1.4 inches (H x W x D), it is almost the size of the original Roku Streaming Stick and, funnily enough, even smaller than the remote control that is included. However, the advantage of the small form factor is that you can toss it in a pocket or store it on your media shelf without taking up too much space.
Roku also includes a two-foot HDMI cable in each box, as well as removed, double-sided tape that you can use to stick the Express 4K + to your TV or any surface. The inclusion of all of these accessories is actually somewhat surprising – while other manufacturers are all too happy to send you out the door without the necessary gear, the Roku Express 4K + is a complete kit.
The only corner Roku cuts here is that the HDMI cable is on the shorter side. It’s long enough to reach the ports of a 65-inch screen while it’s still flat on the table, but just barely. If you had a larger TV or want to keep the Express 4K + somewhere other than directly under the TV, you will need a different cable.
We need to give Roku some props on the remote control, which comes with a built-in microphone, as well as volume buttons and a power button that can be used to control the TV via HDMI-CEC. It’s not quite as good as the new Roku Voice Remote Pro, which has two programmable buttons, a headphone jack, and a medium-range microphone array that allows you to pick up your voice from across the room with an IR remote control, it’s an Bargain.
Inside every Roku Express 4K + is a brand new System-on-a-Chip that runs Roku OS. Roku OS is still the epitome of egalitarianism and simplicity, and it runs smoothly here.
The only problem we have with Roku OS is that it isn’t very elegant. We’ve seen the same tile-based app home screen for most of the last decade, with just a few general changes. In some ways, that’s great for users who hate change, but it has made Roku OS look a little less elegant than, say, Google TV, tvOS on Apple TV 4K, or even the new Amazon Fire TV.
To get Roku Express 4K + started, you’ll need to sign in to a Roku account (it’s easy if you already have one, and a little more complicated if you don’t) before choosing which streaming service you’re on want to preinstall the device. You can choose from almost every major streaming service out there right now, including newcomers like Apple TV, Disney Plus, Peacock, and Paramount Plus, as well as returning classics like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Max, and more.
The only app missing from the mix right now is YouTube TV, which isn’t there due to an ongoing dispute between Roku and Google. It will likely return in the near future, but its absence could give some people a break before they dive into the new streamer.
Switching from one app to another is relatively quick, with only a second or two that you might have to wait for a menu to fill up with pictures. However, how quickly streams are buffered and menus are filled with images depends on your Internet connection speed. So make sure you pay more than 15Mbps before buying a 4K streaming device.
Even if you pay for a good connection, you probably won’t get all of your bandwidth to the Roku Express 4K +. For example, we have an 800Mbps fiber connection running into our home router – but the Roku Express 4K + can only use around 40Mbps. This is partly due to the location of the Roku Express 4K + (it’s two rooms away from the router) and the decision to wrap the wireless antenna in the player’s case rather than along the power cord as we’ve seen on the Roku Streaming Stick +.
The good news? Even at just 40 Mbps, streams were quickly buffered and remained in 4K HDR quality for the entire duration of our streaming sessions. That’s not a guarantee you’ll get the same results, but it’s a good indicator for us that the Roku Express 4K + will hold up a connection as well as the Roku Ultra, even if it can’t handle Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos .
We’ll need to spend more time evaluating what content looks like on the TV, but from a purely functional standpoint, the Roku Express 4K + has worked great so far. We were able to stream multiple shows and movies with no problem, and while it would have been nice to see some of them in Dolby Vision, it’s still better to have them in 4K HDR than HD SDR.
Roku’s smart platform isn’t as sleek as Amazon Fire TV or Google TV, but for $ 40 (around £ 28, AU $ 50), the Roku Express 4K + is making a solid option in the budget category Streaming devices.
Source link : https://www.techradar.com/reviews/roku-express-4k-2021/