A beginner's guide to the Roku Express: What you can do with it, and how to set it up
- Roku Express is a streaming device from Roku that turns your ordinary TV into a "smart TV," able to stream Netflix, Hulu, and hundreds of other streaming channels.
- The least expensive streaming device in the Roku family, the Roku Express was originally intended to compete with the Google Chromecast.
- The Roku Express is a small device about the size of a deck of cards. It can be hidden out of the way by affixing it to the back or bottom of your TV with an included adhesive.
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Currently priced at just under $30, it's the cheapest streaming device that Roku offers, originally intended to be a more attractive alternative than Google's Chromecast. (When the Roku Express debuted in 2016, it was several dollars less than the then-new Chromecast; today, the two products are essentially the same price.)
What you can do with a Roku Express
The Roku Express does essentially all the same things as any other streaming device in the Roku family; it plugs into your television via an HDMI port and adds thousands of streaming channels to your TV viewing options - it includes all of the usual mainstream channels like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, YouTube, and others, but many less common channels as well.
Many of these are channels you may be familiar with, like Crackle, Adult Swim, and Vevo. But with so many channels in the Roku library, there are hundreds that you probably haven't heard of which cater to very niche interests.
Note that while many channels are free, some - like Netflix and Hulu - require a monthly subscription. Others, like streaming versions of certain TV channels, may require you to enter proof that you are a cable subscriber to get permission to watch that channel.
But while the Roku Express has the same basic capabilities as other streaming devices, its position as an "entry level" streamer in the product family means that it makes some compromises. Thanks to a somewhat slower chipset, users may find it is not as fast in responding to commands and displaying menus.
How to set up a Roku Express
Unlike the Roku Streaming Stick, which is a completely self-contained device shaped like a USB flash drive, the Express is a box that plugs into your TV via an HDMI cable.
But rather than positioning it on a shelf or rack behind your television, Roku includes some adhesive so you can attach the Roku Express to the back or bottom of your TV. And like the Roku Streaming Stick, it's not a 4K device, which means that it can only display video in the relatively lower-quality HD format (720p or 1080p resolution). On the plus side, it is quite small (it is only about 1.4 by 3.3 by .7 inches).
Setting up a Roku Express is easy. After you connect the Roku Express box to the TV via the included HDMI cable and power the Express with the included AC adapter, turn the TV on and set it to the correct HDMI input for the Roku Express. Insert batteries into the included remote control. Finally, using the remote, follow the on-screen instructions to connect your Roku Express to your Wi-Fi network, create a Roku account, and then add the channels you want to watch.