How Does Roku Work and Why You Need One

How Does Roku Work? Why You Need One

    You may have heard about Roku from a friend or family member and may not be sure how Roku works. We put together this guide to help you learn more about what is one of today's best selling media streamers. This guide will show how to choose the best Roku, where to find some of the best Roku channels and how to get the most enjoyment from your new Roku media streamer. Buying a new Roku could end up being one of the best investment you ever made.


    - Why Get A Roku?
    - Roku Models Compared
    - Activating a New Roku
    - How To Add Channels To Roku
    - How To Watch Free Channels On Roku
    - What are the Best Channels on Roku?
    - How To Use Your Roku
    - This is How To Watch Cable TV Channels on Roku
    - How Does Roku Work With an Antenna?
    - Roku Internet Requirements
    - Other Frequently Asked Questions

    Why Should You Get A Roku?

    Roku will let you watch tons of great content on your TV streamed from the Internet. Roku channels from popular TV and Movie streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, DirecTV Now, YouTube and even Adult channels plus many more can all be added and watched right on your television screen.

    Roku has been building media streamers since 2008. They started out as a small niche box to play content from Netflix. While they only had a handful of channels back then. Now they have almost 5,000 channels available on their platform with more being added almost daily.

    In itself Roku is a small device the hooks to your television with a HDMI cord. It can access the Internet from either a built in WiFi antenna or some of their upper line models have an Ethernet port. We highly recommend using the later as there is far less buffering than when using WiFi. 

    How Does Roku Work

    Which Roku Model Should You Buy?

    In the fall of 2017, Roku updated their line of media streamers. Currently they offer three table-top streaming boxes, the Roku Ultra, Roku Express and Express+. They also offer two sticks, the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku Streaming Stick Plus.

    Only two of their models offer High Dynamic Range (HDR) 4K video and makes the picture look much brighter with an improved range of colors.

    Roku also makes their software available in Smart TVs. You probably have seen TCL or HiSense models for sale at Walmart or other major electronics stores. These come with the Roku software already built in so a separate Roku player is not needed.

    Roku Models Compared

    Any Roku model you buy will give you access to all the channels in their Channel Store or this Huge List of Roku channels which you can add to your Roku. 

    Roku Players and TVs Share a Common Operating System And These Features
    • Roku Users Can Access Over 5000 Roku Channels
    • Roku Players all support 802.11 (b/g/n/ac) WiFi
    • Roku Players Connect To Your TV by HDMI (Cables are Included)
    • All Roku Models Can Output 1080p HD Video Quality
    • Roku uses can control their Roku with a Free Roku Mobile App
    • All Roku models come with remote control

    Roku Streaming Sticks

    These are the tiniest Roku media streamers you can buy. Roku now offers two models and if you want to take your Roku with you when on the road these are an excellent choice.

    The Streaming Stick plugs right into the HDMI Port on your TV. There are two versions here is how they are different.

    Roku Streaming Stick - Price $49.99

    This Roku model gives you access to all the same great content and comes with Quad core processor, supports 802.11ac WiFi and will output 1080p HD. This model and all other current Roku models now include a voice search ready remote control that can also control the power and volume on your TV. Click Here for Best Price

    Roku Streaming Stick Plus - Price $69.99

    Roku Streaming Stick Plus
    If you have a 4K TV this model can output 4k HDR video at 60 frames per second (FPS). This makes fast motion videos like sports and movies look much better Roku also enhanced and increased the WiFi range so if your Router is a little further from your TV this model would be a much better choice. Click Here for a Best Price

    Roku Ultra - Price $99

    Roku Ultra how does it work?
    This is Roku's flagship model that offers their fastest processor, an enhanced gaming remote, 4K HDR 60 FPS Video output, and a remote locator button which will make your remote beep when pressed. A handy feature to help find a lost remote.

    What's Included

    Batteries, HDMI Cable, USB Cable, Power Adapter, Remote Control, Headphones for Private Listening.

    Roku Ultra Specs and Features
  • 10/100 Base-T Ethernet (A great option for less buffering)
  • 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless
  • 720p, 1080p, and 4K UHD with HDR video at 60 frames per second
  • Night listening mode
  • MicroSD card slot for additional channel storage
  • Advanced point anywhere remote with voice search, headphone jack, and gaming buttons
  • IR receiver for universal remotes
  • Dolby Audio pass-through via HDMI

  • Why Buy The Roku Ultra?
    If you own a 4K TV, want the fastest and most powerful model that Roku makes then you will want to buy a Roku Ultra. Otherwise, you may be happy with either a Streaming Stick or Roku Express. Click Here for a Best Price

    Roku Express - Price $30

    This is Roku's lowest cost media streamer. Their last model now is 5X faster. We did an in depth review on the new Roku Express which you can read here. For the money it is a very nice model for those that don't need 4K. Click Here For Best Price

    Roku Express + - Price $40

    This model adds a composite video audio/video cable output that supports 480i so you can hook it up to older non HD televisions. Otherwise it is identical to the Express. This one costs $10 more. Click Here For Best Price

    What's Included

    Both models include a Remote with Batteries, HDMI Cable, USB Cable, Power Adapter. The Plus comes with the R/Y/W Composite video cable. They can both support WiFi although if you want the faster AC WiFi you will need to get a Roku Streaming Stick or Roku Ultra. The Roku Express is great for a secondary TV that is not 4K. If you want faster performance and more features, then you want to spend the extra money on a Roku Ultra.

    Activating Your Roku

    When you start up your Roku for the first time you will be asked on the screen to enter a linking code. Go to Roku and create an account and login. This is where sometimes new Roku owners become confused, and instead of carefully following the instructions on the screen they type activate Roku in Google in order to look for a phone number. DO NOT DO THIS! There are many fake Roku phone numbers that pop up on Google and they will trick you into believing you need to pay to activate your new Roku. This is not True.


    Carefully read the directions again on your screen. All you need to do is enter this address into a web browser this is the official Roku site.

    It should say "Link your Roku device | Roku Official site"

    Should you ever need support, here is Roku's Phone Number: 1 (816) 272-8106

    How To Add Channels To Roku

    There are several ways to add channels to your Roku besides from your TV. Click each of the links below for a long list of channels you can add to your Roku.
    When adding channels from a web browser the important thing to remember is once you are done, on your Roku go to Settings/System/Check for Updates and when it has completed doing an update your newly added channels will be at the very end of your channels list on your Roku.

    How To Watch FREE Channels On Roku

    Wile there are certainly some great subscription channels and it's highly recommended to try the free 30/day trials to Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu, there is also a long list of great Free channels that don't cost anything to watch. See Free Roku Channels List

    Some popular Free Roku channels are YouTube, Crackle TV, VEVO, Crunchyroll and Popcornflix. One other channel worth mentioning is the new Roku Channel. It has free movies and TV shows with minimal commercials. You can learn more about this excellent channel and add it here.

    What Are the Best Channels on Roku?

    There are some really good channels, and then there are some really bad ones which show the same rehashed content and purposely built to sell ads.

    Roku contains many great channels, you can find and access them by categories like News, Music, Faith, Games, Travel, Food, Kids and more by using our popular Roku Channels Guide.

    You can probably tell we love building lists, we put together a list of 100 Popular Roku Channels. There are many more great channels, but this list will get you started with some of the most popular and often mentioned by members in our Roku Rocks group on Facebook.

    View Top 100 Best Roku Channels

    How To Use Your Roku

    Roku works much like your Smart Phone. You add apps, (Roku calls them Channels) which you can then open to play videos, games or listen to music. You need to navigate from one channel to another in order to switch between them. You can use either your remote control, or get the cool Roku app for your phone or tablet. Learn more about the remote control app here.

    Roku lets you search for content several ways. Either with your voice controlled remote, or by using your remote to type the show title, Actor's name or even by Director.

    They also offer a RSS feed where you can enter the name of a movie or show and when it comes available on Roku from one of their participating channels it will alert you.

    Channel streams are mostly on demand, although now there are a handful of Live Streaming TV Cable channels which we will cover next.

    How to Watch Cable TV Channels on Roku

    Most people choose Roku so they can cut the TV cord and get rid of their expensive cable TV boxes. While almost all the channels feature live content, there a few channels which offer Free Live TV. Two of the more popular channels are Pluto TV and XUMO TV. They even contain a nice channel guide and if you did not know any better you would think you are watching cable TV.

    Some of the better streaming services offer a nice selection of cable TV channels and cost much less than a typical cable TV sub. One of the lowest priced live TV service is Philo. At only $16/month for 37 channels it is currently one of the best deals around for cable TV on Roku.

    There are also a handful of other nice Live TV channel services. This Streaming TV Services Guide shows some other great Live cable TV streaming services you can watch on Roku.

    Finally one of the best ways to watch Free cable TV channels on your Roku is to get the password and login from someone you know who still subscribes to cable TV. This will let you choose from a long list of cable TV channels which require a login in order to unlock the channel on your Roku. Some of these cable channels offer limited free content so even if a password to a cable provider eludes you. You can still watch some great but limited content for free.

    Here are the Cable TV Channels on Roku

    How Does Roku Work With an Antenna?

    Unless you have a Roku Smart TV, you can't plug a TV antenna into your Roku. An antenna is awesome because it lets you watch live local broadcast networks for Free. You can get ultra clear HD channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS all free from an antenna if you live close enough to the transmission towers.

    We put together a separate guide which goes into much more detail and tells you which type of antenna you need that will give you the best reception. See this Digital Antenna Guide for more information.

    Roku Internet Requirements

    Streaming on Roku requires a broadband Internet connection. Roku won't work with out one.

    These are the recommended speeds needed to stream content on Roku:

    Standard Definition (SD) – 2 Mbps
    High Definition (HD) in 720p – 5 Mbps
    High Definition (HD) in 1080p – 9 Mbps
    Ultra High Definition in 4K (UHD) – 13 Mbps

    Distance from your Router can definitely slow down your Roku and cause it to buffer. Buffering is when the show or movie pauses and you must wait for it download enough to fill a buffer. If you have a fast enough Internet connection this all happens in the background and you will never even notice it happening. It's only when you are dealing with a slow connection or poor WiFi, buffering rears it's ugly head and you will be sitting twiddling your thumbs waiting for your show to resume.

    If you are able, hook your media streamers to your Router with an Ethernet wire. This eliminates over congested WiFi because of many neighbors all using the same channel. If you can't run an Ethernet wire, than make sure your wireless Router supports AC. This frequency is less congested and will give you the best streaming TV experience possible from your WiFi router.

    Other Frequently Asked Questions

    We have an awesome group of over 14,000 Roku fans in our Roku Rocks Facebook Group. Please join us and ask questions, learn about new Roku channels and get some great tips to help you get the most from your new Roku.

    Please also take a movement to subscribe to the latest Streaming News, Tips and more.

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