Roku Streaming Stick Review
For a price $50 cheaper than Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Roku 3, this streaming media player supports 1080p high definition, myriad subscription streaming services, and hundreds of free channels. It also has the dual-band wireless capabilities of Roku's higher-end boxes. The stick doesn't deliver all the same features, of course, but it's an amazingly capable device at a very low price. (The Roku Streaming Stick is compatible only with HDTVs; consumers without an HDMI port should opt for the Roku 1 or 2.)
Roku Streaming Stick reviews sometimes portray this as a direct competitor to Google Chromecast. Both are small dongles that plug directly into an HDMI port, draw power via USB, and allow users to watch streaming content on a TV. But they are, in fact, two very different devices. Chromecast requires a computer or mobile device to push content to the TV and for navigation, whereas the Roku Stick (starting at $49, Amazon) is a complete streaming media device that comes with a remote. CNET calls it the best of both worlds, as users can navigate with a smartphone and cast content from select mobile apps but also use the remote to pull up Roku's full spectrum of channels. In other words, for about $50, the Roku Streaming Stick offers a solution that competes with the $100 Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku 3.
No one beats Roku in terms of available content. The Roku ecosystem includes all the big players: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video (not available on Apple TV or Chromecast), YouTube, WatchESPN, and HBO Go. The Plex channel lets users stream content stored on a computer. The hundreds of official channels that Roku supports are complemented by private channels with access codes catalogued on sites such as StreamFree.TV. About all that's missing is native support for mirroring a computer screen, a feature of Chromecast and Apple TV.
The Roku Streaming Stick supports high-definition 720p or 1080p content and requires a TV with an HDMI port. This won't be a problem for anyone with a relatively new TV, but those with older models will have to opt for a Roku 1 or 2 with an RCA output (composite video and stereo audio). In one Roku Streaming Stick review on the company's website, an owner notes that the size of the device can make neighboring HDMI ports inaccessible. A Roku representative was quick to offer a complimentary HDMI extender.
What the Roku Streaming Stick lacks are some bells and whistles that may be important to some consumers. The remote doesn't have the headphone jack included on the Roku 2 and 3 remotes, a much-appreciated feature among users who like to watch TV in bed without disturbing a significant other. The Roku Streaming Stick also doesn't include motion control for games or have the high-end hardware of the Roku 3. Because of this, some apps such as Netflix and YouTube may take a little longer to load -- the primary gripe in CNET's Roku Streaming Stick review. On the flipside, the stick houses the same dual-band wireless connectivity the Roku 2 and 3 use.
This streaming device supports 1080p playback and even allows users to cast content from the Netflix and YouTube mobile apps (a feature that's not supported by Roku 1 or 2) and display content stored locally on a smartphone via the Roku app. In short, this is an excellent, fully loaded streaming media device for anyone looking to "cut the cord" or supplement a home theater setup on a budget.