Roku Streaming Stick – 2020 Review.

Roku Streaming Stick.

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Pros: The Roku streaming stick streams Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the rest in an ultra-compact design for an affordable price. Its remote can control the volume and power of your TV. Reactions are lightning-fast. The simple menus put each streaming service on a level playing field and provide more applications and better search than competitors.

Cons: The menus may seem dated compared to their competitors, and some applications use the old-school layout. Voice search and control is worse than Fire TV.

The Bottom Line: For buyers who don’t care about 4K or HDR streaming, the Roku streaming stick is the best player on the market.

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 Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £59.99
  • Up to 4K resolution at 60 fps
  • HDR10 support
  • Quad-core processor
  • 11ac MIMO dual-band wireless

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What is the Roku Streaming Stick Plus?

A streaming device can and should be a little bundle of media-binding bliss.

The trick is doing it right because 4K and HDR are powerful balancing features with prices when you come to the market. Google Chromecast Ultra goes for the must-have-only approach and ends very basic. The Apple TV goes the 4K at a premium angle but it is expensive for what it offers. The new 4K Amazon Fire TVs have a good balance, but this is pushing you towards Amazon’s paid ecosystem.

Enter a company called Roku that specializes in streaming and is now responsible for Sky’s TV box. The brand doesn’t have much presence in the UK, but it’s huge in the US, and for good reason: Roku has the best interface so far on any streaming device.

It’s the largest selling point of Roku Streaming Plus, but the versatile hardware and a great mobile app help it be the best streaming device for you to buy 4K and HDR.

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 Roku Streaming Stick – Design

You can’t blame Roku for saying it like that. This thing is a stick, and it flows. There is nothing more than that. The ‘plus’ separates it from the old, non-4K, non-HDR restoration of the Roku streaming stick.

On one end is an HDMI plug, designed to go directly behind your TV, projector or AV MP. The only other connection is the power input. Unlike every other device, the Roku streaming stick plus a Micro USB, not a connector, draws power from a mini USB.

Any old mini USB cable should be used, but the Roku supplied recommends using one, which has a wireless amplifier. It can help with Wi-Fi signal strength and range (usually a problem with streaming devices that gets thrown behind TVs and games consoles). Ethernet sockets have no space – this is 802.11ac Mimo dual-band Wi-Fi or nothing.

In the box you will find a USB extension cable and dedicated main block, only if your TV stick is not able to power. I wish the Roku included some Bendy HDMI extensions as the stick format wouldn’t play great with more cramped setups or wall-mounted TVs.

Update: Roku has informed me that you may want a free HDMI adapter from the official website. It’s still a bit flawed, but it’s still better than buying you

There is a remote control. Roku is not persuaded to rely on a mobile phone remote app, which is good, because this approach didn’t work so well for Google. This is a very good remote: to keep it small and comfortable, but not so small that you keep losing it.

In addition to the basic navigation keys, there are shortcuts to key apps, OK, Netflix, and three more random choices: Red Bull TV, Rakuten TV, and Yupp TV. No, not me … Amazon videos and YouTube could mean a lot to me.

There are power and volume buttons designed to work directly with your TV, so you don’t need to use two remote full time. Roku says that they should work on any TV with an HDMI socket – the stick analyzes any TV it’s plugged into and the infrared commands tell the remote that triggers power and volume controls.

One thing missing from the remote is a headphone jack. The previous generation had a ‘private listening’ mode that let Roku’s audio stream to the remote, so you can use headphones if you don’t want to wake up the room. You can still do this, but you’ll need to plug the headphones into the Roku mobile app and your smartphone or tablet. Don’t worry about latency – there’s no noticeable lag.

I suggest downloading the app even if you have no intention of using headphones because it is actually very useful. It’s almost as responsive as a physical remote and you can bring a full keyboard to type in an email address or password.

The latest update, which works on both remote and remote applications, is an addition to the enhanced voice search feature. So now you can spend less time typing and more time watching. It brings Roku to the likes of Amazon Fire Stick and Amazon Fire TV, both of which have voice remote.

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Roku Streaming Stick – Features

One of the biggest and most important features of Roku Streaming Stick Plus is its generous support for open ecosystems and applications, or all the big names in streaming video called “channels” here, such as Roku.

Netflix, Amazon Video, now TV, Sky Store, Google Play and YouTube and the UK have a full suite of catch-up applications: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5. For music, TuneIn, Vevo, Spotify, and Deezer.

You can find plenty of little-known applications that still point to loyalty such as Crankyerol (for anime), Moby (arthouse movies) and Shudder (horror).

There are thousands of more channels but some of them are incredibly niche. A quick jolt through the channel store brings you classics like truck channels, dog relaxing channels and other things that make you goat. Hey, I’m not coming here to judge.

All of these only feature Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube Ultra HD 4K (2160p at 60fps) and high dynamic range. HDR support comes in the form of HDR10, the most common open format. There is no justification for Dolby Vision, the competing format that uses dynamic metadata to optimize the image’s image in the scene. This is a bit disappointing, but rarely a dealbreaker – at least in the UK there is no app that streams on HDR without HDR10.

Although I will only use a fraction of the available channels, I wholeheartedly support Roku’s platform-agonistic approach. No one is left out, which other manufacturers may learn: Google Chromecast Ultra and Apple TV 4 currently don’t support Amazon Video, while the new Amazon Fire TV no longer has a TV.

I also admire Roku’s clean menu system, which is easy to navigate at a glance and shows no bias. Or it doesn’t try to sell you anything. The homepage is a uniform grid, completely populated by your preferences. The only channels in your mouth that you’ve just hit the top. In contrast, Apple, Amazon and Google will all be pushing you to their respective storefronts.

There is a neat little feature called ‘My Feed’. This allows you to bookmark (or ‘follow’) upcoming titles, so Roku will let you know when they are available to stream.

You won’t find anything particularly fabulous like the integration of Amazon Fire TV with Alexa Voice Assistant, but at least Roku supports casting. I tried it with YouTube and Netflix and it worked seamlessly.

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Roku Streaming Stick Plus – Performance

Picture performances are just as great as anyone who’s watched a native stream on the best smart TVs. Ultra HD4K images are pin sharp and HDR images are appropriately sloppy. The 1080p and standard dynamic range video is also pretty good. Whenever anything looks fuzzy during the initial buffer, it goes faster – faster than the Samsung UE 65 KS9500 TV at the top of the 2016 2016.

The pace is impressive in general. Applications load quickly and feel very responsive to press a button. I never noticed any lag, though, for the full speed, the Amazon Fire TV jumps a bit.

Not only is it fast, it’s also stable. I’m not sure how much of this is down to the wireless amplifier built into the power cable. The signal on my ISP router is usually so severe that I sometimes struggle to maintain a stable signal in the adjacent room, but I have never experienced a dropout with Roku.

The setup was a breeze. Roku Streaming Stick Plus sounds completely uncomfortable with what you plug into your USB cable. Rated at 5V / 0.5A I was able to run it on one of my TV’s low-power USB ports. This is a pleasant surprise and extremely impressive – both Google Chromecast Ultra and Amazon Fire TV insisted that you use the supplied Maine adapter, which defeats the point of downsizing the dongles.

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Why buy the Roku Streaming Stick Plus?

Why any streaming device? Because your TV probably doesn’t have all the apps you like, or your TV operating system is a pain to use. You should bypass everything you want without the hassle of a good streaming device.

Roku streaming stick plus this is it. Its app support and ease of use are unmatched. It’s not just like Google Chromecast Ultra, but it’s also not as expensive as the Apple TV 4K. If you want a streamer that works, Roku streaming stick plus offers amazing value.

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Verdict

All the apps, none of the hassle.

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