What is Roku? How Does Roku Work? A Complete Guide to Roku Devices

What is Roku

If you have a subscription to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV or others and you’re not watching them on your TV, you’re doing it wrong. With a near infinite number of television shows and movies at your disposal, it would be a crime to watch them on a tiny computer or smart phone screen. Luckily, since the advent of media streaming there have been numerous devices designed to display that content where it belongs; your TV. One of the more popular devices is known as a Roku.

So, what is Roku? How does Roku work? And what’s the difference between all the different Roku models available today? We’ll explain in this guide.


What Is Roku?

Simply put, a Roku is an Internet streaming media device. The Roku, like many other streaming devices, is a small box that connects to your TV. It takes content from the Internet such as video from Netflix, Sling TV, YouTube, etc. and displays it on your TV. If you sign up for a few months of Sling TV, you can actually get a free Roku!

There are a lot of different models of Roku, so if you’re asking what is Roku 3, what is Roku 4, etc. the answer is going to be pretty much the same thing. All the models function in more or less the same way, with some minor feature differences. We’ll discuss the different Roku models in more detail below.


How Does Roku Work?

Setting up a Roku is quick and easy. Plug your Roku device into a power outlet and connect it to your TV via an HDMI cable. The initial set-up process will walk you through how to connect the Roku to your existing Wi-Fi network (some models also support ethernet). Once that’s complete, you’re ready to embark on your new career as a professional couch potato. The Roku allows users to navigate graphical menus to select content providers like Netflix or Amazon Video. Simply fire up the service of your choice and kick back.

Roku devices have well over 3,000 streaming apps you can add and watch content from. Some are free, others are paid. Adding apps is easy, and you can sort your Roku channels in whatever order you want on your home screen. One of the reasons Roku devices are so popular is because they are very user-friendly. You don’t have to be a tech geek to use a Roku, nor do you have to understand the intricacies of streaming or know the specifics of how does Roku work.


What Can I Watch?

One of the biggest advantages Roku has over their competitors are the sheer number of apps (or “channels” as Roku calls them) that are available. Boasting more than 3,500 channels, there is literally something for everyone. Roku supports all of the most popular streaming services including, Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, SlingTV, HBO NOW, YouTube, and countless more. Roku also supports streaming audio services like Pandora and Spotify. In addition, Roku devices support a number of mobile video games like Angry Birds.

We should note that many of these content providers require a paid subscription. Prices amongst these services can vary. There are, however a large number of channels and applications that are entirely free. The only requirement is an Internet connection fast enough to handle streaming video.

Additionally, many services offer free trials so that you can test them out. Sling TV offers as free 7-day trial, as does Hulu. Amazon Prime Video offers a free MONTH long trial, which is a pretty sweet deal. These trials are a great way to explore both Roku and the service of your choosing.


What Are the Differences Between Models?

There are a number of different Roku models available. While each one boasts different features, the core functionality remains the same. Regardless of which model you choose, you will have full access to the content available. That being said, some of the higher end models which command more money, are able to output in higher resolutions. The Roku Ultra, for example, supports both 4K video and HDR color. Of course, in order to benefit, you will need to have the device hooked up to a TV capable of 4K and HDR.

In addition to the stand alone Roku devices, a number of television manufacturers have partnered with Roku to offer TV’s with Roku functionality built in. In fact, around 13% of all smart TVs made in the US use Roku technology. This is actually a common reason why people ask us what is Roku, because they are familiar with Roku technology on their smart TVs, but don’t realize that Roku also has their own devices.


The Verdict

Roku has long been a favorite here at CutCableToday and like a fine wine, it has only gotten better with age. No other streaming media player on the market comes close to the amount of content compatible with the Roku. As if that wasn’t enough, the Roku is incredibly easy to set up and it’s user interface is intuitive. Whichever model you choose, you’re guaranteed to get the most out of what Internet streaming has to offer.

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Ryan Lynch

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4 Comments on "What is Roku? How Does Roku Work? A Complete Guide to Roku Devices"

  1. jim mcnulty | February 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm |

    I want a list of the channels (aps) that are free. If I sign up to all of them I will be paying more than comcast.

  2. Cathleen Augustine | February 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm |

    I can’t afford cable or dish love to learn more

  3. How do I legally stream NESN (New England Sports Network)?

  4. Nelson fields | February 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm |

    I have a Roku for about five years now,I have a roku3, this device is fantasti,and I can watch TV at night late cuz I do that a lot with the headphones on so it’s cool I all I need now is a bigger SD card , so I can add more channels it’s always something new.

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