Since its founding nearly 15 years ago, Roku has singlehandedly popularized a brand new way to enjoy movies and television: the over-the-top set-top streaming box. Evolving from a simple box that plugs into your television to a full-on integration into the television itself, Roku has done a remarkable amount of heavy lifting when it comes to facilitating the streaming revolution of the 2010s.
Two of the most powerful Roku models, the Roku Ultra and the Roku Ultra LT, also happen to be two of the most popular. But what are the key differences between them?
Given their similar product names, it’s not surprising to learn that the Roku Ultra and Ultra LT are in such direct competition with one another within the Roku family of products. But “similar” does not mean “identical,” which tells us there has to be at least a handful of distinguishing factors between the two.
Let’s take a look at their exact specifications side by side, then dive deeper into the key differences between the Roku Ultra and Ultra LT. From there, we’ll weigh their respective pros and cons and name the product that is ultimately superior.
Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Roku Ultra||Roku Ultra LT|
|First Released||September 2016||September 2019|
|Picture Quality||Dolby Vision, HDR10+, 4K, HD||Dolby Vision, HDR10+, 4K, HD|
|Audio Quality||Dolby Atmos||Dolby Audio|
|Smart Assistant Support||Yes||Yes|
|Unique Remote Features||Shortcut buttons, lost remote finder, headphone jack||Headphone jack|
|Special Connectivity||USB port||MicroSD slot (Model number 4662 only)|
|Size||4.92 in. 4.92 in. x 0.83 in.||4 in. x 4 in. x 0.80 in.|
Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT: Top 3 Key Differences
Now that we have a good idea of how the Roku Ultra and Ultra LT stack up against one another, let’s take the time to break down these specs in more exact terms. These are the few key differences between the Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT, from the retail price and the capabilities of the remote to the kind of connectivity you can expect from each device.
- Outrageously powerful: Enjoy a lightning-fast interface and channels like Sling, Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video that launch in a snap on the fastest, most powerful Roku player ever
- Our best Wi-Fi: Enjoy fast, smooth TV streaming in any room in the house with our best Wi-Fi or choose to wire up over Ethernet
- Cinematic streaming: Roku Ultra is the centerpiece of your home theater with spectacular 4K and Dolby Vision picture plus immersive Dolby Atmos sound
- Find your lost remote: Simply press the button on your streaming device and your Roku remote will play a sound
- No more juggling remotes: Power up your TV, adjust the volume, and control your streaming device with one Roku voice remote
Firstly, there’s the price, one of the most obvious differences between the Roku Ultra and Ultra LT. The Roku Ultra is currently priced at $99.99. This makes it the most expensive Roku streaming box, but not the most expensive Roku product.
That honor belongs to the Roku Streambar and Streambar+, which are priced at $129.99 and $179.99, respectively. When you can get 4K streaming quality from the $35 Roku Express 4K, the Roku Ultra’s nearly $100 price tag seems even pricier.
The Roku Ultra LT, on the other hand, is priced at a slightly more affordable $79.99. While cheaper than the Roku Ultra by a good $20, the Ultra LT is nonetheless one of the more expensive Roku products on the market today.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ is the next cheapest, currently priced at $69.99 for similar picture and audio quality. It’s worth noting the price ladder that Roku uses to guide customers to more expensive products. The next-best is never that much more expensive, making it easier to convince customers to take the price hike on the Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT.
Secondly, the Roku remote. Both the Roku Ultra and the Roku Ultra LT come with what appears to be an identical Roku remote. However, upon closer examination, there are enough differences between the Roku Ultra and Ultra LT remotes to be deserving of further inspection.
The Ultra LT’s remote is far less impressive than the Ultra’s. It has a headphone jack on the side of the remote where a pair of included headphones can plug in for private listening, but that’s about it in terms of unique features. Beyond this jack, it’s your average Roku remote.
Conversely, the Roku Ultra remote has plenty to show off. Not only is it rechargeable instead of battery-operated, but it’s also equipped with a lost remote finder inside the device.
With the same headphone jack and the included pair of headphones as the Ultra LT, the Ultra remote also comes with a set of customizable shortcut buttons on the bottom half of the device. You can program these to take you directly to your favorite Roku channels (not unlike the pre-set buttons you might see on a Roku TV).
- Power, picture, performance: Roku Ultra LT has a quad-core processor and is great for smooth wired and wireless streaming. It's perfect for heavy streaming in HD, 4K, and HDR and delivers the kind of...
- Smooth streaming: Get a connection that stands up to whatever you want to stream with dual-band wireless or use the Ethernet port for wired streaming
- Brilliant picture quality: Experience your favorite TV in stunning detail and clarity; whether you are streaming in HD, 4K, or HDR, you will get stunning picture quality that is optimized for your TV...
- No more juggling remotes: Power up and adjust the volume on most televisions, control your player, and enjoy private listening with the enhanced voice remote and included headphones; use your voice to...
- Lots of extras: Roku Ultra LT is packed with features you will love, including microSD for extra channel storage; use the included headphones to pump up the volume on your shows without disturbing the...
Thirdly, there’s the difference in connectivity between the Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT. Roku devices are all about connectivity — it’s practically their most important feature — which makes this third key difference far from the least significant of the bunch.
Both the Ultra and the Ultra LT connect to the television with Roku’s trademark Premium HDMI Cable, and both the Ultra and the Ultra LT come with an Ethernet port for wired internet connectivity alongside the best Wi-Fi connection in the Roku family. This best-of-the-best Wi-Fi connectivity is true of both the Ultra and the Ultra LT.
That’s about it for the devices’ similarities in connectivity, though. The Roku Ultra has a major advantage in its ability to facilitate local playback via USB. The Roku Ultra LT has no such ability, completely lacking a USB port.
Alternatively, some Roku Ultra LT models have space for a MicroSD connection to increase the device’s storage. The Roku Ultra does not and has never supported such a thing. Additionally, neither the Roku Ultra nor the Ultra LT offer support for Roku Wireless Speakers or Subwoofers.
The History of Roku
Looking back, Roku founder Anthony Wood has always been fixated on the idea of a set-top box. Years before Roku was even an inkling of an idea, and long before streaming was even a thing, Anthony Wood was working hard at a direct TiVo competitor called ReplayTV.
Of course, as we know, TiVo eventually reigned supreme over all competing DVR brands — including ReplayTV. The failure of Wood’s device led him straight to another burgeoning prospect: Netflix, a DVD-by-mail service that was beginning to dabble in streaming.
Wood worked alongside Netflix founder Reed Hastings to take the concept of ReplayTV and apply it to the up-and-coming streaming service. The two perfected what soon became known as the Roku DVP N1000 (or, in simpler terms, the Roku).
It was initially intended to be an exclusive Netflix streaming device for the company’s newly debuted “Watch Instantly” feature. However, Wood and Hastings soon agreed that the Roku was bigger than any one streamer. From Netflix to Amazon Prime Video to Hulu, Roku had the potential to support them all — not just Hastings’s streamer.
Mere weeks before the Roku was set to go public, Hastings made the executive decision to sever ties with the company. Instead, he spun Roku off into its own thing. It was an incredibly daring (and, some might say, foolish) move, but one that was done to avoid any conflicts of interest.
It was a wise move in hindsight, as these sorts of battles between streamers and their respective streaming devices rage on constantly today. The Roku DVP N1000 hit stores on May 20th, 2008, boasting 720p high definition, HDMI connectivity, and a library of video service streaming channels.
Roku Ultra’s History
Since its initial launch in 2008, Roku, Inc. has released a series of new and improved Roku streaming devices optimized for the present day’s top streaming specs. In 2008, that was 720p. By 2010, that was 1080p. In 2015, that was 4K. By 2016, with the release of the first-edition Roku Ultra, that was 4K UHD with HDR (a.k.a. high dynamic range).
This debut of the Roku Ultra was part of a much larger overhaul of Roku’s entire line of products. It was released alongside the Roku Express, the Express+, the Premiere, the Premiere+, and the Streaming Stick. The Roku Express was the most affordable Roku streaming device, while the Roku Ultra was the most expensive.
Not all of these Roku devices lasted forever, however. By 2017, the following year, the Premiere and Premiere+ were discontinued and the Streaming Stick+ was introduced in their place. Roku then reversed the discontinuation of the Premiere and Premiere+ in 2018. The next year, 2019, Roku brought the Ultra LT to light. In effect, this was the official start of the Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT debate.
The Roku Ultra was last updated as part of the ninth generation of products in October 2020. This latest release brought with it wireless and Ethernet connectivity, a USB port for local playback, but no MicroSD slot.
However, the Ultra does boast 4K UHD streaming with Dolby Vision as well as Dolby Atmos DTS audio. The Roku Ultra LT was last updated as part of the tenth generation of products in September 2021. It also has wireless and Ethernet connectivity, but no USB port. And, while the eighth-gen Ultra LT had a MicroSD slot, this new one does not. (No Dolby Atmos, either.)
Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT: Pros and Cons
|Pros of Roku Ultra||Cons of Roku Ultra|
|Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support||The most expensive Roku streaming box|
|Ethernet port for wired internet connectivity||No MicroSD slot for increased storage and memory|
|Remote includes a headphone jack and programmable streaming shortcuts||Smart assistant support pales in comparison to competing streaming devices|
|USB port for local playback||Roku interface is quite middling|
|Pros of Roku Ultra LT||Cons of Roku Ultra LT|
|More affordable than the Roku Ultra||Lacks Dolby Atmos audio support|
|Some models include a MicroSD slot for additional storage and memory||Still more expensive than most of the other Roku streaming boxes|
|Offers 4K UHD HDR streaming quality||No USB port for local playback|
|Includes headphone jack for private listening||Remote lacks programmable shortcut buttons|
Roku: 5 Must-Know Facts
- If you’ve ever wondered what the word “Roku” stood for, it’s not actually gibberish like you might’ve assumed. Company founder Anthony Wood says that “roku” means “six” in Japanese, and Roku was his sixth startup.
- The Roku was originally developed in close collaboration with Netflix founder Reed Hastings before Hastings decided a Netflix-branded device might do more harm than good. Specifically, by pushing away competing streamers from wanting to offer support for the streaming box. Netflix spun Roku off mere weeks before the product was supposed to hit the shelves.
- If you’ve lost your Roku remote, you can actually use the Roku smartphone app as a remote for most Roku devices. As long as you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the device, you should be able to link the Roku to your Roku app with ease.
- While some Roku devices offer additional storage space via MicroSD, there’s actually very little need for storage space on these streaming boxes. The only thing truly stored are streaming apps. Everything else is streamed through the device instead of being downloaded to it.
- You can connect an antenna to your Roku to get local television channels on your Roku device.
Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT: Which Is Best?
When it comes down to it, both the Roku Ultra vs Ultra LT are impressive over-the-top set-top streaming boxes worthy of note. Regardless of whether you’ve got an Ultra or an Ultra LT, you’re going to be able to enjoy 4K streaming with UHD quality and HDR colors.
Both support Dolby Vision, though only the Ultra supports Dolby Atmos audio. The question still remains, though: Which is better? The Roku Ultra or the Ultra LT? When all is said and done, it’s clear that the winner has to be the Roku Ultra.
The Roku Ultra LT is by no means a bad streaming device. It’s one of the best Roku products for a reason, and will be more than enough for most casual streamers out there. The question wasn’t which is good enough, however. The question is which is best, and that distinction belongs to the Roku Ultra.
From its Dolby Atmos support and USB port to its superior remote, the Ultra has ever-so-slightly better specifications. These are the very things that give it a much-needed edge over the Roku Ultra LT.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Cineberg/Shutterstock.com.