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Roku Ultra 2020 Review – The ultimate streamer gets tweaked

by Sean P. Aune | December 26, 2020December 26, 2020 8:30 am EST

The Roku Ultra has been refreshed for 2020, and there are some noticeable upgrades this year that are worth your attention.

It’s difficult to improve on an industry-leading device, but Roku found two significant ways in 2020. Where in 2018 all we received was a headphone update, 2019 saw some significant updates, and 2020 builds on those with further tweaks.

Is it worth the $99.99 price tag? We’re about to find out in our Roku Ultra 2020 review.

What’s New in the Roku Ultra 2020

The Roku Ultra 2020 received an upgraded processor, improved Wi-Fi, an Ethernet port, and it has added the ability to stream in Dolby Vision. The last one has been one of the most requested upgrades as it has been on some of Roku’s competitors already.

Those features, however, are the only ones you’ll find exclusively on the Ultra. Everything else is available in the cheaper Roku Streaming Stick Plus which costs significantly less.

There were, however, some changes to the physical aspects of the Ultra 2020. The USB port has been moved from the side to the back of the device. The remote locator button has been moved from the top to the side where the USB port used to be. The microSD port has also been removed, but it doesn’t feel as though it is needed anymore with all of the other improvements internally.

Not changed, sadly, is the power cord. With more and more moves being made to USB-C power or even mini USB which would be outdated at this point, using a proprietary cable just feels odd.

Who is the Roku Ultra 2020 For?

If you’ve never bought a Roku, then this is truly the model for you. It’s fast, and almost the most versatile of the Roku family. While the other models all rely on Wi-Fi for their connectivity, the Ultra provides you with an Ethernet port. While that may not seem like the most important thing in the world, as 4K streaming becomes more common you’ll appreciate the stability of the connection.

The Roku Ultra is also the only model to support personal media thanks to its built-in USB port. For video it supports H.264/AVC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV); H.265/HEVC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV); VP9.2 (.MKV); AV1 (.MP4, .MKV) and for audio you’ll find AAC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV); MP3 (.MP3, .MKV); WMA (.ASF, .WMA, .MKV); FLAC (.FLAC, .MKV); PCM (.WAV, .MKV, .MP4, .MOV); AC3/EAC3 (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV, .AC3); DTS (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV); ALAC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV, .M4A); HEAAC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV, .AAC); AC-4 with Atmos (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV, .AC4 ); DD+ (EAC3) with Atmos (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV). If you want to show off your photos, you can display JPG, PNG and GIF, but alas, no animated GIFs. If you’ve been building a video collection for years, this is something you’ll definitely appreciate.

To Buy or Not to Buy

Suggesting whether or not you should purchase the Roku Ultra is a tough call while also being oddly easy. It is essentially the exact same advice I have given the past few years.

  • Have a Roku, but no 4K TV – You can definitely wait until such time as you do have one of those sets.
  • This will be your first Roku, but you don’t own a 4K TV – I would still recommend picking up the Roku Ultra as you will be future-proofing yourself for when you may pick up one down the road.
  • 4K TV, but no set-top box/want to switch to Roku – The Roku has been the best in class of streaming devices for years now, and the Roku Ultra only improves things that much more.

In short, it is really going to be based on what equipment you already own or plan to purchase in the near future. About the only people we don’t recommend it for is someone who has a Roku already and no 4K TV. Except for that sub-category of consumers, the Roku Ultra is a great device to have so that you can enjoy all of the streaming options out there in the world.

At the $99.99 price point, it’s an easy recommendation unless you don’t have that 4K TV. Even if you own a Roku it’s worth considering this year due to the upgrade in processor and the updated remote. If you’re looking to jump into Roku, then go for it.

Buy

Disclaimer: The Nerdy purchased the Roku Ultra 2020 with company funds. We used it as our primary streaming device for a week before beginning this review.


Fun Jug Media, LLC (operating TheNerdy.com) has affiliate partnerships with various companies. These do not at any time have any influence on the editorial content of The Nerdy. Fun Jug Media LLC may earn a commission from these links.


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Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing