Black Friday streaming TV devices: An upgrade guide

Black Friday is one of the best times of the year to upgrade your streaming setup, with major discounts on Roku players, Fire TV Sticks, Chromecasts, and more.

It’s also a great time of the year to waste your money on premature upgrades or on streaming devices that aren’t even worth buying in the first place. Keeping with last year’s tradition, let’s walk through whether you actually need a new streamer and which ones are worthy of your holiday shopping budget.

Roku’s Black Friday deals

Roku devices are generally inexpensive and simple to use. They also do a great job highlighting free ad-supported movies and shows to watch.

Now’s a fine time to upgrade as well, especially if you’re rocking one of the earliest Roku models. Netflix announced recently that it’s ending support for pre-2011 Roku players, and support for early Roku models is also limited with Disney+ and Apple TV+. Besides, Roku players are much faster than they used to be, and most models now have handy TV volume and power buttons built into their remotes.

For most people, the best option is the Roku Streaming Stick+, available for $29 from Amazon or Walmart. That’s down from a regular price of $50 and a record low. In addition to being plenty fast and supporting 4K HDR video, the Streaming Stick+ has handy TV volume and power buttons built into its remote.

rokustickpluswremote Jared Newman / TechHive

The Roku Streaming Stick+ is down to just $30 on Black Friday.

If you need a Roku with wired ethernet or USB media support, the Roku Ultra is a better option. It’s also slightly faster than the Streaming Stick+ and it has two programmable buttons you can use to launch any app. At $50 from major retailers (including Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and Target), it’s half-off the regular price.

The other option to consider is Roku’s Smart Soundbar, which is selling for $150 (regularly $180) from Best Buy and Roku.com. This device combines a soundbar with a streaming box that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, and it can pair with Roku’s optional wireless subwoofer. I like how it provides easy access to settings such as the dialog booster and volume leveler, but it’s missing a lot of the features you’ll find on other soundbars. Only consider it if you’re already planning to buy a Roku player and don’t intend to watch much on other devices.

In any case, I suggest avoiding the $18 Roku SE that Walmart is selling as a Black Friday exclusive. Compared to slightly pricier models, it has a slower Wi-Fi connection, an infrared remote that feels less responsive, and no TV controls on the remote. Spending an extra $12 on the Roku Streaming Stick+ will get you a much better device, even on a non-4K TV.