Roku is one of the biggest brands in streaming, and the Roku Ultra is the company’s top-of-the-line home streaming device. Designed to be plugged into a TV’s HDMI port, the Roku Ultra turns any TV into a smart TV. It runs Roku’s popular and easy-to-use operating system, which makes it a breeze to access Netflix, Hulu, and all your other streaming apps.
Roku Ultra: Everything You Need in a Streaming Device and More
- Fast and powerful streaming device
- Works over Ethernet connection
- Stunning Dolby Vision picture and Dolby Atmos sound
- Expensive compared to competition
- Only slight improvements from previous generations
The latest Roku Ultra is one of the fastest and most powerful streaming devices on the market, but its gains in performance are somewhat negligible compared to its price and the functionality of previous generations of devices.
Roku Ultra at a Glance
|Up to 4K at 60 fps
|802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi or 10/100 Base-T Ethernet
|Power, HDMI 2.0b, Ethernet 10/100, and USB 3.0
|Digital stereo, DTS Digital Surround, and Dolby Atmos (all through HDMI)
|Smart device compatibility
|Apple AirPlay, Apple HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant
|Other key features
|Includes Roku Voice Remote Pro and Bluetooth capability
The Roku Ultra’s specs have steadily improved since the device was introduced in 2016. (The then-new Roku Ultra effectively replaced the outgoing top-of-the-line model, the Roku 4.) The form factor has changed too: The current version of the Roku Ultra has a small footprint, so you should have no trouble finding room for it in your entertainment center or on your TV stand.
Roku Ultra Unboxing and Setup
Sleek, simple, and — dare we say — sophisticated? The Roku Ultra is a powerful yet unassuming device you can pick up with one hand and tuck into any available crevice in your entertainment center or slap on top of your TV — really, this thing can fit anywhere.
Right out of the box, the Roku Ultra comes with everything you need (and maybe a bit more), including the streaming player, the Roku Voice Remote Pro, headphones for private listening, a power adapter, a USB charging cable for recharging your remote, and a premium high-speed HDMI cable. We like that Roku throws in all the bits and pieces (unlike other streaming devices), since it removes all the guesswork you have to do during setup.
We aren’t saying hooking up streaming devices is rocket science, but we found setting up the Roku Ultra to be easier than pouring your morning cup of coffee (unless you have one of those fancy espresso machines).
All we had to do was connect the HDMI cord to the device and TV, and then plug the Roku Ultra into the power outlet using the provided power adapter. Bada bing, bada boom! Just like that, you’re in business and ready to start streaming — after pairing your remote, creating your account, and picking your apps, that is.
One of our favorite Roku Ultra features was the ability to connect the device via Ethernet cable. Streaming sticks and smart TVs are notorious for weak Wi-Fi connections. The Roku Ultra gives you the power to connect directly to your modem or router. Do you know your old nemesis, buffering? That’s the last you’ll see of him when you get the Roku Ultra.
Our Experience With the Roku Ultra
By the time we got to the home screen for the Roku Ultra, Roku had already positioned our seats in the upright position for streaming takeoff. That’s because during the Roku profile process, you pick all the apps, trials, and services you want on your Roku Ultra. When you reach the home screen (ta-da!), it’s all already there!
When it comes to the apps themselves, the sky’s the limit. Whether you want to watch your favorite Star Wars series on Disney Plus or you’re interested in watching live sports on DIRECTV, the Roku Ultra empowers you to pick and customize the apps and the device as you please. Heck, you can even change the theme if the sleek purple Roku background isn’t exactly your flavor.
Navigating the Roku Ultra app selection was easy and intuitive. Not only was everything laid out in specific categories, such as Featured Free, Live TV, and What to Watch, but the powerful Roku Ultra processor allowed us to slide between menu items and apps without any lagging moments. It’s one of the Roku Ultra’s best features, since other underpowered streaming solutions usually exhibit jittery and erratic menu switches. This simplicity is Roku’s biggest advantage over competitors like Android TV and Fire TV. Only the Apple TV devices can seriously compete with Roku in the ease-of-use department.
One aspect that really distinguished the Roku Ultra from other devices in the lineup, such as the Roku Express 4K Plus and the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, was the inclusion of the Roku Voice Remote Pro. A remote is something many people often overlook, but this one really took streaming to the next level.
In addition to the voice controls, the Roku Ultra’s remote includes all the buttons you’d expect: directional buttons; an OK button; a Home button; and buttons to pause, play, rewind, and fast-forward video playback. The remote also features shortcut buttons that will take you directly to certain apps. The shortcut buttons have changed over the years and now direct you to different services, but they remain the least useful part of the remote. In our testing, we were more likely to hit them by mistake than to use them for the intended purpose.
Not only could we charge the Roku Voice Remote Pro via USB, but we could also listen to shows and music through the Roku Ultra with the provided headphones we attached to the remote. That means, no matter how loud your dog is barking at the squirrel outside or your kids are fighting over the last chicken nugget from snack time, you and bliss are only two earphones away.
We are notorious for losing things like remotes in the sea of streaming devices we test (we know, we’re irresponsible with shiny things). With the Roku Ultra and Roku Voice Remote Pro, however, we were able to download the Roku Official Remote Control App when we misplaced the remote. We were able to find it using a sonar sound that comes out of the remote’s speaker. (That’s the last time I take the remote to the bathroom with me, I promise.)
Roku Ultra Streaming Quality
OK, enough about menus, remotes, and settings! What about streaming? We tested the Roku Ultra’s TV compatibility, and it lived up to the maximum 4K 60 fps resolution with Dolby Vision advertised by the company. It also worked well at other resolutions, including 2160p at 60 fps, 1080p, and 720p. No matter what TV you have at home, the Roku Ultra will get the most out of it with the included high-speed HDMI cable.
Remember that Ethernet port from earlier? Well, this Roku Ultra capability is where it really shined. We plugged the device into our AT&T fiber internet modem directly using an Ethernet cord, and we didn’t experience a second of buffering or unstable connection warnings. From watching live TV through Sling TV to binge-watching all the episodes of “Harley Quinn” on Max, the Roku Ultra with an Ethernet connection was a match made in streaming heaven.
Roku Ultra Value
You may be saying to yourself, “Yeah, all those features are fine and dandy, but do I really need to buy the Roku Ultra when I already have a streaming device?” Fair question!
At $99.99, the Roku Ultra isn’t exactly a cheap purchase for a streaming device, especially compared to the Amazon Fire TV Stick or other Roku Streaming Sticks that are all under $50 apiece. However, what does the Roku Ultra offer that they don’t? Power.
It may be obvious, but streaming sticks are just that — slimmed-down versions of what a streaming player should offer. Many of them can’t connect through Ethernet like the Roku Ultra. Most come with a skinny internal processor that will overheat and struggle under the weight of a 24-hour bingeathon of “The Sopranos” for the third weekend in a row. Those are things to consider when comparing a streaming player like the Roku Ultra to a budget-conscious streaming device like one of these stick solutions.
It’s also worth noting that Roku’s most important advantage over competitors like Fire TV — namely, its simpler and more user-friendly platform — is available on all Roku devices, not just this top-of-the-line model.
The Verdict: Is Roku Ultra Worth It?
At the end of the day, the Roku Ultra is one of the best streaming devices on the market. It offers one of the most powerful devices on an easy-to-use platform with integrated functionalities, such as the ability to connect to the internet over Ethernet and control the device using smart assistant features.
That said, if you already have a previous generation of the Roku Ultra or a similar streaming player of this capacity, this new generation may not be a major improvement for you. On the other hand, if you don’t have a streaming player or you’re using a streaming stick that just isn’t cutting it, we definitely recommend checking out the Roku Ultra for your home streaming entertainment.