Roku missing manual: Your complete guide to the sticks, app and more

Everything you could possibly want to know

Roku missing manual
The Ambient is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Roku is one of the streaming world's big players, although it can't boast the insane spending power and widespread branding of your Amazons or Apples.

Instead, Roku's been ploughing a (bright purple) trough of its own, putting out diminutive streaming devices that simply get the job done. It also now comes built in on a range of smart TVs, and has an expanding roster of hardware to pick from.

Read this: Roku tips and tricks

The good news is that Roku's devices are extremely simple, so you're unlikely to have much trouble setting them up and using them. Still, we've taken the time to gather all the juicy info you could need, for a comprehensive guide to Roku's ecosystem. Read on to find out more about the platform, the devices and what you can expect from a Roku setup.

Roku: What is it?

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

Roku is one of the video streaming veterans - it produced the first hardware to run Netflix's streaming platform back in 2008 and has been throwing out impressive, and impressively affordable, devices since.

It's also got one of those techy names that sounds vaguely non-linguistic, too, but we can explain. Roku was founder Anthony Wood's sixth company, so used the Japanese word for six, 六, pronounced "roku". There you have it.

Now, a decade and change later, Roku's going strong, and still doing what it set out to - making streaming available to the masses. It's got major competition in the form of Amazon's various Fire TV offerings, and the more premium stylings of Apple TV and others, but is still a great choice if you're looking for an easy way to turn your TV smart or get in on streaming without splashing too much cash.

Guide: The best HDMI cables

Roku specializes in streaming sticks and boxes, but is branching out, too. It's been packaged in certain smart TVs for some time, and also has a limited range of sound products. You could make a case that where Roku leads, Amazon follows, in fact, given the latter's more recent moves towards smart TVs and soundbars.

Roku: The streaming devices

As we've said, Roku's range of streaming products is comprised of a few options, but none of them is wildly complicated. Read on to find out more about each.

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

Roku Express

Buy now: Amazon | $29.99

The Roku Express is, in a word, tiny. It's a minute version of a set-top box, basically just a remote and receiver that connects to your TV by HDMI. It's the cheapest and most straightforward of Roku's offerings, and is also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.

It brings free-to-view TV channels with it, as well as access to the streaming platforms you're likely to use, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube and HBO. Pairing it with the Roku app also lets you listen to TV audio privately, and control the system without using the physical remote.

As the budget option, the Express is limited to HD content, and can't output in 4K, but other options below can cater to that need. You can also choose the Express+, a slightly more expensive version with a voice remote.

Roku recently announced a new version of the Roku Express is coming on 13 October, slimming down the box even further and bringing it to the UK for the first time. It might well be worth waiting for that update if you're thinking of picking up an Express soon.

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

Roku Premiere

Buy now: Amazon | $39.99

If the Premiere looks a lot like the Express to you, you're not going mad - it's effectively a very slightly beefed up equivalent that can output in 4K, making it arguably a bit more of a safe investment if you've got or are planning to get at 4K TV at some point.

In every other regard it's the same as the Express, offering the same streaming options and app expansion. It, too, is getting a refresh in October, when it will be available in the UK for the first time.

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

Roku Streaming Stick+

Buy now: Amazon | $59.99

Those miniature set-top boxes are well and good (and we mean that, they're really good), but Roku's heartland is streaming sticks, and the Streaming Stick+ is arguably its signature product.

It's a streaming stick par excellence, with an HDMI link and USB-powered system that won't trail a power cord to your wall. It has 4K and HDR streaming, and doesn't require line-of-sight for remote control, unlike the mini-boxes above. With each product basically $10 more expensive than the tier below it, for an extra $20 you're getting quite a lot more versus the Express in terms of future-proofing.

You'll also get the option of voice commands via the remote, which makes it a step up in terms of smart home integration, too.

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

Roku Ultra

Buy now: Amazon | $99.99

The Roku Ultra's name is appropriate - it's the most premium in Roku's current lineup of streaming devices, and a full streaming box as opposed to boxette or stick.

It's a beefed up system that will react more quickly and load faster than its less powerful relations, and of course also offers 4K and HDR compatibility. That said, it doesn't do a vast amount more than the Streaming Stick+ for a chunkier price, so it's not a huge surprise that Roku doesn't seem to be focussing much on it at present.

Incoming: Roku Smart Soundbar

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

Launching on 13 October at $180, Roku's branching out into the world of Soundbars with the Smart Soundbar. Having gone years without the possibility, all of sudden both Roku and Amazon are putting streaming TV into soundbars.

The logic is clear - if you're going to have a soundbar, it might as well take care of streaming as well, and slim down your TV setup. We'll be getting our hands on the soundbar soon to judge how it stacks up to both its sonic competition and as part of the streaming pantheon.

Roku: Smart TVs

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

Roku hasn't just been perfecting its streaming offerings over the years, though - it's also now packaged in to a massively wide range of smart TVs.

There are too many to list here, but Roku has a full guide to the different models on its website here. There are offerings from a range of manufacturers, including JVC, Hitachi, Philips and Sharp, in a range of sizes from 24 to 75 inches.

You'll get Roku's streaming platform baked into the TV's software, meaning that you don't need any external hardware to get viewing, and get voice control and search through a Roku remote. Again, the TVs are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant to help you integrate them in your smart home.

If you're in the market for a new TV, and Roku's impressed you with its streaming, there's a lot to be said for forgoing the need for any external device by getting a TV that has Roku built into it.

Roku: How to set it up

The devices are all well and good, though - how does Roku stack up from a user point of view? A major part of Roku's appeal is how straightforward it is to set up and use. Below you'll find some setup steps that apply to all of Roku's streaming devices.

1. Connect your device to your TV via HDMI or other cables.

2. Connect the device to power, whether to the mains or via USB.

3. Power on your TV and turn to the relevant input channel.

4. Put batteries in your Roku remote. You should see the setup screen on your TV.

5. Select a language, then follow the on-screen prompts to connect the device to your Wi-Fi network (or use an ethernet cable to do this wired if preferred).

6. Wait for your device to download any software updates.

7. Follow the prompts to either log in to your Roku account or set one up, and thus activate your Roku streaming device.

At this point you'll be done and ready to get streaming, although you may have to log into individual streaming services as you go. If you want more detailed instructions, check out Roku's own instructions for set-up.

Roku: Compatible services

Roku guide: What you need to know about the streaming service

As we said above, Roku works with most of the streaming services that you're likely to want to use. You'll be able to use it with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube, HBO and the rest of the gang.

As well as that, the streaming devices should work with any TV, provided you've got the ability to connect it. That means that compatibility is unlikely to be an issue for you if you go down the Roku route. Roku's devices come with HDMI cables, too, unlike some cheekier manufacturers out there.

Roku: 4K and HDR

As we've detailed in a few of the product descriptions above, if you want to use your Roku streaming to watch movies or content in 4K and HDR, it will narrow your choices a little. You'll have to opt for the Roku Premiere or any of the more expensive options than it.

From there it's just a matter of making sure that your TV also supports those standards, so that you can reap the full range of benefits from Roku's streaming capabilities.

TAGGED    televisions

Related stories

televisions Google Assistant TV guide: Which models to pick from and what you can control
televisions Samsung turns the smart TV on its head at CES 2020
smart home Sky Q: Complete guide to Sky's Ultra HD TV platform
televisions Complete guide to 4K Netflix: How to get UHD in your living room
amazon How to control your TV with Alexa: Use your Echo with a Fire TV stick
amazon Amazon Fire TV Blaster wants your remote to grow old in a drawer