Roku Streaming Stick 4K full review
The Streaming Stick 4K is Roku's top-of-the-range model, but is competitively priced compared to rivals. With apps for most major streaming services, voice support and Dolby Vision, there are lots of reasons to buy it.
It is more expensive than Roku's Express 4K, but not by much. And it does come with a much better remote control.
But how does it compare to rivals, including the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max? Let's find out.
Design & Build
- HDMI dongle
- Remote control with built-in mic
- Compatible with the Roku remote control app
This Roku Streaming Stick 4K is a classic stick/dongle, so it plugs straight into an HDMI input on your TV. Streaming boxes, by contrast, plug into an HDMI port via a cable.
It’s reminiscent of the Roku Streaming Stick+ design, with a matt black finish. The stick also includes a microUSB port for the power cable, a manual reset button, and a power indicator light.
Unlike Amazon, Roku doesn't supply an HDMI extender cable in the box so you have to plug it in directly to an HDMI input. That could be a pain if your TV's ports face the wall and there isn't much space. It's pretty slim and didn't block the use of adjacent ports on my TV, but the power cable could get in the way of other HDMI cables.
It connects at the rear of the stick, but I found the power cable - at just under 1.5m - was a bit too short to reach the power adapter on floor.
Alongside the stick, you get a Bluetooth remote control. As this is Roku's flagship streaming stick, it comes with all the bells and whistles. There are the playback, navigation and streaming platform buttons, plus volume controls and a power button on the side (which can control most TVs). The other extra is a microphone button, which you press when you want to use you voice to search.
The remote can partly replace your main TV remote, though I sometimes had issues with the mute button not working on occasion, though this could have been because I was using it to control a sound bar rather than the TV. The overall design is bold, chunky and easy to use – and the large, coloured buttons make it much more user-friendly than the remotes provided by rival Amazon.
You can also download the Roku remote control app on your phone to control your TV, which includes playback and voice commands. There's no headphone jack on the remote, but you can route sound via the app on your phone, and then listen via Bluetooth headphones paired with your phone.
Software, Compatibility & Performance
- Dolby Vision, 4K, HDR10+ picture quality
- Roku OS 10.5
- Interface not as detailed as Amazon's
Setting up the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is a breeze. Once it's plugged in, all you need to do is connect to the internet by selecting your Wi-Fi network, synchronise the remote to your TV (you simply follow the instructions on screen), sign in to your Roku account (or create one) and choose which channels and streaming platforms you want on your homepage.
The stick runs Roku OS 10.5, which includes a section for music and podcasts, an expansion on the services that support voice commands (including Netflix and Spotify), as well as improvements to the Roku mobile app.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K can be used on HD, 4K and 4K HDR TVs. It has support for HDR10+ and HLG up to 60fps. The stick is also capable of upscaling from 720p and 1080p. If you want 4K, you will need a 4K TV with an HDMI input that supports HDCP 2.2.
One of the biggest attractions of this device is the support for Dolby Vision. Again, to benefit, your TV must support this HDR format. Roku has also confirmed that it supports Dolby Atmos, though your TV must have this feature for it to show in the settings. The device also has Dolby-encoded audio.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K includes voice support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-enabled devices, and compatibility with Apple HomeKit, allowing you to control the stick via Siri or on the Apple Home app. The voice control on these devices allows you to launch streaming channels, search for movies and shows and control playback.
Apple users can use AirPlay 2 to stream content from their iPhone, iPad or Mac. Meanwhile, Android users can also cast content via screen mirroring - you'll need to pair your phone with the Roku device to allow access.
With Roku, you get the majority of the major streaming apps such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Spotify, Now, All 4, My 5 and more. There are a few services missing, including the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform, Twitch.
Roku also includes sections for different genres such as educational apps, travel apps and more. If you are after something subscription-free, then The Roku Channel has thousands of hours worth of content, including Hell’s Kitchen and the new release, Swimming with Sharks.
Everything on the Roku homepage is clearly laid out, with sections for your apps, the settings on your TV and more. It has less of a focus on self-promotion like Amazon does and includes the option to customise the homepage by changing the background and screensaver.
That said, it is lacking when it comes to film and TV recommendations. Whilst you can manually 'follow' content, Amazon includes entire sections dedicated to shows and films based on what you've watched, without you having to open any apps or take any extra steps.
The Streaming Stick 4K has Wi-Fi 5 which Roku says is up to twice as fast as previous devices from the brand.
Thanks to this, and the speedy processor powering the Stick 4K, I encountered no lag or issues: it was responsive and all the apps I used ran smoothly.
The voice control is also impressive within apps. It makes it quick to search for things on YouTube, especially compared to using the on-screen keyboard from the remote which is extremely tedious.
I wish that Roku had the option to change what sort of ads show up on the interface. I kept getting Fox News ads, but had no interest in watching it. I would prefer to have something more relevant to my interests.
Pricing & Availability
That's £10/$10 more than the Roku Express 4K. However, for that you get power and volume buttons on the remote, plus voice control, making it a more flexible and accessible option.
For only slightly more money, there's Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max. This rival includes a more detailed homepage with a range of TV and film recommendations, as well as built-in Alexa with picture-in-picture support with Ring doorbells. You can read our full review of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
For other alternatives, see our roundup of best streaming sticks and boxes.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is one of the best-value dongles available right now. The remote control has everything you need, including voice support, and Roku’s simple interface make this a brilliant device for first-time users of streaming sticks.
Although it has support for Dolby Vision, 4K, HDR10+ content and Dolby Atmos support, it doesn't quite stack up against Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which boasts smart home integration with Alexa, and better film and TV recommendations on the homepage. It's also a shame the power cable isn't just a bit longer, and that there isn't an HDMI extender in the box.
If these things don't bother you, it's a great buy.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K: Specs
- Media streamer
- 4K, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
- 1080P up to 60fps
- 802.11ac MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi
- Support for Google Assistant and Alexa
- Apple AirPlay and Homekit intergration
- HDMI 2.0b, USB for Power & Long-range Wi-Fi receiver
- DTS digital sound, Dolby-encoded audio and Dolby Atmos
- Remote with power, volume and voice controls
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