Roku Streaming Stick Plus review: All of the 4K HDR streaming goodness, none of the fluff

The leader of the Roku streaming device has a huge seven streamers in his 2020 lineup from $ 30 Roku Express and all new $ 100 Roku Ultra. Yet despite this new blood supply, the company’s best model is one of the oldest. The Roku Streaming Stick Plus debuted in 2017, but three years later it holds its place as our favorite Roku device and our favorite media streamer overall. It flows 4K and HDR video from Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, Voodoo, Apple TV and others, it comes with useful features like a voice remote with buttons that can control your TV and operate Roku’s best streaming system. It has all the things you need and no lint.

The closest competitors of the Streaming Stick Plus are the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K from 2018 and the brand new Chromecast with Google TV, both also cost $ 50. Both offer Dolby Vision HDR and superior voice support, thanks to Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. Their menu systems have a more modern look than Roku, with TV shows and movies on home pages rather than just app tiles, but they’re also more cluttered and potentially confusing.

If you are immersed in the depths of Amazon or Google ecosystems, you may appreciate the capability of these devices control smart home tools using the TV remote control. But Roku also has a new trick: support for Apple’s AirPlay system, a feature that Amazon and Google lack. It allows iPhones and other Apple devices to connect to TV wirelessly, play screens, show photos, control apps, and more. AirPlay makes the Streaming Stick Plus a strong game for knee-deep people in the Apple ecosystem who don’t want to pony up for a Apple TV 4K.

App support between the three is very similar aside from the newer core apps. Roku doesn’t have an app for HBO Max, Fire TV lacks both HBO Max and Peacock, while Chromecast is missing with Google TV Apple TV Plus. The only streamer with all three is Apple TV.

Contents

Streaming service support

Device

HBO Max

Peacock

Apple TV Plus

Roku

No

Yup

Yup

Fire TV

No

No

Yup

Chromecast with Google TV

Yup

Yup

No

Apple TV

Yup

Yup

Yup

To take full advantage of the 4K apps on the Streaming Stick Plus you’ll need a new 4K HDR TV, but even if you don’t have one, the Plus is worth considering over cheaper non-4K streamers like the Roku Express. The price difference between the two is so small that it might be worth paying in case you get a 4K TV soon and want to get ready.

In the three years since its release, the Streaming Stick Plus has debuted, nothing has matched its simplicity, affordability or performance. It’s the best Roku streamer for the money, and Roku makes it our favorite streaming system. That’s why the Streaming Stick Plus remains our favorite streamer overall.

Roku needs to know-ku

  • The Streaming Stick Plus designed to hide behind the TV and connect directly to a free HDMI port. If space is limited, you can use a male-to-female HDMI cable or a “door saver” and Roku will send you one for free.
  • The advanced wireless receiver cable connects to the dongle with an old school Mini – not Micro – USB connection. The receiver in turn connects to the supplied AC adapter or the TV’s USB port for power.
  • If you decide to power the stick from your TV, it takes longer to boot, so plugging it directly into the AC is usually the best route.
Roku Streaming Stick Plus

That thing in our right hand is the advanced wireless receiver.

Sarah Tew / HDOT

  • Plus cannot be used without the receiver cable. Instead, we tried plugging in an old USB to Mini-USB cable and got an error message.
  • The Plus lacks Dolby Vision HDR, so all HDR comes as HDR10. This isn’t a big deal unless a) you have a Dolby Vision compatible TV and b) it performs significantly better with Dolby Vision than HDR10.
  • Streaming in 4K requires more bandwidth, and in the case of Netflix, a more expensive plan. Amazon recommends 15 Mbps is enough for 4K streaming, while YouTube and Netflix recommend 20.
  • The Roku Stick Plus can support Dolby Atmos, Dolby’s best home audio format.
  • The slightly faster Roku Ultra mostly offers the same features as the Streaming Stick Plus, but adds Dolby Vision and several remote-centric features. Its remote adds two voice shortcut buttons, a headphone jack for private listening and a remote viewfinder so you don’t get lost in the sofa cushions. There’s also an SD card slot to expand storage for faster app loading, a USB port, and a wired Ethernet port. Check out Roku’s full 2020 player lineup here.
Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Sarah Tew / HDOT

4K stick with the Roku you know (ku)

The iPhone has been using a basic app grid since time immemorial, because it works and people are used to it. So does Roku, and whenever we ask company reps for an update, they essentially tell us it works too well to mess around. And for the most part we agree.

The Roku home page is fully customizable, allowing you to move the app tiles as you please. All the apps are on the same level, from Netflix to Toon Goggles, scrolling is smooth and fast, they launch quickly, and the responses within each app we tried were blazing fast. The interface doesn’t show individual shows and movies on the home page, like Fire TV, but it’s visually simpler and less intrusive; there’s just a big ad to the right of the app list.

Stronger in apps and search, weaker in voice

Roku continues to have more apps than the competition, as well as better cross-platform search. We like that the results are sorted by price, especially since Movies Anywhere lets you consolidate your Vudu, Amazon, Google Play, and Apple libraries.

Roku has a few extras not found anywhere else, including My feed and private listening on headphones via the Roku app (if you want it on the remote, you’ll need to get an Ultra), but the most important is the Roku channel. It is a hub for on-demand movies and TV shows and also includes real-time news feed, to Children’s section and even subscriptions to services such as HBO.

Featured Free is another Roku-only extra. The idea is to make TV shows emerge from network apps available for immediate viewing without having to log into those apps. Clicking on a program title, such as New Amsterdam, Family Guy, or Grey’s Anatomy, launches the app (NBC, Fox Now, or ABC respectively) and starts playing the episode (with commercials). The section also mixes movies from The Roku Channel and many previous programs available to watch for free, such as Seinfeld (from Sony’s Crackle), Duck Dynasty (from Tubi TV) or Hell’s Kitchen (from Roku Channel).

30 screenshots of roku

Sarah Tew / HDOT

Related Posts