Home Devices Roku Express Streaming Device Review

Roku Express Streaming Device Review

by David Miklos Hazi
Roku Express
3.8

Design

3.0/5

Ecosystem

5.0/5

Features

2.5/5

Performance

3.5/5

Price

5.0/5

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Tiny
  • Includes HDMI cable
  • Roku's content ecosystem (it's still the best)

Cons

  • Weak Wi-Fi (No 5GHz)
  • Remote requires line-of-sight
  • Voice control only available on the phone app

2020 Roku Express (3900) Review

The Roku Express (3900) is a streaming device that was released in October 2017 (R). This device is not a stick or a dongle. The device is a tiny set-top box that needs to be visible to be used. In terms of hardware, the Express is basically a smaller version of the old Roku 2. The device is becoming outdated but is still a great option for the casual cord-cutter looking for an inexpensive, non-4K solution.

Roku Express Design

Roku Express Hardware

The Express streaming device connects via an HDMI cable. The set-top box must be powered by using a micro USB adapter and cable or you can power the Express via the USB port on your TV. Using the USB port will slow down the performance of the player. Micro USB adapter and an HDMI cable are included when you purchase the device which is something other device makers rarely do.

Weighing just 1.3 ounces it can be difficult to keep the box in one place. This can be an issue because the remote requires line-of-sight to operate. Thankfully, included with your purchase is a strip of double-sided tape to keep the box in one place. Of course, you can always purchase your own adhesive separately.

Also included is the standard Roku remote control without voice controls. The remote uses infrared or IR so you will need to be within line of sight of the set-top box. This is unlike newer devices that rely on Bluetooth. The remote is matte black and very lightweight. The remote contains directional arrow buttons, a back and a home button, and also has reverse, fast-forward, and play buttons.

Roku Remote

The remote also includes four shortcut buttons at the bottom that allows you to go directly to a cord-cutting service app such as Netflix or Sling TV. These four buttons may be differed depending upon where you get the Express. Also available is a mobile app that allows you to use your smartphone as a remote. You can also use the phone application to access some advanced capabilities such as voice search or private listening mode.

Roku Express Front

Express Performance

Performance of the Express is becoming outdated but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor experience. This device is by no means sluggish and is just as good as comparable versions of Amazon Fire TV. The device is fully capable of delivering a very sharp 1080p HD picture over Wi-Fi with little to no buffering.

Performance of this streamer is largely determined by the Wi-Fi antenna, processor, and Roku platform. The Express can’t access less-crowded 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks, just standard 2.4 GHz ones. Startup and load times will be affected if your home Wi-Fi network is spotty or weak.

In regards to the processor it is middle-of-the-road but is capable of handling just about any app or video. However, there is no support for 4K at all. Users are limited to 1080p and if you connect it to a 4K TV you will have to rely on the upconversion.

The platform is where this product absolutely nails it. It’s lightweight and fairly minimalist. The platform is not cluttered making scrolling smooth and quick. Accessing your favorite applications is very easy and intuitive.

Roku Express Back

Roku Express Set Up

Getting set up with the Express is very easy. Simply plug in the streaming media player, connect the HDMI cable to your TV, and follow the on-screen instructions. You will be prompted by the device to connect to your WiFi and then it will check for firmware updates and will optimize the resolution. The resolution may start out in 720p and could appear fuzzy, but do not worry because the device will automatically adjust to 1080p.

After you have connected to WiFi and run the initial setup you will be asked to go to Roku’s website to register the device. You can pick and choose which apps you want to download to your player. You can go back and change this at any time. Roku will start you off with a handful of apps at first but there are thousands of apps available.

Once set up, simply select and open an application and you’re ready to start consuming your favorite content.

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Express Channels

The platform gives cord-cutters access to over 5,000 different channels and applications. This includes both free and premium based content. Roku arguably has the greatest ecosystem of applications and games. All of these can be downloaded at no cost from the Roku Channel Store.

Mainstream content includes streaming services such as Sling TV, fuboTV, YouTube TV, Hulu, Netflix, and more. Users also get access to free content such as PlutoTV, tubi, PBS, Crackle, and more. Users are offered the capability to listen to music, watch TV and movies, and even get up-to-date news and weather information.

The Roku mobile app gives users extra features. Use your iOS or Android device to enhance your cord-cutter experience. Additional features include:

  • The Roku Channel: Stream hundreds of hit movies, tv shows, and more—anytime, anywhere.
  • Voice Search: Just say it to search by title, actor, or director across 1,000+ channels.
  • Private listening: Use headphones to listen as loud as you want without disturbing the house.
  • Cast to TV: See your photos, videos, and music up on your big screen.

Roku Express Technical Specs

 
Roku Express
Networking802.11 (b/g/n compatible) single-band wireless
TV CompatibilityHD TVs – Up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) with up-scaling from 720p

PortsMicro USB for power,
HDMI 1.4
AudioDigital stereo over HDMI®, DTS Digital Surround™ pass through over HDMI®, Dolby pass through over HDMI
Size1.4 x 3.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight1.3 ounces

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Roku Express Review Conclusion

For the price (under $30) its hard to beat the Roku Express. Literally, there is no other device this inexpensive. This tiny set-top-box is capable of delivering streaming video in HD 1080p, including popular services such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and many more. The device is great for first-time streamers, secondary TVs, and makes a great gift. This is the perfect ultra-budget device; however, even if your budget is slightly more you make want to go with the Roku Streaming Stick. This newer generation of Roku Express is noticeably faster loading menus, apps, and videos.

Compare Roku Express To Other Streaming Devices

Wondering how this cord-cutting media player stacks up vs other devices? Compare our Roku Express Review to other popular cord-cutting TV devices reviews. We have reviewed the most popular devices on the market including brands such as Amazon, Apple, Roku, and more. Check out our full list of device reviews here:

  • AirTV – Dual network tuner that transmits OTA signals to a device connected television. Rating: 7.0; Price: Discontinued.
  • AirTV Player – Unique device that combines cord-cutting television with over-the-air antenna local channels in one platform. Rating: 6.4; Price: Discontinued.
  • Amazon Fire TV Cube – Central hub for connecting and controlling all of your home theatre equipment including TV, cable box, and even audio equipment by using the Amazon Alexa voice control technology. Rating: 8.6; Price: $119.99.
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick – Amazon’s budget streamer for cord-cutters looking to for 1080p resolution. Rating: 8.4; Price: $39.99.
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K – Amazon’s 4K streaming stick. Great value. Rating: 9.0; Price: $49.00.
  • Apple TV – Original set-top box by Apple. Rating: 8.4; Price: $149.99.
  • Apple TV 4K – One of the most powerful set-top boxes on the market. Apple’s 4K version. Rating: 9.2; Price: 32G $179.99 and 64G $199.99.
  • Google Chromecast Dongle that allows users to cast from a separate device. Rating: 6.4; Price: $35.00.
  • Google Chromecast Ultra – Google’s 4K version of the dongle. Powerful but awkward. Rating: 7.4; Price: $69.00.
  • Roku Express – Ultra budget 1080p set-top box. Rating: 7.6; Price: $29.99.
  • Roku Express+ Tiny set-top box for older televisions. Rating: 7.8; Price: $35.00.
  • Roku Premiere – Inexpensive 4K and HDR10 set-top box. Rating: 8.6; Price: $39.99.
  • Roku Premiere+ Upgraded version of the Premiere. Rating: 8.6; Price: $49.99.
  • Roku Ultra Top-of-line 4K and HDR set-top box. Rating: 9.6; Price: $99.99.
  • Roku Streaming Stick Non-4K streaming stick for budget cord-cutters. Rating: 8.6; Price: $49.99.
  • Roku Streaming Stick+ Very powerful 4K streaming stick for power cord-cutters. Rating: 9.6; Price: $49.99.

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