“All the specs you want in a streaming stick, with the price to match.”
- Easy to use
- All the features you want
- Roku's advertising scheme means tracking
There’s a reason Roku is the biggest streaming platform in the United States. OK, there are a few reasons. That it’s inexpensive is one. Its priciest traditional streaming product (not counting the newfangled speakers) is about $100 — and that’s before you take any sale pricing into account.
In reality, though, the $50 mark is more of the sweet spot. And that’s where we find ourselves with the new Roku Streaming Stick 4K, and its close cousin, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+. Both are part of the Fall 2021 refresh, and both are going to play a major part in the Roku lineup going forward — even though they’re also not actually the most important thing for Roku in terms of the company’s overall business strategy. Yes, we’ll get into those weeds a tiny bit below.
But, really, what you need to know is this: For most folks, the Roku Streaming Stick
Streaming Stick 4K and the secret of Roku’s success
If you’ve never given
The hardware is available at a number of prices, none of which breaks the bank. The least expensive option is the Roku Express, which is now the only one that doesn’t support 4K resolution. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is at the top of the inexpensive part of the lineup, and it’s been refreshed a tad for 2021.
The internals are updated, but otherwise the
What’s new is what we typically call “speeds and feeds.” That’s tech-speak for important-but-not-exciting-improvements to the internal components.
But when you combine it with some of the software improvements it has helped the
Wi-Fi also is getting a little bit of a boost in the new hardware. Technically it’s running Wi-Fi 5, aka 802.11ac. That’s the previous-generation Wi-Fi standard, but it’s also far fast enough from the perspective of speed, and probably just fine for most people who have no idea (nor care to know) how their home network actually works. It’s also using MIMO dual-band, if that’s the sort of thing you worry about. If you don’t worry about it, that’s OK. You still want it.
One nice touch here — and it’s something I like over, say, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max — is how the power cord is where the wireless antennas are tucked in, which is important to note. It is, however, lacking an HDMI extender in the box, and that could be a problem for some TVs.
Elsewhere on the specs front, you’ve got Dolby Vision and HDR10 for high dynamic range, and Dolby Atmos for audio. Of course, you’ll need a TV and sound system that can handle those standards, but that’s a lot of licensed firepower in a $50 device.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same
Putting the Plus in Roku Streaming Stick 4K+
There is one difference between
Roku in the spring of 2021 introduced the Roku Voice Remote Pro. It still looks and feels like the premium Roku remote, with the headphone jack for private listening, and customizable buttons for voice commands in addition to the new hands-free mode. But this one ditches the replaceable batteries for a rechargeable setup. Better for the environment, bad if you hate occasionally recharging your remote control.
It’s deceptively light, which probably is only a thing if you’re used to the voice remote with replaceable batteries. But it’s also not insignificant, shedding about 30% of the weight of the older remote with a headphone jack to get things down to 2.8 ounces. That doesn’t really make up for the fact that it uses Micro USB for charging, which is darned near unforgivable in 2021. It’s far past time to rip off that bandage.
The Voice Remote Pro also has a feature that helps you find the remote when you lose it. Which is nice.
It was a little odd to see a screen on first boot instructing me to install the batteries into the remote before paring it. That’s a very small nitpick in what otherwise is
Speaking of the hands-free voice control, it works just fine. Say “Hey,
Is that worth the $20 premium over the Streaming Stick
That’s a good thing, actually. It shows that what
Just know that a big part of the
Going forward, it really is more about what
|Roku Express||Roku Express 4K+||Roku Streaming Stick 4K||Roku Streaming Stick 4K+|
|Wi-Fi version||Wi-Fi 4||Wi-Fi 5||Wi-Fi 5||Wi-Fi 5|
Are there any alternatives?
Sure. Roku has a bevy of devices that all work the same but bring different specs and features to the game. If you just have to be plugged in with Ethernet or have expandable storage, for example, check out the latest Roku Ultra. If Roku just isn’t your thing, or you don’t like the idea of what effectively is now an advertising company being in charge of your viewing habits, then maybe the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is for you.
Or if you want more power and a simpler experience — something that’s going to last for far more years than you might expect — then check out the newest Apple TV 4K. Or if Apple just isn’t your thing, then Nvidia Shield and Android TV may be the way to go.
Basically, if it plugs into a TV, it’s an alternative. Dealer’s choice.
How long will it last?
Can’t tell ya. It’s a piece of plastic, not a plant.
But at $50 retail, you’ll more than get your money’s worth if you get a couple of years of use out of the
Should you buy it?
Sure. If you love
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