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Roku 4K HDR Streaming Stick Plus Review: One Superb 4K Content Streamer

by on October 26, 2017
Details
 
Editor Rating
 
Performance at 4k
A

 
Ease of Use
A+

 
Speed
A

 
Access to Content
A+

 
Device Design
A

 
Pricing
A

Total Score
A

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User Rating
 
Performance at 4k
B

 
Ease of Use
F

 
Speed
C

 
Access to Content
A-

 
Device Design
B-

 
Pricing
A+

User Score
4 ratings
B-

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Positives

  • Very affordable
  • Full HDR Capacity (HDR10)
  • Roku TV platform crammed with media apps
  • Flexible interface
  • 4K support

Negatives

  • Search needs some work
  • No audio jack for the remote
  • No Dolby Vision support

Bottom Line

Quite simply, it’s hard not to love the Roku Streaming Stick+. With this tight little device, Roku has basically placed the best smart TV and graphics support features (HDR, 4K) of its most powerful and pricey streaming set-top boxes into a much smaller and cheaper unit that’s about as easy to install and use as a streaming device gets. The Roku Streaming Stick+ is not only user-friendly as hell, it’s also a winner over similarly priced rivals Amazon Fire TV dongle and Google Chromecast on both features and sheer content selection. Compared to the slighlty better but much, much pricier Apple TV 4K, the Streaming Stick+ is a true winner, with a far better price and only a couple of weaknesses (mainly a lack of Dolby Vision support). We can’t recommend this media gadget enough for any owner of a 4K HDR TV.

Roku 4K HDR Streaming Stick Plus Review

Overview

The best possible streaming media device with 4K support AND  price that’s genuinely decent isn’t all that easy to pick out among the various competitors on the market today. However, if you take aside all possible marketing hype and symbolic brand reputation while focusing strictly on what a streaming gadget delivers and for what price, we’d argue that the Roku Streaming Stick+ is pretty much the best offer in existence today. Amazon’s Fire TV 4K dongle and Google Chromecast give this little streamer a run for its money with similar offerings but the Streaming Stick Plus+ emerges as a winner on several fronts in our view.

Roku, having responded to the winds of competitive pressure in shrinking form factor while keeping as many premium streaming device features as possible from previous 4K set-top boxes, has absolutely risen to the challenge with the Roku Streaming Stick+. This device covers every smart TV and display graphics support spec that its pricier set-top cousins offer while coming in at one seriously competitive price of $70. Owners of non-4K TVs would probably be better off with Roku’s still cheaper Streaming Stick 1080p model but frankly, if you’re going to get a 4K TV anyhow, this is the Roku streamer to go for on a budget.

The Good Stuff

There are plenty of good things to be found in the Roku Streaming Stick+. If anything, it’s almost surprising just how much solid technology this device had packed into it for such a small size. The following are the essential features of this little stick/dongle that we most liked about it and which most make us recommend the new Roku 4K device to almost anyone with a 4K HDR TV.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Design

Starting things off, there’s the Streaming Stick+ design. Roku fans who already own the company’s older HD streaming stick are well familiar with its earliest rather ugly and boxy (though still compact) purple form factor and the subsequent 2016 squat black body of the next HD version. Well the new 4K HDR 2017 model looks very little like this. Unlike its predecessors, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is actually pretty sleek, with a long matte/shiny black plastic body that’s curved along its edges and on the lengthy side if anything. The new device comes with just one single mini USB port for powering the unit with the included USB cord, which also happens to double as a wireless signal amplifier thanks to a built-in attachment. Furthermore, the stick itself can draw power directly from any TV it’s plugged into though it still comes with a small extension cord and power adapter just in case you might need them. In basic terms, the Streaming Stick+ sticks out a fair bit from any 4K TV’s connectivity section but not quite so much that it’s likely to spoil the look of your home entertainment system.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Performance

The performance of the Roku Streaming Stick+ can vary depending on how good your internet connectivity is, or how well mastered the content you’re watching is or, fundamentally, how good your particular 4K TV happens to be. So in essence there are many factors which can affect how you experience any smart TV streaming platform. However, that said, all other things being relatively optimal, the Streaming Stick+ is one remarkably robust little device. It’s much more powerful than its 1080p predecessors and though it lacks the CPU power of Roku’s Ultra set-top box, this little guy still delivers plenty enough kick to keep its interface, menus and other smart platform controls flowing extremely smoothly. Playing back 4K and HDR content is effortless across a range of apps that offer either or both and streamed content moves from Streaming Stick+ to TV easily, with minimal or non-existent buffering (as long as your internet connection is up to the task).

As far as we could tell, the Streaming Stick+ has no problems streaming its native 4K content. Ultra HD picture looks delightfully sharp and the HDR10 capacity of the device works just fine for sources of HDR 4K content. Of course, SDR video sources from any one of Roku’s literally hundreds of thousands of available content selections also look perfectly good on a 4K TV display and the UHD TV’s native upscaling capacity plays a strong hand here in making sure that what the Roku 4K stick delivers gets its best possible performance. Once again, the apps and interface loading times of the Streaming Stick+ are as far as we could tell, superbly fast, with no notable lag that we could see from the device. On the other hand, Amazon’s Fire TV platform and Apple TV 4K both seem to work just a little bit faster on the whole. Perhaps most importantly, the Roku Streaming Stick+ handles WiFi very stably, with no drops in connectivity speed and certainly no complete cutoffs. The WiFi amplifier attachment for the little streamer almost certainly plays a part in keeping internet connectivity snappy.

Roku TV Interface

Without a doubt, aside from its newfound support for 4K and HDR content, the Streaming Stick Plus’s single biggest winner is the internal Roku TV smart platform itself. If you already own a 4K HDR TV with Roku TV as its smart platform, you’ll be very familiar with this interface and presumably wouldn’t need the Streaming Stick Plus to begin with but either way, the smart TV system of the streamer is one of the best we know on today’s market, with an extremely generous and open apps ecosystem that offers up a whopping selection of nearly 5000 different apps with several hundred thousand different content selections between them. And of course, all of the essentials of the 4K content experience are present and fully supported in their UHD capacity. These include Amazon Video, Netflix, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and Hulu among others (content availability may vary somewhat between countries).

Beyond these, there are some truly specialized, niche-oriented channels among the thousands of remaining apps that the Roku TV platform packs into the Streaming Stick Plus. These include such esoteric offerings as channels exclusively for trucking fans, pet owners and even things as bizarre as video selections devoted exclusively to…. Goats. Yes, that’s right, goats.

As for the interface itself, it’s quite probably the best we’ve seen outside that of Apple TV’s. Roku TV is simple to use, streamlined, intuitive and very clean. The home screen displays all downloaded apps and clicking an app opens it just like that. From activating Roku TV to settling in for a movie or show shouldn’t take more than seconds to pull off. If it does, it’s because you’re still picking what entertainment to go for.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Another thing we love about Roku TV is the flexibility aspect we mentioned above. This is manifest in one crucial way in particular. Organizing apps on the home screen is extremely fluid. Favorite “channel” tiles can be placed right at the top while stuff you don’t use much or at all can be relegated far down the scrolling home display. Unlike many rival streaming platforms such as Apple TV, Roku has no favoritism towards a particular set of apps, so even the most obscure downloaded material can stay front and center as long as you want it there. There’s also a “My Feed” feature which lets you scroll through all of your favorite TV shows, movies and other content and check if their prices have change in any way.

Roku TV’s interface in the Streaming Stick Plus isn’t also without its little defects, but we’ll get to these shortly further below under “Bad”.

4K and HDR Support

Most vital of all to the remake of Roku’s streaming media stick platforms is the 4K HDR support in the new Streaming Stick+ model. This is the devices single biggest selling point and we definitely appreciate it. Seeing as how Amazon, Google and others have all now created their own compact streaming dongles to substitute some of their older 4K set-top box devices, Roku didn’t exactly have a competitive choice in this matter but however you frame it, the 4K HDR chops of the Roku Streaming Stick+ are without a doubt superb. Unfortunately, the little device for now only supports the weaker HDR10 high dynamic range format but for most owners of 4K TVs (most of which don’t support the superior Dolby Vision HDR standard typically found in premium OLED TV models in particular), the HDR10 will be just fine. It’s available (along with razor sharp 4K UHD resolution) mainly through three major apps, which are Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and YouTube (the Roku Stick+ does indeed support the VP9 codec for YouTube 4K videos). Other selections of 4K content from other apps are probably also on the way but the above three should deliver more than enough of both high dynamic range and 4K sharpness in their fine selections of content to keep you busy for months.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Content Selection

Finally, in terms of great features, we have to mention the Roku Streaming Stick Plus’s sheer selection of content via the Roku TV platform. All smart TV platforms today offer essential entertainment options but few give so much raw selection as Roku TV does. Yes, the vast majority of this content isn’t in 4K UHD and almost as much of it might not even interest most users but if some particular entertainment niche is your thing, Roku TV is probably your best bet for getting it via TV-based streaming. We’re talking about nearly 5000 different apps that hold a total of roughly half a million content selections between them. This is hard to beat by any measure of cord-cutter home entertainment value.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Check the Roku 4K HDR Streaming Stick Plus (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews

The Bad

We love the Roku Streaming Stick+ and if we were to give it a numerical rating, the little device would easily reach a 9 out of 10 on such a scale. Thus, we’re not about to go into a whole pile of flaws for it because there simply aren’t many to be found. That said however, since no consumer electronics technology is stone cold perfect, the Streaming Stick Plus does have a couple of details to it.

No Dolby Vision Support

First and most glaring, there is the device’s lack of HDR support in the even more refined Dolby Vision format. All 4K content run through this app is mastered in pure HDR10. HDR10 is great too and in premium 4K TVs with support for high levels of high dynamic range, it looks superb but however you paint it, the standard doesn’t quite match Dolby Vision’s superior refinements on color and contrast quality in the details of a scene. Thus, if you own a 4K TV with Dolby Vision support, the Roku Streaming Stick+ might just not be for you. It won’t run DV HDR through its connectivity system and the key 4K HDR apps found on this device are in any case already going to be in your Dolby Vision 4K HDR TV.

Interface & Remote Control Issues

Moving along, we alluded above to some minor issues with the Roku TV interface. These are the following and like we said, they’re pretty mild problems: First, the platform itself doesn’t support advanced, sophisticated search options. Yes, its voice powered and yes, it will browse through an enormous selection of content listings from its thousands of apps to give you what you want but highly informal search requests are likely to be ignored or fail at delivering optimal content results. Instead, the search and voice search options require you to use slightly stiffer language if you want to find a specific movie, director or actor.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Finally, the Roku Stick’s remote, while generally very easy to use and versatile, lacks a private listening jack. This something that the more sophisticated remote of the pricier Roku Ultra set-top box DOES have, so if you want it for the Streaming Stick+, you’ll have to buy the Ultra’s remote separately. For a $70 device like the Streaming Stick, this is a hefty additional expense if this private audio feature is something crucial for your home. Oddly, the Roku Remote also wasted three of its four quick app access buttons on some pretty random and less than awesome apps. You get the always useful “Netflix” button, sure but after that, the other three options are…… wait for it… Red Bull TV, Rakuten TV and Yupp TV, or some other less than incredible apps we’ve seen depending on sale region. We’re wondering if paid promotion fees for Roku won out with some of these because the much more practical choices for a 4K platform would have at least been Roku’s other two major 4K content apps: Amazon and YouTube and then maybe Google Play or Spotify tossed in on the fourth button.

Essential Specs

  • Processor: Quad-core CPU
  • Smart Platform: Roku TV
  • Connectivity: 1 x HDMI 2.0a extension, 802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi‑Fi
  • Included accessories: USB cable with WiFi Amplifier, Roku TV remote
  • HDR Capable: HDR10
  • Frame Rate: 30fps, 60fps
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160,
  • Dimensions & weight
  • Width 1 in
  • Length 3.7 in
  • Height 1 in
  • Weight 3.5 oz

Unpacking & Setup

There essentially is no rela unpacking and setup to be done with the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. This little device is just about as simple as a content platform can be. The device can be plugged right into any of the HDMI ports on your TV right out of the box and with this done, the included WiFi enhancement extension/power cord can then be hooked right into any one of your TV’s USB ports. This is useful if your signal isn’t optimal but the stick will otherwise work just fine stuck directly into your TV HDMI ports. Aside from setting up your assorted smart TV app accounts and putting batteries into the Streaming Stick Plus’s remote control. There is no other setup to this little dude.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Check the Roku 4K HDR Streaming Stick Plus (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews

Connectivity

There also isn’t much to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus in terms of connectivity. It sports a single HDMI (with HDCP 2.2 and [email protected]) extension built into it, a mini USB adapter on one side and the included WiFi amplifier/adapter cable comes with its own USB 3.0 extension at one end. Inside the Roku Streaming Stick+ there is of course also a nicely powerful 802.11ac MIMO dual-band WiFi capacity.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Final Opinion

We love the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. Almost across the board it’s extremely versatile, highly efficient, surprisingly powerful and so loaded down with entertainment options that you’ll probably never run out of stuff to watch or listen to no matter how broad your tastes are. The little device might just maker you completely forget about your 4K HDR TV’s native smart platform and your cable/OTT connections for content. The only people we wouldn’t recommend this little affordable streamer to are those who already have a 4K TV with the Roku smart platform built into it (it will be essentially identical), owners of Dolby Vision 4K HDR TVs who are happy with their native smart platforms and owners of HDTVs, who would be just as well off with the older, cheaper HD Roku Streaming Stick.

Price

Roku is currently selling the Streaming Stick+ right from its website but you can also buy it from numerous major retailers or from Amazon.com from the comfort of your home. The device currently retails for $69, though this price might go down towards the end of the year, so check out the link below for the most current price details.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus 4K HDR review

Check the Roku 4K HDR Streaming Stick Plus (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews

2 comments
 
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  • mark
    October 27, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Were you actually able to use TV usb ports to power this device? My experience has been TV usb ports don’t pump enough amps to power devices like this.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      October 27, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Mark, interestingly, yes, the Roku stick can be powered completely by the USB ports on the TV, though you can also use the included power cord adapter if you like.

      Reply

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Performance at 4k

Ease of Use

Speed

Access to Content

Device Design

Pricing