How to pick the right Roku player from an increasingly confusing lineup

Roku’s streaming player lineup has erred on the side of maximalism over the past few years. Instead of funneling customers into a small number of options, Roku offers a streaming player for every conceivable need and budget.

Making sense of all those options has never been easy, but it’s about to get even harder with this week’s announcements of a new Roku Ultra, a new streaming soundbar, and forthcoming support for Apple’s AirPlay 2 media-streaming and HomeKit smart-home technologies. The sprawling nature of Roku’s 2020 device lineup means that there will be some new differences between products that didn’t exist before, and prospective Roku customers will need to choose wisely.

There are lots of other streaming devices to choose from other than Roku players, of course, but if you appreciate Roku’s simple software and are in the market for new hardware this year, here’s what you need to know:

2020 Roku features compared

To help make sense of Roku’s 2020 streaming lineup, check out this chart comparing all the key features for each device.

rokucompare2020 Jared Newman / IDG

The sections outlined in green represent new features that Roku is introducing this fall. As you can see, they add some fresh complications to the Roku-buying process.

With the launch of AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support on Roku OS 9.4 later this year, for instance, you’ll be able to cast media to or mirror your screen on a Roku device from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac—but only if you have a player with 4K video support. Roku won’t say why its 1080p streamers don’t offer this feature.

In any case, the limitation means that the Walmart-exclusive Roku Express+, which was previously an excellent 1080p streamer, is now missing a major new feature. You could spend the same $40 on a Roku Premiere to get AirPlay 2 support, but then you’d get a vastly inferior remote control, with no TV volume or power buttons and no voice control. Your best bet is to spend an extra $10 on the Roku Streaming Stick+, which has both AirPlay 2 support and the better remote.

(The absence of HomeKit support on 1080p devices could be even more vexing for Roku smart TV owners, since they’ll miss out on being able to turn on the TV with a Siri voice command or looping their TV into smart-home routines.)