Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT: A Deep Dive Comparison of Roku‘s Flagship Streamers

Roku‘s rise to the top of the streaming device market all started with founder Anthony Wood‘s vision for an open platform, over-the-top streaming box. What was once just a scrappy Netflix-centric gadget has evolved into a suite of products catering to every streaming need and budget. Sitting at the apex of Roku‘s lineup are the Roku Ultra and Roku Ultra LT – the company‘s most powerful and feature-packed streamers. But with such similar names and positioning, it‘s fair to wonder – what exactly sets them apart?

In this comprehensive comparison guide, we‘ll analyze the key differences between these flagship Roku models to help you decide which is most deserving of an spot in your home entertainment center. We‘ll study their specs, connectivity, capabilities, and more while spotlighting where each excels.

A Brief History: The Road to Roku Ultra

Before diving into the nitty gritty details, it‘s helpful to understand the origins of Roku and how the Ultra lineup came to exist. Roku was founded in 2002 by Anthony Wood, who had previously created an early digital video recorder called ReplayTV.


Seeing the potential for streaming video over the internet, Wood partnered with Netflix founder Reed Hastings to create a set-top box tailored specifically for Netflix‘s newly launched Watch Instantly service. This original device – dubbed the Roku DVP – shipped in 2008 as the world‘s first streaming player.

Over the following years, Roku iterated with models supporting better video quality and an expanding array of streaming channels. Wood recognized that an open, agnostic platform was key to competing with closed ecosystems like Apple TV.

In 2016, Roku overhauled its product portfolio, ditching confusing numbered models for good. This line-up consisted of five models:

  • Roku Express
  • Roku Express+
  • Roku Premiere
  • Roku Premiere+
  • Roku Ultra

The Roku Ultra was positioned as the highest-end Roku ever, packing robust wireless performance, 4K HDR video support, and more processing muscle. At $130, it commanded a significant price premium over any prior Roku.

To fill the gap between high-end and entry-level, Roku soon after unveiled a more affordable – yet still powerful – spin on the Ultra. Dubbed the Ultra LT, this streamer dialed back certain features to hit a $100 price point. And thus the ongoing debate over the Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT was born!

Let‘s now scrutinize how these two streaming boxes match up across the metrics that matter most.

Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT: Feature Comparison

On paper, the Roku Ultra and Ultra LT share quite a bit in common. But peer closer at the specs and some key advantages for each model emerge:

Video and Audio

  • Both support 4K HDR streaming with Dolby Vision
  • Only the Ultra handles advanced Dolby Atmos audio


  • Each has wired Ethernet and dual-band Wi-Fi
  • The Ultra uniquely offers a USB media port
  • Select Ultra LT models include MicroSD storage expansion

Processing and Storage

  • Identical quad-core processors
  • Same 8GB internal storage


  • Both come with Roku‘s Voice Remote Pro with headphone jack
  • Only the Ultra remote has rechargeable battery and programmable buttons

Clearly the Roku Ultra pulls ahead in areas like audio quality and local media playback. But how do these on-paper differences manifest in real world usage? Let‘s analyze the standout pros and cons of each streamer.

Roku Ultra Pros and Cons


  • Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support – Only streamer globally that handles both advanced HDR format and immersive audio
  • Robust wireless performance – Fast dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi avoids buffering and drop-outs
  • Useful USB port – Play local video files from USB drive or other media device
  • Unique remote capabilities – Programmable buttons, lost remote finder, included headphones deliver convenience


  • High price – Hard to justify spending $100 when 4K HDR steaming available for much less
  • No expandable storage – Lack of MicroSD slot limits local channel/app storage space
  • Middling interface – Roku OS feels dated next to slicker platforms like Apple tvOS

Roku Ultra LT Pros and Cons


  • Competitive price – Packs nearly equal performance to Ultra for $20+ less
  • microSD expandability – Certain configurations allow for external storage
  • Strong wireless performance – Robust dual-band Wi-Fi matches Ultra
  • Private listening – Headphone jack built into voice remote


  • No Dolby Atmos – Leaves immersive audio support off the table
  • No USB media port – Lacks ability to play local video files
  • Basic remote – Voice remote lacks Roku Ultra‘s unique bells and whistles

How the Roku Ultra and Ultra LT Fit Into the Lineup

As Roku‘s highest-end streamers, the Ultra and Ultra LT sit atop a range of models catering to varying performance needs and budgets:

Roku Express – $29 HD streaming on a budget
Roku Streaming Stick – $49 compact 1080p and 4K streaming
Roku Streambar – $129 soundbar with 4K streaming built-in
Roku Ultra – $99 premium 4K HDR streaming performance
Roku Ultra LT – $80 slimmed down take on the Ultra

This tiered lineup makes it easy to choose the model with just the right balance of features to suit your streaming needs. With support for HD all the way up to 4K HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, there‘s a Roku streamer ready to deliver an exceptional streaming experience no matter your requirements.

5 Surprising Roku Facts

Before deciding whether the Roku Ultra or Ultra LT should earn a permanent place under your TV, chew on these fascinating nuggets of Roku trivia:

  • Roku‘s name comes from the Japanese word for "six" – Founder Anthony Wood named the company after this was his sixth startup attempt
  • The first Roku prototype streamed video wirelessly – Early models relied on wireless video transmission until quality issues forced a switch HDMI cables
  • Roku TVs make up 1/3 of smart TV sales in the U.S. – Roku OS has proven so popular it‘s now being licensed directly to TV manufacturers
  • The Netflix button on old Roku remotes can now summon Disney+ – Users can reprogram defunct shortcut buttons to launch other streaming services
  • Roku‘s OS offers over 10,000 streaming channels – Tiny niche services sit alongside giants like Netflix and HBO Max

And the Winner Is…

Based on our detailed comparison, the Roku Ultra stands tall as the superior high-performance streaming box and better value overall.

The inclusion of both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support allows only the Ultra to fully realize the cinema-quality audio/video capabilities of today‘s premium TVs. Its best-in-class wireless performance also helps avoid pesky buffering issues.

Meanwhile the Roku Ultra LT forces buyers to sacrifice either Atmos support or USB connectivity – a compromise the Ultra does not require. Still, with robust Wi-Fi and competitive pricing, the Ultra LT remains an excellent option for those wanting to save a few bucks.

So while both models deliver an exceptional streaming experience in their own right, the Roku Ultra brings just enough extra potential to justify paying a bit more for the very best Roku streaming has to offer.

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