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I laughed when I first saw a Roku remote in 2011. It looked like one of those simplified cell phones for kids. Could something so small and basic satisfy my entertainment needs? I didn't think so. Eight years later, however, I now know it does.
Despite my first job being at a reliable cable TV provider in Montana, I've officially joined the streaming TV camp. My ticket was the Roku Express.
It's currently on sale, and it's a bestseller
Even though the Roku Express has fewer reviews (9,500 vs. 28,000) than the category leader, Amazon's Fire TV Stick, I opted for it because it's currently on sale for $5 less. At just $25, it's about half of what I would pay for the best value cable package offered in my area. Granted, I get fewer channels with Roku Express. But, I'm also only paying for what I watch. Plus, I don't have to rent a cable box!
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Besides looking at price, I also paid attention to its rating. Roku Express has an average 4.4-star rating which is comfortably close enough to Fire TV Stick's 4.5-star rating. Roku Express is third on Amazon's list of best sellers in Streaming Media Players, behind Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K. It's also fourth on Amazon's list of Best Sellers in the entire Electronics category, behind the Fire Sticks and Echo Dot.
It only takes 2 minutes to set up
It's always a good sign when you buy a device and the required batteries are included. My Roku Express came with two AA batteries, and a set of easy-to-follow instructions. First, I just had to put the batteries in the remote, plug in two HDMI cables (included) and pair my remote. That all took just seconds and was very intuitive. I think Roku Express was designed by a man like my dad who never reads the instructions. The hardest part of the entire set-up process was remembering my WiFi password!
The options for entertainment are endless
The second hardest part of setup was deciding which channels I wanted to download. The remote comes pre-programmed with several free, popular channels. But there are more than 1,000 other channels to choose from. I thought that was a lot of choices until I read that there are more than half a million episodes and movies to choose from. Fortunately, searching for my favorites is made easier with voice command. Like Amazon's Fire TV Stick, Roku Express can be paired with Alexa.
My Roku Express came with Investigation Discovery, but I immediately downloaded NBC so I could stay up to date on Dateline. Then, I added YouTube so I can watch Shauna Rae and Amazon Prime where I can buy all my other true crime content. When I get tired of missing persons and murder mysteries and become obsessed with cooking, sports or classic TV shows, I'll just download those channels.
When you lose your remote, you can use your phone
Like setup, using the Roku Express remote is pretty intuitive. There are only 16 buttons. Four of them are arrows, and four of them are obvious shortcuts to Netflix, Hulu, ESPN+ and Sling. Since my remote has a tendency to hide itself in the couch, I'm taking full advantage of the compatible, and complimentary Roku mobile app. After downloading the app, I just paired it with my TV — my phone automatically detected the Roku connected to my TV — and I basically had another Roku remote. Using a phone as your remote enables you to access tons of features. For example, I'm able to program more shortcuts, pick a screensaver and organize my channels, among other things.
Even if I lose my phone, all I have to do is buy another remote. And at just $25 for a new system, two Roku Expresses are still cheaper than riding the cable train.