Product Review: Roku Streaming Stick plus

In the past couple of years, 4K televisions have dropped significantly in price and, along with this development, there’s much more Ultra HD content to contend with. Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube all offer significant 4K libraries, but accessing your beloved movies and shows on a smart TV isn’t always a simple or particularly pleasant experience.

This is where a streamer, such as the Roku Streaming Stick+, comes in handy. Out-the-box, it offers all your favourite apps, is simple to set up and is surprisingly affordable. However, Roku isn’t the only manufacturer to offer such features. In fact, it faces stiff competition from Amazon, Google and Apple.

What you need to know

The Roku Streaming Stick+ will display video content at up to 4K Ultra HD at 60fps and supports HDR10. It comes with all the streaming apps you’ll ever need, including those from Google and Amazon. And unlike some of its rivals, it isn’t limited due to the constraints of competition, nor does it cost an arm and a leg to purchase.

What the Roku doesn’t have is Dolby Vision support or a virtual assistant, but otherwise, it’s a perfectly competent streaming stick with a few special features of its own.

Price and competition

Initially reviewed at £79, the Stick+ now hovers around the £60-£70 price tag. It’s more expensive than its two rivals, the Amazon Fire Stick 4K and the Chromecast Ultra. But, is still a lot cheaper than the Apple TV 4K, which costs a staggering £170.

Setup & Ease of use

The Streaming Stick+ isn’t the most elegant of streamers. Unlike its chief rivals, which pack all the required electronics in one neat housing, the Streaming Stick+ splits the video and Wi-Fi components apart, housing the former in the HDMI stick and the latter in an inline module on the USB power cable.

This isn’t a problem when it comes to looks per se, but it does mean that, if you have the stick plugged in sideways mounted HDMI ports, there’s a bit of extra weight stressing the stick and socket.

The Wi-Fi bit houses an 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless chip, which plugs into the 3.7in stick via mini-USB. As with the Chromecast and Fire TV, the Roku requires power to run, which is delivered via the USB cable; this can be either plugged into a spare socket on your TV (as long as it supplies enough juice) or the provided wall adapter.

I had no problems connecting to the internet or any issues with its Wi-Fi range, or its UI, which is both simple and effective to use. It doesn’t take long to learn and find your way around, and this makes it one of the most appealing streamers I’ve used. By their very nature, streamers aren’t exactly complicated, but the Roku takes simplicity to the next level. I’m not such a big fan of the lurid purple colour scheme, though.

Thanks to its quad-core processor, the Roku is responsive, too. Flicking between apps is instantaneous and the ability to search by title, actor or director across multiple services from one search box is a genuinely brilliant touch.

Its stubby, easy-to-understand remote control contributes to the overall sense of simplicity and includes buttons giving quick access to search, the homescreen and apps. Roku has chosen to include dedicated Netflix, Red Bull TV, R TV and YuppTV buttons on the remote – a peculiar choice of apps, to say the least. The remote also has power and volume buttons that can be used to control those functions on your TV.

Unfortunately, the Stick+ lacks a voice assistant, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. If you love interacting with your devices through your voice, you’ll need to look at other alternatives.Amazon Fire TV Stick vs. Chromecast Ultra vs. Roku Streaming Stick

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Content

Unlike the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, which lacks Google and Now TV apps, the Roku covers pretty much all your TV streaming bases, making it an excellent hub for all types of content. On the 4K front, there’s support for services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. Apple content isn’t present, but that’s only available on the Apple TV 4K.

As for non-4K content, there’s a goodly selection here as well, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5, plus the TV Player app, which you can use to watch live TV. BT Sport is notable by its absence, though.

Watching 4K HDR and Full HD content on the Roku is fantastic – on the Samsung UE65KS9500 TV we tested it on, colours look realistic and with an Ultra HD resolution the picture is super crisp.

You’ll need a 4K HDR10-compatible TV to make the most of the stick. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ aren’t supported. As for audio, the Roku Streaming Stick+ has Dolby Audio and DTS passthrough. Unlike the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K there’s no Dolby Atmos, either.

Our Verdict

The bottom line is that the Roku Streaming Stick+ offers everything you’d ever want in a 4K streamer. It is pricier than its Amazon and Google rivals, and while it might be cheaper than the Apple TV 4K, the Roku doesn’t offer a voice assistant, such as Siri or Alexa. That still doesn’t detract from its key selling point: this 4K streamer works with both Amazon and Google’s services and a silky-smooth interface.

If you don’t mind ditching Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is still the most comprehensive 4K streamer on the market.

No voice control but the Roku Streaming Stick+ delivers plenty of content and it’s a doddle to use

Pros: HDR10 enabled, Excellent user interface, Features Amazon and Google apps

Cons: No voice assistant, Questionable design, missing Dolby Vision support.

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