Not too long ago, the good friends at Roku announced a completely new lineup of their media streaming boxes. The most affordable box of the line-up, the Roku Express is finally in my hands and I’ve been testing it over the last few weeks. If you remember the lineup, this is the 29$ box (40$CA) that will be very popular this Christmas season. Is this small, compact streaming device the one you are looking for?
The Roku Express is the replacement of the Streaming Stick from last year and instead of being plugged directly in an HDMI port, it comes with a strip of dual-sided tape and can be stuck to the underside of your flat screen (or on the side or top). The important thing is that the remote IR blaster must be in the line of sight of the IR receiver of the small Express.
You then plug it in the HDMI port of your TV and run the USB cable to one of your empty USB ports on the TV. Both cables are included for your convenience. If you do not have a USB port available, you can use the provided USB adapter for a wall outlet. Once stuck to your TV and plugged, you should see the Roku setup screen on your TV.
The only other feature on the device itself is the reset button to bring back the stick to its factory defaults. If you want to use the Roku Express with an older TV with only RCA connection, you should look at the Roku Express+ that comes with the appreciate cable.
- Compact Streaming Box
- Wi-Fi 802.11 (b/g/n compatible)
- Outputs 720p and 1080p
- Upscales 720p content on 1080p TVs
- Dolby Audio passthrough HDMI
- Compatible with Universal Remotes
- Power consumption: < 2.4W
The setup process of getting the Roku Express on the network and create the Roku account can be done quickly and without a hitch. Then, it’s only a matter of installing the apps you want to consume the media available. Roku is faithful to their four quick-access buttons sending you directly to Netflix, Spotify, Google Play or TED. If you do not have the channels install, the Express will gladly install them for you on the first press.
The Roku operating system is the same as last year on the surface and offers the same feature. If you are missing voice search, you can use the Roku App for voice search, regular textual search and even see your list of installed channels.
Now, in terms of performance per say. The Express does not feel like a 30$ device, it’s much faster than I have anticipated. I was expecting something sluggish but it was not the case. It’s not as fast as last year’s top of the line Roku box, but it’s fast enough that I can see myself using it daily. I’m really looking for my next review of the Roku Ultra!
The real problem I’m having with the Roku Express is that it’s not behaving in a multi-device setup. I’ve got a few devices connected to my TV, an LG Blu-ray player, a Wii U and an Apple TV. I also have a smart HDMI switch that automatically switches to the running device. All of the mentioned devices have either a sleep mode, they can be shutdown or have an auto-shutdown/sleep after a certain period of time. The Roku Express only has a screensaver mode and cannot be shutdown, only restarted. Therefore, if I wanted to play a Wii U game, I had to literally unplug the Express from the TV. In a setup where the Roku Express would be the only smart device, it’s not a big problem, but for more and more setup with auto-sensing HDMI port TVs or auto-sensing switches, it’s a real pain.
You may be wondering who this device is targeted to? Well, with its affordable price it’s aimed for your second TV, a kid’s room, the country house or your non-techy parent that would like to start in this great big world that is streaming content but does not benefit from a 4K TV or does not want to invest 200$ in a device. It will not replace the 250$ Apple TV or come close to the performance of the Roku Premiere Plus or Roku Ultra, but it’s a strong contender nonetheless. If it could only play nice with other devices plugged into your TV, it would be a perfect device for any setup where you are looking to add more streaming to your life.
- Compact and low power
- Great remote
- Great feature set
- No sleep or shutdown
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