Should you upgrade to the new Roku?
The new Roku Ultra is here, and the burning question is the same as when any new tech is released: "Do I really need this upgrade or will I be just as happy with the Roku I already have?"
The updated model includes a number of desirable features, and the company's stock has quadrupled in the last year with analysts predicting that there is still room for growth.
We took a closer look at what the new Roku Ultra has to offer to determine if now is truly the time to upgrade or if this is one of those wait-till-the-next-one improvements.
(If you're not ready to invest in the newest Roku release, you can get a prior Roku model right now at a 20% discount for just $39.98.)
Our conclusion: If you already own a 4K TV and you're looking for a 4K streaming device that will allow you to get the most out of your entertainment system, the answer to whether you should upgrade is an enthusiastic two thumbs up.
The new Roku offers access to the largest selection of 4K content available, and the unit was smartly designed to function equally well with both the individual who knows exactly what he wants to watch and the viewer who enjoys the adventure of browsing until stumbling upon that perfect program.
On the other hand, if you already have a method of getting 4K content or you don't have a 4K TV yet (but are considering it in the near future), the "must-have" component is significantly reduced -- mostly because of the price -- but it's still worth considering for a variety of reasons.
Reasons to upgrade: The new Roku Ultra offers faster channel launching, an optical digital audio output that can eliminate the need to keep updating all of your other equipment whenever a new format becomes available, and a USB port that lets you stream content from other drives.
Additionally, the user and remote relationship has been enhanced so the remote adapts to the user and not vice versa. For instance, there are two shortcut buttons on the remote that allow you to designate their one-touch function. Also, the enhanced voice search and control allows you to instantly execute almost any task simply by speaking. Lastly, the new Roku has a button that triggers a beeping sound on your remote so you'll never lose it between the couch cushions again.
As an added purchasing incentive, the new Roku Ultra comes with a free pair of JBL headphones that plug into your remote for private listening.
Reasons to stick with the Roku you have: If you've only got a Roku Express, don't stress, there are many individuals who stand firm that we've already reached the pixel limit of what the eye can actually distinguish. Simply moving to a 4K stream might not drastically -- or even noticeably -- upgrade your viewing experience. If you already have a Roku Premiere or a Roku Streaming Stick+, you'll primarily be upgrading your user experience, not the sound and picture. If you can do without the enhanced voice features, the faster load time, and the remote finding feature, upgrading is not crucial.
One other reason you may want to hold off on upgrading, as hinted at earlier, is the price. The new Roku Ultra is nearly double the next lower Roku option, which puts it dangerously close to the cost of Apple TV.
What about Apple TV and the Amazon Fire TV Stick?: Yes, there are technical differences between the Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV Stick, but what most people will be concerned with is content. Apple doesn't make it easy (or possible, in many instances) to enjoy its media on other devices, so if you're switching from Apple TV to Roku, be aware of the content you may be losing. Switching from the Fire TV Stick to Roku will not be as difficult because you can install the Amazon Prime Video channel on your Roku.
For more on the subject, check out our deep dive here.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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