Roku Express 4K+ review: Easy, affordable 4K streamer


For Roku fans who are ready to take the plunge into 4K streaming, there’s a new kid in town: $40 Roku Express 4K+, a device that looks like the $30 Roku Express but actually has almost the same features as the $50 Roku Streaming Stick+.

But does it make sense to save $10 to buy Express 4K+ instead of buying a Streaming Stick+? And how does this new Roku device compare to Amazon’s family of Fire TV devices?

Check out our full review below for all the answers.

What’s in the Box?

Roku Express 4K+
Simon Cohen / Nerdshala

Roku gives you everything you need to set it up. You get the Express 4K+, a high-speed certified HDMI cable, a Roku remote, a pair of AAA batteries, a micro USB power cable with an AC adapter, a quick-start guide, and an adhesive strip that you can mount. can be used for. Express 4K+ on a variety of surfaces, including the bottom edge or rear of your TV.

design

Roku Express 4K+
Simon Cohen / Nerdshala

It’s hard to find fault with the Express 4K+’s design. It’s a tried-and-tested combination of the Roku Express’ small, curved black box and the Streaming Stick+’s voice remote.

It’s so small and light that you’ll probably need the included adhesive strip to keep the HDMI cable from being pushed around the Express 4K+.

On its back panel, you will find only two ports – a micro USB jack for power and an HDMI port. Not that this is likely to be a problem in 2021, but it’s worth noting that if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI input, you won’t be able to use the Express 4K+. In fact, none of Roku’s current lineup of player devices supports non-HDMI TVs anymore.

Over the years, Roku has continued to refine its setup process for new devices, and it couldn’t be easier.

There’s no Ethernet port, but the Express 4K+ is compatible with a variety of third-party micro USB Ethernet adapters should you need one.

When you open the box, you’ll see a sticker on the front of the device that indicates where you should point the remote. If you stick to the included Roku voice remote, you can safely ignore it—the remote can communicate wirelessly with the Express 4K+ and only uses infrared if it needs to send commands to your TV. it occurs. This also means that you can remove the streamer from your sight if you wish – something you can’t do with the regular Roku Express, or Express 4K, the $35 Walmart-only variant that doesn’t come with a wireless-enabled Roku voice remote.

Talking about the remote, it has a voice button, a built-in microphone and dedicated buttons for controlling the volume and mute function of a TV.

Wondering what’s the difference between Express 4K+ and Streaming Stick+? Two things: The Streaming Stick+ has faster, longer-range Wi-Fi, and is more portable because it doesn’t require an HDMI cable. Yes, that’s all.

setup and configuration

Roku Express 4K+
Simon Cohen / Nerdshala

Over the years, Roku has continued to refine its setup process for new devices, and it couldn’t be easier.

Once you plug the Express 4K+ into your TV via the included HDMI cable (or one of your own), plug it into power, and then slip the battery into the remote. That’s all – you’re done with the hardware part.

From there, the Roku interface easily guides you through connecting to your home Wi-Fi and creating or connecting to an existing Roku account.

Pro tip: You’ll want your phone, tablet or laptop to stand up as part of the setup process, which involves sending you a confirmation email, which you’ll need to open and click the included link to complete setup.

I didn’t need to adjust any audio or video settings. To borrow one of Apple’s favorite phrases, it worked.

I’ve installed a lot of streaming devices and Roku is second only to Apple in terms of process simplicity.

You’ll be prompted to add a few highlighted channels (the name that Roku continues to use for streaming apps), but don’t feel like you need to do that right now — channels can be added to the Roku interface later, Roku. Can be added easily through the app. Your phone, or even by using the Roku website on the web.

My review model recognized right away that it connected to a 4K HDR-capable TV and didn’t require me to manually adjust any audio or video settings. To borrow one of Apple’s favorite phrases, it worked.

Right before you start using the Express 4K+, Roku plays an introductory video that walks you through the device’s main features and how to use them. This is the right way to know Express 4K+, and I think every streaming device maker should follow Roku’s lead on this. It’s a device that plays video — How about you accelerate people won’t show the video?

The interface is very fast, without any perceptible lag.

Another tip: The Express 4K+ ships with a power adapter, but you can plug the micro USB cable into an available USB port on your TV and it should work just fine.

Even on my test LG TV, which turns off its USB port when the TV isn’t in use, the Express 4K+ worked fine and even used the remote’s power button. Responded when everything was closed.

Ease of use and performance

Roku Express 4K+
Simon Cohen / Nerdshala

Roku packs the Express 4K+ 1GB of RAM, an advanced processor, and super-fast MIMO Wi-Fi AC – and the results are impressive.

The interface is very fast, without any perceptible lag. For the most part, channels launch quickly (some a little faster than others), and jumping from an open channel back to the home screen and then to a different channel is a snap.

Selecting content within channels was just as responsive, and movies and shows streamed just as fast on an Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Shield—and significantly faster than the built-in apps on my LG C7 OLED 4K TV.

The Roku’s interface has changed a bit over the years, and that’s mostly a good thing. The simple, straightforward menu options are easy to use, whether you’re looking for a favorite channel, changing device settings, or shopping for new channels in the Roku Channel Store.

Roku has resisted the trend of adding a content-curation layer to its main interface, relying instead on the free Roku Channel app (channels?), which is its primary way of helping you find something to watch.

It may not look as modern as Google TV, the recently revamped Fire TV interface, or the Apple TV home screen, but I’ll admit that I’d love to be able to decide which content to show me Yes or No. d prefer to go straight to a specific streaming service.

Recently, Roku added Apple AirPlay to select 4K-capable player devices, and Express 4K+ gave me my first taste of the feature on Roku.

I’m happy to report that it works flawlessly. The Express 4K+ appeared on my list of available AirPlay devices, and I was able to quickly set up an AirPlay session. After that, it didn’t matter whether I was playing music from Apple Music or Tidal, or streaming from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+ – content appeared on my TV without any buffering or other connection hiccups . I didn’t test the integration available with Apple HomeKit, but both the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant were able to control the Express 4K+ without problems.

Voice commands using the remote were equally slick and satisfying, and I was able to open channels and find actors and movie titles.

Audio and video

Roku Express 4K+ Audio Options
Simon Cohen / Nerdshala

There’s no doubt that if you have a Dolby Vision-enabled TV, it makes sense to get a Dolby Vision-enabled streaming device. However, if you’re determined to stick with Roku, you’ll need to spend $100 to buy the Roku Ultra, which is the only Roku player device that works with Dolby’s dynamic HDR format.

The Express 4K+ has excellent picture quality, with tackle-sharp details.

As much as I’m a fan of Dolby Vision, it’s hard to argue that this one feature is worth spending the extra $60 (150% more) on the cost of Express 4K+ to get it—especially when 4K with regular HDR10 Looks like this. damn good It’s also worth noting that the Express supports 4K+ HDR10+, despite the absence of Dolby Vision. As a dynamic HDR format, it has the potential to look as good as Dolby Vision, but keep in mind that your TV needs to support it (not all HDR TVs do) and you’ll need to find HDR 10+ content. By far, Amazon Prime Video is your best bet for HDR10+.

The Express 4K+ has excellent picture quality, with tackle-sharp details. Even when streaming HD content from sources like Amazon Prime Video, I found that I was completely satisfied with the results.

What might be more impressive is that the Express can pass 4K+ Dolby Atmos content via Dolby Digital Plus over HDMI.

For me, this translated into great Atmos audio on my TV’s internal speakers as well as my full home theater 5.1.2 system.

Here’s a caveat: Dolby Atmos support when provided via passthrough (as opposed to native Atmos decoding) is done on an app-by-app (channel-by-channel?) basis. At the moment, Netflix is ​​the only streaming app that delivers Dolby Atmos over Express 4K+. Can it change over time? Absolutely, but for now, it’s best to think of the Express 4K+ as a Dolby 5.1 device.

If you’re curious about all the aspects of getting great Dolby Atmos sound, check out this handy explainer.

there’s an app for that

roku remote app

No Roku product review is complete without at least mentioning the company’s great mobile app. Not only can you use it as a full alternative to the remote shipped with your product, but it also enables private listening (watch on your TV when you listen through your phone’s headphones), And it gives you the ability to add and remove Roku channels even when your Roku device is turned off.

Better still, it serves as your mobile version of the Roku Channel, with access to all the same content you’d find on your TV.

The Roku app is an impressive addition that, by far, no other…

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