Are you ready to cut the cord in your television entertainment life? The Roku Express may be the most cost-effective answer to many of your concerns about leaving your cable or satellite television provider for good.
As reliable and affordable streaming options continue to refine their product offerings, leaving traditional television media behind is as viable an option as ever.
Should You Buy a Roku Express? Team Clark’s Review
Roku, which originated in 2008 as a way to stream Netflix content on a television, has become a leader in producing devices that make going from cable to streaming as easy as possible.
The Roku Express, which retails at $29.99, is a great entry-level option for the rookie streamer.
“I love Roku because it gives you the whole world of television all in one simple platform to watch,” says money expert Clark Howard. “No one has ever come up with a method to watch TV with such simplicity and ease as Roku.”
The purchase of a Roku Express includes the streaming device, an HDMI cable and a remote. In this article, we’ll review everything you need to know before you buy one.
1. How Roku Express Will Save You Money vs. Cable TV
First, let’s take whatever you’re paying to your local cable or satellite provider for television each month and put it right back into your pocket. From there, I think we can help most of you find a lower monthly cost for your television needs via use of Roku Express.
You’re going to need high-speed internet to stream on a Roku Express, so keep that in the monthly budget.
As I mentioned earlier, the $29.99 price tag makes the Roku Express a true bargain. The inclusion of an HDMI cord, which can be pricey if purchased at your local retailer, is a nice bonus.
Personally, I was able to secure my Roku Express on sale at Best Buy for $24.99. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get an even better deal.
Next, gone are the days of renting a cable box for a monthly fee. You can purchase one of these for each of your televisions (or share it between multiple televisions) for the price of one upfront purchase.
Comparing it to a $10 monthly cable box fee, your Roku Express will pay for itself within three months.
Finally, Roku Express offers access to both free and paid streaming services and channels. You will be able to pick and choose your entertainment offerings. The hope is that you’ll find the total of these costs to be below what your cable company charged you.
We’ll cover some of the options later on in the article…
2. Roku Express Is Priced Well Compared to Competitors
If you’re seriously considering streaming or have done it before, you likely are aware that Roku Express isn’t the only option. In fact, it’s only one of many options from Roku.
The Express is considered to be the “entry level” device for Roku at $29.99. The complete Spring 2020 offering for Roku looks like this:
If you’re a more experienced streamer, you may want to comparison shop those here.
Team Clark did a comparison of the Express and the Premiere to help you decide between Roku’s lower-priced options. Spending the extra $10 for the Roku Premiere will get you 4K streaming.
Major competitors in the space include tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google. Amazon offers the Fire TV Stick and Google touts the Chromecast. Both are priced in the range of the Roku Express, but don’t come with the same perks.
For example, the Chromecast does not include a remote and requires the use of a cell phone to change channels. And the Fire TV Stick does not have some of the free channel options that are unique to Roku.
Here’s a look at the purchase cost of some popular competitor streaming devices for Fall 2019:
3. Setup Is Easy With the Roku Express
In my experience, what stops many people from taking the leap into streaming television is the fear of a new setup. Don’t be afraid. This process is mostly painless.
Roku Express sets up in minutes, and most of the process is actually automated. You’ll need an active high-speed internet connection to get things started. You also will need a power source for the Roku and a television with an available HDMI port.
Here are five easy steps to get your Roku Express set up:
4. Roku Has a Robust “Featured Free” Content Section
Are you leery of paying for a streaming service such as YouTube TV, Sling, Hulu or Netflix? Roku Express actually offers enough free content to keep the casual television watcher satisfied.
Once set up on your television, the Express offers access to Roku’s “Featured Free” section that will allow you to consume content at no cost.
The no-cost options include news channels, select movies and popular network television shows. A trip to the Roku channel store via your remote will reveal quite a few free channels for download. Team Clark has reviewed many of the free television services, and we have a roundup of the best offerings available here.
The device also offers its own free channel called the Roku Channel, which gives you access to a collection of popular movies and TV shows.
Here’s a look at some of the popular free content offered (subject to change):
- ABC News
- CBS News (Live 24 hours)
- Yahoo! News & Finance
- Newsmax TV
- Stuart Little
- Dr. Doolittle
- Happy Feet
- Charlotte’s Web
- Baby Sitters Club
- My Girl
- Bachelor in Paradise
- House Hunters Renovation
- America’s Got Talent
- The Masked Singer
- Family Guy
- Forensic Files
Video platforms like YouTube also are available on the Roku Express free of charge.
5. Roku Can Stream Most Popular Paid Subscription Services
Once you have your Roku set up, you probably will be ready to start watching some of your favorite shows. If they don’t fall into the “Featured Free” content detailed above, it’s likely that you’ll need to connect some of your streaming subscriptions to the device.
Netflix and HBO are two very popular content subscription services. Both have channels available for download. Disney+ also is a new popular video streaming service available on the device.
Live TV subscription services that have Roku channels available for download include:
Sports fans also will like the variety of subscription-based channels available, including:
- NFL Sunday Ticket
- Fox Sports Go
- WWE Network
6. Tips and Tricks for Your Roku Express
While the ins-and-outs of the Roku Express are pretty easy to learn, we have a few pointers that may help you get comfortable quickly.
Download the Roku App on Your Cell Phone
Losing the remote is a real couch-potato problem, but fear not. You can use your cell phone as a remote when you download the Roku app. And that’s just scratching the surface of what you can accomplish on the app. You can search and browse channels, as well as launch movies and shows. It’s free and in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Utilize the Fandango Options on the Roku
The Roku Express comes pre-loaded with movie and television purchase options via Fandango. Think of this as your “pay-per-view” option that you may be missing from your cable subscription. You can rent or buy movies in HD right from the app. The cost to rent a “new release” film hovers around the $5.99 price point. Fandango also offers the option to rent movies in bundles as a way to save money. This is an easy way to watch series like the Superman or Batman collections. Television shows are offered for purchase by the season or episode.
Set Up Your Home Screen With Your Most Used App Tiles
We’ll leave you with perhaps the most understated tip on the list. Roku has a default method for dropping tiles onto your home screen after they have been downloaded, but in most cases that’s not the most convenient way to browse them.
You can rearrange these tiles in any way you like by using your remote. While hovering over an app, push the options button on your remote. You should see the option to “Move Channel” from there. There also is the option to remove a channel from your menu on this screen.
Final Thoughts on Roku Express
We’re always looking to maximize our entertainment dollar, and the Roku Express offers a great way to do that. At an affordable price point that offers more than just your basic options, it makes sense for an entry-level streaming device.
If you’re a more advanced streaming consumer, the Express still may have a place in your life. For example, households with four or five televisions in the home could make good use of this product.
Having a couple of these on secondary televisions is a great way to maximize the savings of cord cutting.
More Streaming TV Content from Clark.com:
- How to cut the cord and never pay for cable TV again
- CHART: Which streaming TV service has the best channel lineup?
- Best live TV streaming services: Compare our top picks