What is Roku and How Does it Work in 2023?

Streaming services have made it easier than ever to watch your preferred content, allowing many users to give up their cable subscriptions and contribute to the growing numbers of cord-cutters. As of Q3 2021, Roku reported around 56.4 million monthly active users in the United States. These rising numbers make Roku one of the most popular streaming options. So, what is Roku, and how does Roku work? 

This guide will answer all your questions about Roku and its products and services. 

What is Roku?

Roku devices connect to your television through a tiny streaming box or stick, like the Amazon Fire TV stick to stream content. These days, many smart TVs also feature built-in support for Roku. 

TCL 32-inch 3-Series Roku Smart TV
TCL Roku Smart TV

Roku seamlessly streams content from established streaming subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and other subscription services. Roku also offers plenty of free content with Roku channel (190 channels) and Pluto TV (250 channels).

Disney Plus On Xfinity

All of Roku’s media-streaming devices are powered by the Roku software (Roku OS 9.4 is the latest OS version). Roku was the sixth company founded by Anthony Wood, “Roku” translates to “six” in Japanese. In 2008, the firm released its first product, the Roku DVP, and has been launching new hardware and software versions ever since. 

Roku runs on a custom operating system, and hardware is available in different models and configurations. Streaming sticks and rounded-square boxes are the most common alternatives. A range of Roku TVs, smart TVs with an integrated operating system, are also available. Depending on the model, Roku devices can cost as low as $29.99 (Roku Express) to as high as $200+ depending on the brand and size. (Roku TV).

Check out the leading streaming devices by Roku:

Roku also has a variety of products that can enhance the audio quality of your television. The Roku Streambar, for example, is a streaming device and a soundbar in one. Additionally, the Roku Wireless Subwoofer or the Roku Wireless Speakers can be used to create an even more cinematic sound experience with heavier bass. 

How Does Roku Work?

Similarities exist between a Roku-enabled soundbar, a Roku-enabled television, or a Roku-enabled player. You’ll need a working internet connection to use Roku. 

Every Roku box includes an HDMI cable, a power adapter, a MicroUSB cable, and a controller. It is possible to connect a Roku Streaming Stick to your computer via a USB port on your television. When configuring other Roku devices, connect the HDMI cable, insert the power adapter, and use the Roku remote to form a wireless or wired connection with your network.

Once you’ve completed the setup of your Roku device, including signing up for a free Roku account, you can begin using it right away. After completing the basic setup, the Roku home screen is the first thing you see. 

The primary menu is located on the left, while an extensive matrix of graphic rectangles is located in a second section on the right. The Roku Channel, Netflix, YouTube, and other services will all have dedicated channels in these rectangular menus. In reality, channels on Roku are just apps that you can watch on your TV, but since it’s so TV-centric, it refers to them as channels. 

When you discover the station you want to watch, press the “OK” button on the remote provided. For subscription-based channels such as Netflix, you’ll be required to join or create an account to begin watching. For most cases, you’ll need a separate device like your smartphone to finish the signing-up or activation process, but it only has to be done once. 

When you want to change channels or return to the home screen, press the home button on your remote control. Roku is not just about choosing and watching channels; you can do more.

In this guide, we’ve highlighted six Roku devices ideal for various usage. This is not to imply that other Roku devices are not desirable, but this is an excellent place to start. Depending on the type of television you own, the level of sophistication you desire for your remote, and your budget, these are the best Roku devices for your entertainment center.

Roku Express

Since its first release in 2016, the Roku Express has evolved significantly. At the time, the device lacked power and was oddly designed. The Express is now a sensible buy for owners of full-HD 1080p televisions looking for the easiest streaming option. At $30, the Roku Express is the most affordable streaming player from the manufacturer, yet it comes with a slew of capabilities. 

Along with dozens of streaming channels and a highly customized interface, a smartphone app provides voice search and private listening access. The one significant disadvantage is the basic infrared remote, which is not always as reliable as it should be.

Roku Express 4K+

The Roku Express 4K+ is quicker and more powerful than the Roku Express as it supports Dolby Vision and includes the excellent Voice Remote Pro. It retains all of the features and functionality of the previous generation but with a bit more power and superior functionality. 

The Roku Express 4K+ provides everyone with ultra-HD streaming, video playback, and performance, as well as an efficient OS at an affordable price. Additionally, it includes the top-notch Voice Remote Pro. It features a rechargeable battery, an always-listening mode, and customizable buttons.

Roku Ultra

Although the Roku Ultra is pricey, it will provide you with the most extensive Roku experience. It comes with hundreds of channels, full 4K quality, and lightning-fast browsing. However, the Ultra has an Ethernet connector for a more stable Internet connection and a USB port for streaming your own content.  

Additionally, the 2020 Roku Ultra is quicker and has a more extended wifi streaming range. The voice-activated remote features two customizable buttons, a 3.5 mm audio jack, and a convenient “remote-finder” functionality if the remote goes missing.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K succeeds the Streaming Stick+.  While it is not a significant upgrade over the previous model, it includes everything we enjoyed about it and addresses one of the product’s main shortcomings by integrating Dolby Vision. Additionally, Roku has incorporated a new quad-core CPU to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which claims it results in 30% quicker app launch times. While this is difficult to quantify, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K seems snappy and responsive. 

With Dolby Vision support (alongside HDR10/+), you can watch all of your TV and movies as flawlessly as ever. The image is presented in razor-sharp UHD resolution. However, the device lacks audio requirements since it lacks Dolby Atmos, emphasizing spatial awareness. 

Roku TVs 

In 2014, TCL and Hisense announced new ranges of TVs with the Roku Smart TV interface fully integrated into the TV with the same fantastic streaming interface and channel selection, but without the need for a separate device to access it. However, because not all Roku TVs are created equal, it is essential to consider their performance while choosing the ideal one for your needs.

Roku Streambar

Where does one go if they want to use the Roku platform, but their TV doesn’t have the sound level they desire? The Roku Streambar, which is frequently on sale, is an excellent alternative. Its compact form saves space and keeps your entertainment center clutter-free while delivering high-quality music that’s powerful and crystal-clear. Although the bass is lacking, that isn’t a deal-breaker for most televisions. Additionally, you’ll be able to save on storage space by purchasing the streaming device and soundbar as a combo.

Roku Streambar Pro

The Streambar Pro is a great option if you have a larger living room or big television. It has four 2.5-inch full-range drivers and measures 32 inches long. It also features a 3.5mm headphone jack. It is like the standard soundbar by Roku but with some extra features and a bigger size for higher volume output.

What Can You Watch With Roku

Since 2008, Roku has made great strides. The number of channels on Roku has grown from one to more than 3000. Now your local broadcast and cable television networks can also be streamed live on Roku. 

Network TV on Roku

All four major broadcast networks are available on a wide range of streaming platforms in many regions of the United States. You need to have an account with the streaming service that provides these networks and log in with that account on a Roku. The following are the best options for local television in your area.

Hulu + Live TV

In most locations, Hulu Plus Live TV provides access to ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC via the Hulu app. You can check whether local channels are available in your location by entering your zip code on Hulu’s website or app. 

Watching Hulu without Ads
Watching Hulu

DirectTV Stream

DirectTV Stream also provides live ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC channels. You may use the DIRECTV STREAM website to see if those channels are available in your region by entering your zip code. 

YouTube TV and fuboTV are two other alternatives for live TV. 

Cable TV on Roku

There’s a lot of perplexity surrounding the Roku channel apps for cable TV. They require logins for most. If you want to watch live cable TV networks like AMC and ESPN, TBS and HGTV, and HBO, you can sign up for one of the services listed below: Live TV streaming. 

  • Hulu TV
  • Philo
  • Vidgo 
  • fuboTV 
  • Sling TV 

You may also use the login credentials for these services to gain access to content on a few specific channel applications. 

Also Read: HBO vs Showtime: Who has the better content in 2023?

Other Apps on Roku

Free movies and TV shows can be found on the Roku Channel. Roku allows you to select the channels that are accessible to you. It comes with only a handful of channels pre-installed. 

Some of the most popular channels on Roku include —  Netflix, Hulu Live TV, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, Google Play Store, VUDU, M-GO, Disney+, PBS, HBO Max, Crackle TV, and more! 

How Many People Can Watch HBO Max At Once

News sources include CBS, Fox, Sky, The Blaze, and more.  ESPN+, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, NHL GameCenter, NFL Now, and more are available for sports viewing. 

Roku has an official channel for the Plex Media Server. If you want to stream your media, we recommend this app. If you’re looking for the best way to watch personal content on a Roku, this is it. 

It’s not only video content that’s available on Roku; there is a slew of music channels as well. All of the content on Roku’s many channels can’t be seen in a single day.

How to Connect Roku to Other Devices

You just bought a Roku, and now you have to figure out how to get it working. When setting up a Roku, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a box, stick, or TV. Below, we explain exactly how to do it. 

Prerequisites for setting up Roku devices

Before you begin configuring your brand-new Roku player, consider the following suggestions: 

  • Plug the Roku box or streaming stick to your TV through HDMI, or switch on the Roku TV and start streaming content. 
  • An HDMI port that supports HDCP 2.2 must be used with any 4K Roku streaming stick or box. These devices are the Streaming Stick+, Roku 4, Premiere, Premiere+, and Ultra. The input should be labeled. This is crucial for HDR-encoded content compatibility. 
  • If you have a 4K-enabled Roku stick, box, or TV, ensure your internet speeds can handle the requirements of 4K content streaming.
  • For a Roku 1 or Express Plus, you can use composite video and analog audio ports to connect a Roku box to a television. Analog TVs are the only ones that this works with. 
  • Install batteries in your remote control and use the included power adapter or cord to power the Roku TV, stick, or box.

How To Setup Roku 

To get your Roku streaming device up and running, follow these steps: 

  1. To use Roku TV, you must turn it on on the TV to which you have plugged your Roku streaming stick or box. To get started, you’ll be redirected to the Roku startup page. 
  2. Roku’s on-screen menu interface is available in a variety of languages. Choose your preferred language here. If you have a Roku TV, you may also be prompted to pick your nation.
  3. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to use some features and services, such as region-bound streaming applications. 
  4. Roku devices must be connected to your network router. Both WiFi and Ethernet are supported by Roku streaming sticks, while Roku boxes and TVs have both options. The Roku device searches WiFi networks if it is connected to the internet. Enter your WiFi password to connect to the network of your choice. 
  5. You may notice a notification saying a software or firmware update is available once your network connection is established. If this is the case, permit Roku to complete the upgrade. 
  6. The Roku device will automatically recognize the TV’s resolution and aspect ratio and adjust the video output signal as needed when connected through HDMI. Of course, you can always go back and modify it if you want. 
  1. You’ll need your Roku control for a few things, so it should be working automatically. Notifications and instructions will be displayed on the TV screen should it be necessary for the device to be paired. 
  2. Check Remote Settings if you have the Roku Enhanced Remote that comes with specific devices and instantly sets up the remote to control the television’s power and volume. 
  3. Go to Settings > Remote > Set up Remote for TV Control to activate or modify this later.
  4. Sign up for a Roku account by visiting the registration page. Create an account, enter a username and password, and input your address and payment details.
  5. Roku devices are free to use. Even so, payment information is required to make it easier for you to rent or buy content, make transactions, or pay for additional membership fees via your Roku device. 
  6. Upon signing up for a Roku account, additional instructions appear on the TV screen, including a code for activation. Enter the code number at Roku.com/Link using a smartphone or other devices.
  7. When your Roku device is enabled, a message will appear on the TV screen. 
  8. The Roku Home menu displays, giving you access to the device’s settings and a list of available channels and apps. A right arrow next to “All done” should be clicked on if you do not see a Home menu on your screen.

Also Read: Can You Use Roku Without WiFi? (Find Out)

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you have all the information about what is Roku and how does Roku work let’s get to answering other questions about it. 

Which channels are free on Roku?

Some of the popular free channels on Roku include Roku channel, Tubi, FilmRise, PBS, YouTube, and over 200 free live channels from leading networks. 

What is the difference between a smart TV and Roku?

When comparing a Roku TV to a smart TV, the critical distinction is that the former uses Roku technology. It is possible to get the same streaming applications and channels on Roku-powered smart TVs since they use the same operating system as Roku’s streaming media devices.


We hope this guide helps you understand what is Roku. The streaming devices by Roku are one of the most popular for their features and variety. You can pick the best suited Roku device for your home based on your TV capabilities and other requirements. 

Are you planning to buy a Roku device? Check out our comparison guide to make a sound decision — Fire stick vs Apple TV vs Chromecast vs Roku vs Now TV

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About Melissa

Hey! I'm Mel, I write the occasional article for Spacehop, amongst other things. I love meeting new people and chatting, so if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

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