Roku Express 4k+ Review – It supports Ethernet and USB!
This is their lowest priced 4k, streaming device and we’re going to be taking a closer look at what this is all about here in just a second we’re going to begin with some of the basics and then we’ll get into geekier topics as we work our way Through the review now i do want to let you know in the interest of full disclosure. This came in free of charge from roku. However, all the opinions you’re about to hear are my own. No one is paying for this review, nor has anyone reviewed or approved what you’re about to see before it was uploaded, so let’s get into it now and see what this product is all about. Now the price point on this is ‘ and you might be asking who buys rokus when we’ve got all these smart tvs now. Well, the answer is, is that most smart tvs get dumber as they get older, because the manufacturers stop supporting the apps on the television because they want you to buy a new tv. But in most cases your tv will last a decade or more and we’re. Now, starting to see a lot of 4k tvs hit that point where they are no longer getting updates to apps and not getting any new apps that are coming out from some of the newer streaming services and that’s, where you might want to look at one of These lower cost players to supplement the reduction in intelligence on your smart television.
Now this one is very simple: there are just two ports here in the back. This one is a usb connector for power. They give you a cable and a power adapter in the box, but you can also plug it into a usb port. On the back of your television and in most cases you can power it through the tv. This connector here is for the hdmi connection to your tv. It comes with an hdmi cable in the box, so for most people you get this thing and you are off and running with it. Now this is designed to sit underneath your television kind of like this. Here because it will get hot and overheat if you put it inside of something to obscure it, so you probably want to keep it out front. So it has some airflow and there are other roku players that don’t have that restriction. So just be aware of that. They do give you a little sticker in the box, so you can stick it down onto a surface and leave it in place. I just note, though, that that sticker is a one time use only sticker, and once you unstick it you’ll have to get another one to re, secure it now. The remote control that this model comes with is a roku voice remote. What this lets you do is issue commands via this button. Here you hold the button down, say something into the remote and the player will execute those commands i’ll demo, that in a little bit this remote also has controls for your television.
You can control the volume here on the right hand, side and turn the tv on or off here with the power button. I just note, though, that your tv needs to support hdmi cec for these tv controls to work. Most tvs do, but you might have to enable the feature on older televisions, and you have to go to your tv’s manual to do that, because every tv does it a little bit differently, but i found most now just supported out of the box and by default Now there are a couple of other players close in price to this, so i thought i would step through the differences now. The entry point of the roku product line is their regular non 4k express this one is best used with 720p and 1080p televisions that don’t support 4k. It has no voice remote and it also doesn’t have the faster advanced wi fi that you have in the roku. 4K plus here so this one has a wireless ac radio that is better suited for 4k content. That is much more bandwidth intensive and for 720p and 1080p content. You really don’t need that advanced wi fi to hit the price point here. So i think it’s, probably the best option, if you don’t, have a 4k set now if you’ve got a 4k set, the choices get more confusing because there’s also the roku streaming stick, plus that in my research and testing, is functionally identical for the most part.
To what we’re reviewing here today, they both support 4k. They both support 4k hdr and they pretty much feel the same as i’m browsing around menus and jumping in between apps, so it’s kind of a coin flip. I think, between the two. But there are a few differences. One is that the streaming stick plus has better wi fi, slightly more advanced than what we’ve got in the 4k plus here. So it will support beam forming, which is something the ac standard supports and it might deliver slightly faster bandwidth too. So this might work well, if you’re in an environment where you’ve got a lot of other people using the wi fi at the same time. But i think the differences will be rather subtle for the use case here, but the streaming stick plus can be hidden behind a television like you can see here. So if you didn’t want something sticking out underneath your tv, the streaming stick plus might be a little bit better, aesthetically and what’s neat about it is that they built in an antenna into its power cable. So you get slightly better reception, perhaps with the streaming stick plus over the 4k plus we’re reviewing today, but again, it’s a very close feature set. But one thing that was interesting is that the streaming stick plus here does not support ethernet, but you can get ethernet to work on this roku, meaning you could plug it directly into your router or network and i’ll demo that when we get into the more nerdy Portion of the review, but beyond that, these two are very very much the same now.
The 4k plus here, along with the streaming stick plus, do not support dolby vision, hdr. They support hdr 10, but not the dolby hdr. Additionally, it does not support dolby atmos audio. To get those two features you got to go up to the roku ultra, which costs a lot more, but you’ll get them on that device. It also has a more advanced remote control that has private listening. You can plug in headphones and listen to everything through the remote control that’s my favorite feature of it. It also has a built in ethernet port, so you can plug it directly into your network without another device needed. This one does require you to plug in a little dongle, and it also has a usb port for media. So you can load up a usb stick with photos and videos and watch them on your television, but there’s a way to do that through this one too, which we’ll demo in a few minutes. So without further ado, let’s plug it into our television and see how it works alright, so we are all booted up right now. We’Ve got the roku connected to this 4k 60 hertz display and it’s very, very responsive. It feels really quick. You can jump into an app here like youtube. I will take a look at a video, real, quick and see how fast we can get going, but it’s noticeably faster than some of the other entry level roku’s. I have used over the years.
It feels really nice. So you’re not going to wait around too much as you’re browsing around the amount of apps available on roku is extensive, although they’ve been feuding with a lot of these streaming providers more so than they have in the past. So, for example, right now at the time i’m recording this video, the youtube app is available here, but the youtube tv service is not currently available on roku due to one of these contract disputes, so that might pop up over time when you have a roku in Hand so just be aware of that, but for the most part, all of the major streaming services are here. Some of them, as you saw earlier, are built into the buttons here on the remote and it’s very quick to get around and navigate things now. One of the things i’ve always liked about roku is that they dedicate a whole portion of their interface to free content and helping you discover a lot of the free things that are out there and what you do when you’re on your roku device here is just Hit the left arrow key and go over to featured free now this is a curated thing. Sometimes people are paying to get their content put in front of you, but this is a neat way that you can explore all of the different free apps that are out there and, for example, if i wanted to watch modern family here, you’ll see that it’s available For free and if i don’t have the mbc app installed, it will install it for me automatically and then i can start watching in that app and once you go through this section for a few weeks, you’ll probably uncover most of the free apps that are out There and then you can load up those apps individually to watch a lot of the free content that’s available.
Now this stuff is free, but it’s, free with advertising. So when you’re watching something there’s going to be ad breaks, that kind of jump into the mix but there’s so much great free stuff out there and now all of these free content providers are competing with each other to get more exclusive. So i think the value of the free stuff is going to continue to increase. If you can tolerate the ads now, as i mentioned, it does come with a voice remote. You do, though, have to push a button on the remote to get it activated. It’S not always listening, but if i push the button down here and say, show me star trek the next generation. What will happen here is it will go out and do a search, and here it found star trek the next generation i can browse through it and see where i can watch the show and it’s showing me where i can rent it and where i can watch It as part of a subscription, if i have one and if i click on any of these apps it’ll, bring me right to the app and to the episode that i want to watch. You can also ask it to turn on your tv or turn it off. You can also boot up specific apps here as well, so i could say, launch apple tv and that will bring up apple tv for us. So you can do a lot here just through the remote just remember to push the button down to get that search activated.
Now roku has also put together a really neat mobile, app that runs on iphones and android phones, and if your phone is on the same network as your roku, you can control it all with your phone and you’ve got all the basic remote control functions here, like The navigation arrows and the ok button and everything, but it also does some other stuff, including a private listening mode. So if i click on the headphone icon here, what will happen is my roku will now push all of the audio through my phone it’ll play on the phone, but if i had headphones attached i could do private listening so at night. If you don’t want to disturb your spouse next to you, just like the roku ultra, this device will stream audio to your phone, and you can listen to things privately with headphones on, while seeing it on your television screen what’s nice about it. Is that they’re very good at syncing up the audio and video, so everything is lip synced properly and actually sounds pretty good too, and the app also lets you use your phone’s keyboard when you’ve got a text input field up so, for example, right now, i’m in Youtube and i’m doing a search. I can click on keyboard up here and finish typing things out on my phone, which is a lot more efficient than having to browse through the letters with the remote control here. So you’ve got a lot of neat things that this app brings to the mix and it’s gotten a lot better over the years too.
Now, if you have an iphone, the roku here supports airplay 2 for video and audio streaming. So, for example, right now, i’ve got my screen mirroring option up here on my iphone. It is seeing the roku express 4k just like it would a more expensive apple tv. When i hit the button there, you can see it initiates the airplay feature, and now i am browsing my phone here right on my roku and i can hit my photo album, for example, and pull up a photo. We took yesterday of my daughter’s birthday. I can browse through these photos here. I can even play videos on it too and it’s doing the live photos here, as you can see as well. This is not going to be as good of an experience as what you would get on something more expensive from apple, but you can do all of the airplay stuff on here quite easily now. Another thing that this supports is some degree of chromecasting. Now, if you’re not familiar with the chromecast that’s, a google product it’s also on their android tv platform and what it lets you do is push this icon. That you’ll see in many popular apps, including youtube here and cast whatever you’re watching on your phone to a television and youtube supports roku’s, just like it supports a native chromecast application. So i can select the express 4k here when i do that it loads up the youtube, app and what’s cool.
Is that it’ll start playing the video right where i left off on my phone, so you’ll see that starting up here, it’s right where i left it? I can actually control the video here from the phone inside of the youtube app and it works pretty nicely now not every app out there supports this, though so netflix works with it, but prime video does not so if you’re doing a lot of chromecasting a chromecast Or an android tv is still probably the better way to go, but this does support it now. Another thing that roku supports is something called mirror casting and a little bit earlier. We connected up my windows, 10 laptop wirelessly to the roku, so we can mirror its display on the television. This is a feature that’s built into windows, 10 it’s, also something you can do on android. It does take a minute or two for everything to come together. Here, but once it makes that connection, you can mirror the display of a windows, computer or an android device on your roku, so there’s just a lot of features on these things to bring images over from things that are not directly connected to it and it’s kind Of nice to have all of this again on a pretty low end device now, as promised we’re going to do some nerdier things here before we close out now what i’ve got hooked up to the roku right now? Is this ethernet device that i bought a little while back? This allows you to plug in ethernet and connect it to a device with a micro, usb connector.
This uses a format called usb otg, and this cable here is providing power, so it’s getting power and ethernet through the cable here and getting on the network and i’ll. Show you the performance of that in a second, but more interesting, is that this little ethernet adapter also has a usb hub built in and i’ve got a usb stick installed and guess what it sees it. We can go over to the photo section here and pull up the external usb drive and actually look at a photo that is on this usb stick here, and this is a feature that you typically get only on the highest end roku. But if you buy one of these really inexpensive adapters, you can get it to work on the low end one here that was kind of a neat surprise. What we can also do is jump back into the settings and check the performance of our wired connection. So if we go here to about you can see that we are on a wired network and when i last tested it, we were able to pull down about 57 megabits per second over. This ethernet adapter you’re not going to get gigabit speeds here, but you don’t need that and using ethernet is often the best way to get one of these 4k streamers to work most reliably because you’re not relying on a wi fi network to get it you’re directly. Connected to your router, at least through your home network and that’s, going to provide a much more stable and reliable connection, especially if you have a weak, wi fi signal near your television, and this was a really neat surprise – to see all this stuff working on again.
An entry level device from roku this does not work again on the streaming stick only on the 4k plus here now, as many of you know, i use plex for managing my personal media it’s a great application. They are a sponsor here on the channel but it’s something i’ve been using for a long time now, and it runs pretty nicely here on the roku. I tested out a couple of different videos during a live stream. The other day, this one is a 4k h.265 10 bit video that i used to test out various decoders. This is one of my own videos actually, and it works really nicely here, as you can see it spins up right away. We are on the ethernet right now, but it was performing very similar on wi fi earlier. It is playing this back directly, so it’s decoding this on the roku hardware, didn’t see any drop frames or anything. It was really functioning quite nicely, but the limitations of the bit rate with the ethernet or the wi fi will limit you to this kind of stuff. You know lower bit rate video if you get into 4k blu ray discs and other things you’re really going to hit the limit here. It doesn’t support a lot of the lossless audio formats. In fact, it doesn’t support any of them, so it’s, not a home. Theater enthusiast device, but it is going to do well, i think, for some of your 1080p and 720p plex content.
Now, if you are using the plex live tv and dvr feature, i did notice that when you’re playing back mpeg 2 content directly, it will decode it just fine but it’s, not de interlacing it so you’re going to need to use your transcoder for that. But all together the plex performance on it is better than i expected, but it’s, not something that home theater enthusiasts are going to want to use. Now we also tested youtube videos running at 4k at 60 frames per. Second, it played back perfectly. The hardware decoder here is working just fine on this little box, no drop frames, everything look great, really a nice little player here for online video from youtube, twitch and others that are providing 60 frames per second content at high resolutions. So, overall, this is a neat little player from roku. I do wish that it supported dolby, atmos and dolby vision. Unfortunately, it does not, but if you have an older 4k tv and are looking to up its intelligence level, this will certainly get you there and it performs quite nicely for an entry level box, so that’s all good. Now, if you were looking at this thinking hey, could i install some emulators and some games on it? The answer is no it’s a custom operating system that roku has been developing for a long time. It pretty much just plays media back, it doesn’t do games, they tried to do games a few years ago.
They kind of gave up on it. So it is strictly a media player, but i think for a lot of people that want simplicity and a good range of streaming apps to choose from roku’s are always a sure bet, that’s going to do it for now until next time. This is lon simon. Thanks for watching this channel is brought to you by the london tv supporters, including gold level supporters, chris alegretta tom albrecht mark bollinger, sergio morales mark dell, jim calliger and steven suh.