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What is Roku and how does it work?

Stream with style without a smart TV thanks to this nifty little gadget.

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As we enter a new era of television and streaming platforms start popping up all over the place, it can be hard to keep track of just how exactly to watch the latest streaming sensation.

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Do I need a smart TV to watch The Crown? Will a games console stream The Boys to my TV? Is Apple TV+ only for iPhones?

Enter Roku – not only a hassle-free way to access all the major streaming services but a handy little device that can do a lot more.

What is Roku?

Essentially, Roku is a smart device that you plug into your TV, allowing you to enjoy all sorts of internet services on your TV. It is mainly used to access streaming and catch-up services, but you can also use it to play music or use apps such as YouTube.

Roku began the smart stick revolution over 10 years ago, creating one of the first dedicated home steaming devices in collaboration with Netflix.

Roku has come a long way since then, and now offers a choice of several devices offering features such as 4K streaming and voice control.

What channels and services are on Roku?

Unlike the NOW TV stick and Amazon Fire Stick, Roku has access to all the major streaming services – namely Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus. To see how Roku stacks up, see our guide to the best streaming stick.

Roku also hosts catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, All 4, ITV Hub, Demand 5, and UK Player, and can access apps like YouTube, Google Play, and Sky Store.

One of the biggest draws of Roku is being able to add extra channels to your home screen, from a choice of over 4000 – including Sky News, BBC Sport, and music such as Deezer and VEVO. You can also access the Roku Channel – almost a streaming service in itself with a collection of free films and TV.

Roku essentially lets you have all your digital media services in one convenient place, and even has a universal search system to easily let you find your favourite movie, TV show, or even actor or director.

For a full breakdown of Roku’s streaming services and how much the streaming players cost, read our Roku costs explainer.

What else can a Roku do?

Depending on your device, there’s plenty of hidden secondary features Roku devices can perform. The Roku app allows you to interact with Roku with your smartphone – essentially as a second controller – and you can also set up a guest mode if your Roku is for communal use. It has a special setting for connecting to difficult hotel and university wi-fi settings, and the Roku Streaming Stick+ comes with voice control. Nifty.

How much is a Roku?

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The price depends on which model you want, and whether you would like features such as 4K streaming.

Roku also has a new 4K streaming device being released for £39.99, read our Roku Express 4K review to find out what to expect.

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For more tech deals, guides and news check out our Technology section. Or try our best streaming device round-up for more smart TV stick options.