Roku Streaming Stick 4K Review: This $ 50 Dongle Does It Mostly

If you want to buy a streaming player without thinking too much, just get the new one Roku Streaming Stick 4K.

This $ 50 streaming dongle feels fast and smooth, and it supports 4K HDR video with Dolby Vision and HDR10 +. More importantly, it’s a straightforward streaming device packed with useful features, and its improved Wi-Fi receiver helps you get better reception than previous low-cost Roku players.

I will continue to explore the Roku interface, which could use more convenient ways to follow and discover things to see. Still, it’s a much quieter experience than Amazon’s Fire TV devices, a more secure (albeit less visionary) option than the Chromecast with Google TV, and a much cheaper option than any Apple TV box.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best media streamers, where you will find reviews of competing offerings, as well as a buyer’s guide on the features to consider when purchasing this type of product.

Evaluating the new suit

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K replaces the 2019 Roku Streaming Stick +. It’s a slightly faster device with better Wi-Fi performance and adds Dolby Vision HDR, which Roku had only offered on its $ 100 Roku Ultra before. On televisions with Dolby Vision support, this allows for per-scene color optimizations while watching compatible HDR content. The only missing piece here is support for Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound, which remains exclusive to Ultra in the Roku line.

rokustreamingstick4kpluggedin Jared Newman / IDG

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K has a built-in HDMI connector and can draw power from a TV’s USB port.

The size and shape have mostly not changed. The Streaming Stick 4K is still a narrow dongle that connects directly to your TV’s HDMI port; Roku will send you a free HDMI extender if you need it, and your USB power cable has a built-in module for the device’s Wi-Fi 5 radios. You can connect the five foot power cord to the USB port on newer TVs or to an electrical outlet with an included adapter.

The Streaming Stick 4K’s remote control uses an RF connection so you can point anywhere, with no line of sight to the device, but it also has an infrared blaster to control the TV’s volume, power, and mute. Unfortunately, Roku remotes cannot yet independently control sound bars or A / V receivers via infrared, so if your sound system does not support HDMI-CEC, you will need a separate remote control to adjust the volume.

rokustreamingstick4kremote Jared Newman / IDG

The Roku remote includes volume, power, and mute buttons for your TV.

For an additional $ 20, you can also upgrade to Voice Remote Control Pro, which adds a headphone jack for private listening, two programmable buttons, hands-free voice control, a rechargeable battery, and a remote finder feature that you can activate through the Roku mobile app. (Read our review of the Voice Remote Pro, which is otherwise $ 30 on its own, here.)

Speeds and feeds

Roku has perfected the art of squeezing performance with cheap hardware. Menus load quickly and scroll smoothly on the 4K Streaming Stick, and you never have to wait long for apps to load. The $ 100 Roku Ultra still launches apps a couple seconds faster on average, but the Streaming Stick 4K doesn’t seem like a major compromise for half the price. (Compared to the $ 40 Roku Express 4K +, I found the performance to be roughly the same.)

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