Should You Upgrade Your Roku?

Jun 2, 2019

Roku is one of the most popular streaming media players. If you’re a cord-cutter, there’s a good chance you own one. But, if you have an older Roku, should you upgrade it to a newer one?

I compared the features of three generations of Roku players and performed some basic performance tests on each one. From this information, I’ll give you some advice about whether you should update your Roku or not.

The Contenders

In this test, I’m comparing the Roku 2XD, the Roku 3, and the latest top-of-the-line unit, the Roku Ultra.

Each unit accomplishes its basic mission: streaming media from the Internet via Roku channels. But, each subsequent generation has more features and improved performance.

1. Roku 2 XD

Roku 2 XD
Roku 2 XD

The Roku 2 XD was introduced in July 2011 and is among the second generation of Roku players. It can output up to 1080p resolution, so it’s still usable today in most TVs today.

Roku has announced that it is no longer supporting the Roku 1 and 2. Some apps won’t work on it, which could be a huge problem.

Another annoying problem with the 2XD is its slow user interface speed. Switching between apps is SLOW compared to more modern Rokus, as you will see later.

The feature I would miss the most in the 2XD is voice search. In later models, you can hold the search button and simply say the name of the show or movie you want to find. You can still search using the letter picker in the 2XD, but it’s painful.

The Roku 2 XD also doesn’t have a USB port, but playing video from a USB drive is probably a much lesser-used feature.

The Wi-Fi on the 2 XD only supports 802.11 b/g/n and not the more modern higher-speed standards.

2. Roku 3

Roku 3
Roku 3

The Roku 3 was introduced in March 2013 and is among the third generation of Roku players.

It has a faster processor and the wonderful voice search remote that you’ll love if you hate using the letter picker.

The remote also has a headphone jack for silent viewing, and TV volume control, which I think is another great feature (since my TV remote always seems to be just out of reach when a jarringly-loud part of a movie comes on).

It also lets you stream video stored on your smartphone to your TV!

3. Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra 2018

The Ultra is Roku’s current top-of-the-line model. The first Ultra was introduced in 2016, but has been updated in 2017, 2018, and 2020.

It has everything the Roku 3 has but with a more powerful ARM Cortex processor. Feature-wise, there are just a few small additions like the power button on the remote, so you can shut off your TV without searching for your TV remote, and the “lost remote” button on the unit. When pressed, the remote makes a beeping noise so you can find it – handy!


Performance

As you can see, the basic features of the second, third, and current (seventh) generation of Roku players, haven’t changed that much. Yes, there are more bells and whistles, but at its core, the Roku is still primarily a streaming video player, and even the old 2XD still accomplishes that task.

But, there’s a huge difference in UI reaction time between the second and third generation Rokus.

I tested the time required by each Roku to do basic some basic tasks and charted them here:

Roku speed comparison chart
Roku 2 XDRoku 3Ultra 2018
Boot Up84 sec36 sec28 sec
Launch YouTube40 sec11 sec7 sec
Launch Roku Channel41 sec9 sec6 sec
Launch Amazon Prime Video15 sec15 sec9 sec
Launch Tubi TV54 sec16 sec10 sec
Speed comparison of various Roku devices

As you can see, the Roku 2 XD can be painfully slow to switch channels. If you include the time to exit a channel, it can take over a minute to switch from one channel to another! If you’re doing this many times per day, that can add up to hours of wasted time per week!

The Roku 3 offers a vast improvement in speed, and the Roku Ultra is just a tad faster over that.

Roku has continually improved the remotes with small but useful features like headphone output, voice search, volume buttons, and now, TV power button, though none of those features are “must haves” for most people.

Should You Upgrade?

Based on my measurements, I would recommend upgrading if you are using a generation two or older Roku device. These include the following players (introduced in 2012 or earlier):

  • Roku SD
  • Roku HD, HD-XR
  • Roku XD, XDS
  • Roku LT
  • Roku 2 HD
  • Roku 2 XD
  • Roku 2 XS
  • Roku Streaming Stick (first version)

These all use the same or slower processor as the Roku 2 XD which I tested for this article, meaning that these will have the super slow user interface. They also might not work with the latest apps (Roku channels). You’ll be better off upgrading if you have any of these.

Based on the processor, I would also upgrade if you have these third generation Roku players introduced in 2013: Roku 1, Roku SE.

If you want AirPlay (the ability to mirror your iPhone or iPad’s screen to your TV), you should upgrade to the Roku Ultra or Streaming Stick+.

What to Get

Check out the latest Roku players if you have an older Roku and want to replace it. I recommend the Roku Streaming Stick+ or Roku Ultra.

If you have a tube TV, I recommend the Roku Express+ 2018 edition. The newer version won’t work with a tube TV.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

I Recommend Keeping These

If you have a different Roku that was introduced in 2013 or later that is not in the list above (like the Roku 3), and you’re happy with the feature set, my advice would be to stick with it unless you want to shave a few seconds off the time it takes to switch channels.

So, the models I recommend keeping are:

  • Roku 3
  • Roku Streaming Stick from 2016 or later
  • Roku Streaming Stick+
  • Roku 4
  • Roku Express, Express+
  • Roku Premier, Premier+
  • Roku Ultra

Of course, if there is a feature, like 4K output, that you want and don’t have, then of course you’d have to upgrade. But, based on usability and speed, I’d recommend sticking with the devices above if you’re OK with the feature set.

Hope this helps! Let me know which Roku model you have and how you like it in the comments below! – Brian

Note, I got the information on the Roku models from this great Wikipedia article.

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15 Comments
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Ron Bockman
Ron Bockman
3 years ago

Just upgraded Roku 2 XD to Roku Streaming Stick. Much better performance.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Ron Bockman

Hi Ron,

Yes, huge difference! Totally worth upgrading.

Brian

Michael Barnett
Michael Barnett
3 years ago

Ron,
I appreciate all the information you provide here. I have a Roku stick. I know its the primitive early version and has some limitations but for our use (basically for Amazon Prime and HBO GO) it is fine for now. What has happened though, is the remote control for it, no longer works. I had to make my phone the remote control. Is there anyway to fix, restart the Roku remote control? Thanks in advance for all you do here to educate us.
Mike

Brian
3 years ago

Hi Michael,

Here are some tips to debug your Roku remote:
https://www.lifewire.com/is-your-roku-remote-not-working-4175275

Best,
Brian

Elliott W. Carmack
Elliott W. Carmack
3 years ago

I have a Hitachi 49″ flat screen TV with built-in Roku. There is no separate Roku remote as the Hitachi remote does everything. So are there any Roku upgrade options for me?

Brian
3 years ago

Hi Elliott,

You should be able to update the Roku software from the TV.

I’d have to know the exact TV model number to know what other upgrade options there are. What new features are you looking for?

Best,
Brian

Meredith Wolf Schizer
Meredith Wolf Schizer
3 years ago

And for Disney+? The older Rokus aren’t supported. So, assuming I’m happy with my current Roku (although the faster boot up and switching between app- time is appealing) but want Disney+ also, what would you recommend? Just upgrading to the Ultra?

Sammy Woo
Sammy Woo
2 years ago

Wow jump from Gen 3 to Gen 7? A big skip. Feature ya-ya same channels what’s new but I was hoping in-depth UI performance comparison. Taking a second or 2 to load no big deal, but +5 seconds a big deal, then how smooth is Fast Forwarding in YouTube? Do it often, it matters.

bryanroberton
bryanroberton
2 years ago

Hello, I live in Winnipeg MB. Canada, I have an older Hisense TV with the Roku built into it, it gives me lots of stuff to watch ,but I have a larger Samsung TV and I would like to follow your advise and buy a streaming devise for it, any suggestions? Thanking You… Bryan Roberton

Justice Delivered
Justice Delivered
2 years ago
Reply to  bryanroberton

I am a electrical engineer and these early models have thermal problems, in other words their design leaves much to be desired. It appears that they chose to stiff customers.

For that reason, I have been replacing Roku products with Kodi small single board computers such as Raspberry Pi. The newest Raspberry Pi 4 is especially suitable for a multi stream server with external mass storage.

Brian
2 years ago

I’ve never had thermal problems with Roku starting from the Roku 2XD up to the current models.

Raspberry Pi is great if you are an electrical engineer… Many folks need something dead simple though, and Roku is one of the easiest to use devices.

bryanroberton
bryanroberton
2 years ago

Much appreciated, being that I am not very well versed when it comes to this kind of stuff it is nice to get the opinion from someone who has knowledge on this matter..Thanking You…Bryan Roberton

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  bryanroberton

Hi Bryan,

The two Roku models I recommend are the Roku Streaming Stick+ and the Roku Ultra. If you’re on budget, the Stick is a great choice. If you can spend more, then the Ultra will have the fastest user interface and will be usable for longer. – Brian

Luckey
Luckey
1 year ago

Hello, I am new on Roku. There are so many questions. One of them: Why does Roku ask for my credit card information? even if I never plan to purchase any paid programming. Thanks in advance.

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Luckey

Hi Luckey,

You should not be required to enter your credit card information; just skip that part. That is there to make it easy to purchase streaming services, but it is not mandatory to authorize your Roku device. If you are on a website that requires a “registration fee”, it is a scam website. Follow Roku’s directions carefully and never just Google “roku registration”.

Best,
Brian

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