The Roku Streaming Stick was kind of the odd man out when Roku announced its rebranded lineup the first time around about a year ago – already updated nearly six months earlier, it went unmentioned and lost some of its market position to the then-new Roku Premiere and Premiere+. This year, the Streaming Stick is back with a vengeance. Along with its big brother, the Streaming Stick+, the Streaming Stick has exiled the Premiere and Premiere+ from Roku’s lineup (RIP) and reclaimed its rightful place as the company’s mid-tier model. But is it any good? Let’s check it out.
Roku Streaming Stick review
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The Roku Streaming Stick is, as the name suggests, a streaming stick. It looks pretty much like it did the last time around. The power cable connects to the end of the Streaming Stick. There is no HDMI extender, so if it sticks out from behind your TV, you’re out of luck (well, not really, I guess, because you can just go buy a generic one on Amazon or something).
The remote is point-anywhere and now also functions as a universal remote that can turn your TV on and off and change its volume (that part is not point-anywhere, obviously). This is the lowest-priced member of Roku’s lineup to include the universal remote.
The Roku Streaming Stick is Wi-Fi-only, and the antenna is built into the device. That’s in contrast to the pricier Streaming Stick+, which achieves better Wi-Fi range by having the antenna hitch a ride on the power cable.
The Streaming Stick tops out at 1080p – for 4K video, you’ll have to go with the Streaming Stick+.
As always, it’s a pleasure to use Roku’s operating system, which is big and simple and only a little bit tacky. I talk more about this in our Roku Ultra review, so rather than repeat everything, I’ll send you over to read that. I’ll wait here while you go. Ready? Okay, here we go: read our Roku Ultra review.
All caught up? Okay, let’s move on.
The Roku Streaming Stick streams in 1080p, which is regular old non-4K HD. Its overachieving big brother, the Roku Streaming Stick+, is the one that can handle 4K (and HDR, for that matter).
The HD streaming that the Roku Streaming Stick can do, though, it does well. The Streaming Stick streamed on-demand content flawlessly in my trials, and handled live streaming from skinny bundles pretty well – it stopped infrequently for very short periods, and streamed smoothly and in constant HD in between.
At $49.99, the Roku Streaming Stick is half the price of the top-of-the-line Roku Ultra. It’s $20 less than it’s fellow Streaming Stick, the Roku Streaming Stick+, and also $20 cheaper than Amazon’s Fire TV and Chromecast’s Ultra. It’s $10 more than the Roku Express+ and $20 more than the regular Express. It’s also $10 more than Amazon’s Fire TV Stick.
The Roku Streaming Stick is a very reliable little device. If you’re going to stick with a 1080p TV for the next few years, there’s no reason not to go with the Streaming Stick.
I’m a little skeptical, though, of how many of us will end up using a 1080p TV for the life of our next streaming device purchase. It feels like we’re at the 4K tipping point, with more and more 4K TVs plunging down into price ranges that seem downright affordable. Even if a 4K TV isn’t on your shopping list right now, prices and sales could easily change that in the near future, to say nothing of a year or two down the line.
So maybe the Streaming Stick fits as a match for a 1080p that will later move – with Streaming Stick in tow – to some other room to make way for your 4K TV and your real streaming device. I’m less confident that it’s a long-term solution for your living room. But, hey, you do you: if you’re real committed to avoiding 4K for a couple of years, this is your best bet price- and performance-wise for 1080p streaming.
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