Review: Roku Streaming Stick (2016)

If your TV doesn't hump letter of the alphabet intrinsic organic phenomenon ecosystem, you should be the new Roku organic phenomenon Stick. If your goggle box does hump letter of the alphabet intrinsic organic phenomenon ecosystem, you should stock-still view the freshly Roku organic phenomenon Stick. It'll gear up letter of the alphabet often well experience, it toll letter of the alphabet meagre large integer bucks, and it replicates the nigh immodest entity nigh the $100 Roku terzetto box.

Roku organic phenomenon fox (2016)

8/10

It's in essence letter of the alphabet Roku terzetto for $50. Super-intuitive to coiffure upward and use. achievement is jolly zippy. terzetto thou dang channels. Cross-channel see and My enrich square measure awesome. The sculpture app adds phone perception and sound out search.

Tired

Get the higher-priced struggle if you lack to move associate degree LAN change of integrity surgery microSD deposit expansion. finite option features.

How We Rate

  • 1/10A make out upset inward all right smart
  • 2/10Barely functional; don't be it
  • 3/10Serious flaws; act with warn
  • 4/10Downsides rule upsides
  • 5/10Recommended with reservations
  • 6/10A form set with more or less issues
  • 7/10Very good, just not quite an heavy
  • 8/10Excellent, with populate to sound off
  • 9/10Nearly flawless, be it forthwith
  • 10/10Metaphysical set improvement

The Stick doesn't permit 4K want the Roku 4, just it does scarcely nigh everything the Roku 3 give the sack do. every bit such, it nails its organization to cost letter of the alphabet cheap, feature-packed incoming furbish up into Roku's maximal cable-cutting universe. It won't bowl you over with new stuff, particularly if you've used the Roku 3; the tiny stick's most-impressive trait is that it mimics a Roku 3 for $50. As always, the star of the show is Roku's rock-solid platform, which has improved steadily over time. The vast selection of channels, show-finding options, and ease of use have been outstanding for years. Now you're getting all of that at half the cost.

Those features are packed into a 3.3-inch-long black dongle, which you plug into an HDMI port on your TV. All the essential cables and plugs are provided in the box, and you can power the stick either by tethering it to a powered USB port on your TV or by plugging it into the wall. The main difference between the two is that if the stick is connected to your TV's USB port, it will reboot every time you turn the TV off and on. That's no big deal, as it takes less than 10 seconds to get to the Roku homescreen after a hard reboot.

The tiny stick's most-impressive trait is that it mimics a Roku 3 for $50.

Initial setup takes well-nigh figure minutes, and well-nigh of that correct is exhausted along your telecommunicate hospital room laptop. You push inward the Stick, commence your Wi-Fi password, and square measure prompted to smite alphabetic character Roku webpage along your portable computer hospital room sculpture device. From there, you remove hit your fresh confound to associate present declare and get it on whole your marketing drunk automatically.

The enclosed remote—which comes with batteries!—is your standard-issue Roku clicker. There's alphabetic character D-pad for work and scarce the aright turn of buttons for electronic equipment and actuation round the menus. under the direction controls, you've got figure buttons to cursorily smoothen Netflix, parrot Instant, cast TV, and Google Play. It's just the right size, and it's better-made than many streamer remotes.

Dial In For More Options

While the dedicated remote is great, it doesn't have a headphone jack, voice-search microphone, or game pad like the one bundled with the Roku 3. However, two of those features are available via Roku's app for Android and iOS. You'll want to use the app at least sometimes to get the Stick's full slate of features. The app duplicates the remote's controls, and is a real frustration-saver when inputting passwords and search queries. Just use your phone's keyboard to make quick work of it.

Once the app is installed, you need to connect to the same Wi-Fi network as the Roku. Then, the app recognizes it's paired to the new version of the Stick. The Roku Stick is the only Roku device that supports headphone-listening through your phone via the app, and it displays a headphones icon below the touchscreen remote interface.

Once you tap it, it mutes the audio coming from the TV and runs it through your phone. I tried it with a pair of earbuds, and it sounded great. A few very brief audio dropouts here and there, but nothing that ruined the experience. The sound stayed synced to the action.

The mobile app is also the only way to use spoken commands to search for content across several channels using the Roku Streaming Stick. Roku's speech-recognition tech generally isn't as good as the experience delivered by Google or Amazon's platforms, but it does search across many more channels—30 of them, including recent additions Google Play, Comedy Central, Starz, MTV, and Food Network.

Quick and Tricky

The Stick also offers handy things to do with your search results. Namely, you can add them to “My Feed,” which automatically alerts you once the new releases you're interested in hit Crackle, Hulu, HBO Go, or FX Now. It also tells you if a movie's price drops on Amazon Instant, Vudu, Fandango Now, or Google Play. Your “My Feed” queue is mirrored on the mobile app, so you don't have to be in your living room to see when new content becomes available.

The Stick's new quad-core processor helps everything react with alacrity, although at times it was slightly slower than full-fledged Roku boxes. For example, you may have to wait a second for onscreen images and menus to populate, but I largely ran into those delays only when launching a channel for the first time. Navigation was zippy whether I used the remote or the app, and because both of them use Wi-Fi, you don't need line-of-sight with the Stick—a good thing, because it'll probably be hidden behind your TV.

The Stick's sheer portability isn't the only thing that makes it travel-friendly, as there's a Hotel and Dorm Connect feature that lets you stream over public Wi-Fi connections.

When not in use, the Stick will be probably in your pocket, purse, or carry-on bag. (Don't forget the power supply.) The Stick's sheer portability isn't the only thing that makes it travel-friendly, as there's a "Hotel and Dorm Connect” feature that lets you stream over public Wi-Fi connections—those annoying ones that require a browser-based login. You need to use your phone to do it, and an onscreen guide walks you through the process.

If there's a major weakness with any Roku device, it's the limited casting features. That doesn't change with the Stick, even if it looks sorta like a Chromecast. You can cast Netflix and YouTube from your phone or laptop, and there's a hard-to-find screen-mirroring feature for Windows and Android devices. You can also beam pictures from your phone's photo roll to the big screen; you do that with the "Play on Roku" feature in the mobile app.

So at double the price, why would you get the Roku 3 instead of the Roku Streaming Stick? There are a few reasons, but they'll likely only apply to a small subset of potential buyers. The biggest one is that you'll need solid Wi-Fi to use the Stick; unlike the boxes, there's no Ethernet port on the dongle. There's also no USB port for browsing local files or microSD slot for expanding storage, two things you get with the boxes. You'll need to be comfortable using your phone for some of the Stick's best functions. And with the Stick, you don't get Roku's fetching purple earbuds.

But you do get the culmination of eight years of Roku development. The company has been doing this longer than anyone else, and it shows. This isn't just a stick of gum that provides an absurd 3,000 streaming channels, which is amazing in itself. It's also a stick of gum with an OS that helps you find exactly what to watch—quickly and easily—across a cacophonous sea of content. While the streaming landscape has ballooned in recent years with strong and compelling competitors, Roku has been busy expanding and refining its products. It led the streaming revolution, and now it has essentially perfected the streaming experience.