By Chris Brass
Roku Express VS Roku Express+
I’ve been using Roku products and watching the streaming world march towards 4k and HDR for years so when I heard that the 4th generation models were coming out I half expected to see the Roku 1 done away with and the budget minded entry level Roku be limited to the Stick, but I was pleased to see the Roku Express models coming out as not only a budget minded Roku, but even dropping the price point below the $50 mark into the $30 territory. So getting my hands on an Express and Express+ model I decided to do a side by side comparison to see if there was any significant difference between the two budget models, which of course there wasn’t.
What’s the difference Between the Express and Express+
Both models are exactly the same in every detail save one. With the Express+ you have the ability to connect to the TV using RCA inputs (the red white and yellow cables) which you can do on the 4×3 square T.V.’s of the past, plus you can set your display to be at 480 (DVD quality) even in the HDMI mode. Although it costs you about $5 to have that feature, it’s well worth it in my opinion which I’ll explain later.
Power Options Both Can be powered by USB
Having the ability to get power using the USB port is a home run in my opinion due to the device shutting down when the TV is off as well as cable management. Users also have the option to plug in the power via an outlet adapter.
Mounting Equipment included
The Express and + can be mounted on your TV, much like a Nintendo Wii bar with Sticky tape.
Although I’ve not used the sticky tape, as a rule I have never had good luck with those so don’t really care for it much but if it does work for you it would mean mounting the little device someplace where it can get the IR signal. Unlike some other Roku models, these two require line of site with your remote. If you would prefer mounting it to the back of the TV you can. But you will need to use the mobile app in place of the remote (again because of the line of site issue).
Private listening through the mobile App
Speaking of the phone app, one new feature with all 4th generation Roku’s is the ability to have the TV audio be played on your Roku Phone App in much the same way as the often sited Roku 3 headphone jack for the remote control. Two of my more commonly used Roku channels is iHeart and TuneIn Radio which allows me to listen to the audio, on my phone through my hearing aids, even while not watching TV. Plus with the ability to send the TV audio directly to my hearing aids I have the option to cut out all background noise except what’s coming through the phone….
SCORE!!!! The mobile app will support normal headphones also.
Why get a Roku Express instead of a Roku 1
You may be able to find a Roku 1 on sale somewhere on via ebay etc. But the reason I would say to look at the Express or Express + is that there are some big upgrades from the Roku 1.
One big time improvement is that its Netflix channel allows for multiple Netflix user profiles. This was missing from the Netflix on Roku 1.
Performance differences. Using the Express models on Pluto TV and Sling TV is much better on the Express models than it is with the older Roku 1. When I played with Pluto TV on a Roku 1 and it was pretty obvious that it was pushing the limits of the device. The Roku 1 had long load times, longer times to flip through the available channels and with a very similar set up on services like Sling it was beginning to become obvious that the single core CPU was being pushed to its limits. Other services, ABC and the other Roku channel providers, as well as the typical basic free channels it still worked fine, but if you limited yourself to the Roku 1 you would never be fully happy.
Other similar devices in the Roku Family
I’ve not had the occasional freezing and locking up that I experienced with the Roku (purple) stick. In every way it is a superior product to the one that it’s replacing.
Why have two models?
Think of it this way. When you buy a car you should always invest some money into putting jumper cables in the back because it’s always better to have it and not need it then it is to need it and not
have it. I view the Express+ in the same way. I realize that the majority of TV’s out there are HD and have HDMI abilities, but I still see older square TV sets at people’s homes all the time, so to me it makes sense to continue to have the abilities to use Roku on them when you can because I foresee those TV’s to be available for the distant future. Roku should be commended for offering such an option in the face of competitors who don’t. Plus, and I don’t think enough individuals see the benefit of this, when you can set up your Roku to be at 480 instead of 720 or 1080, in a few cases you can actually improve the quality of the picture by getting rid of the pixilation that you occasionally encounter, especially when dealing with the common denominator of low download speeds you may encounter with some internet providers.
I will always get or push the Express+ because of the ability to connect to the TV with RCA cables. For me it’s better to have it and not need it then it is to need it and not have it. If you think you will never ever have the need or desire to connect with RCA cables, save yourself the $5 and get the Express model, but I do think that it’s highly unlikely for the foreseeable future. If I’m giving it as a gift I’m going to make the assumption that they will become addicted to the Roku and at some point in time they will decide to upgrade to one of the more capable and popular Premier and Ultra models so this may end up getting delegated an older TV.
Although I experienced some slight sluggishness with it compared to the more advanced models, compared to the Roku 1 it is crisp and responsive making it potentially the best introductory and budget minded streaming device on the market. I’ll be handing out Roku Express+ as gifts to many individuals in the future because it’s under $40 price tag makes it too appealing NOT to do it and I encourage others who are in love with what it has to offer to do the same, provided of course that Roku keeps its standards high.
See The Roku Express+ video from our fearless leader The Streaming Advisor