Amazon Review by Cthulhu
1835 people found the following review helpful
A More Perfect Streaming Stick
Be aware that Roku has announced several new models, to be available starting sometime in October, 2016. I suggest that you do some research before making a purchase decision. I expect to be able to evaluate and post reviews for some of the new models soon.
These are my thoughts after installing and using the current Streaming Stick model. I am constantly updating my review as I learn and experience more but I don’t believe I’ve missed a lot because, as a former user of the now ‘old’ stick as well as Roku 3, Roku 4, Roku LT and Google Chromecast One and Two and having tried Amazon’s Stick and Fire TV, this is an easy to write review.
There are 2 main Roku formats currently (the sticks and Roku 3/4) and then there’s Chromecasts, Amazon’s devices, Apple’s of course so one good question that needs to be answered is “why a (new) Roku Stick and not a Roku 4?” or “why a Roku and not a Chromecast or Fire Stick?” or “why not a Chromecast rather than a Roku?” As an owner and user of Rokus and Chromecasts, I will try to briefly provide some answers below but, first, let me state what this new Stick is about and what it can and can’t do.
[Roku Stick vs. Roku 4]
The Streaming Stick does very much everything a Roku 4 does, except that its remote is does not have motion control so it’s not so good for playing games and it doesn’t come with headphones. I confess that I never cared about playing games on the Roku because just about anything from a cheap phone to a gaming console beats the Roku gaming experience and I don’t care about the headphone attachment either so not having these and paying less for your Roku is a good compromise but anyone who wants Roku games and earbuds should order a Roku 4. You do have an alternative for private listening on the Stick, by the way, and I will discuss it later.
The Streaming Stick lets you access the same enormous amount of channels as the other Roku devices, mostly VOD (video on demand) but also live streams and the number of lie stream channels is growing and they are getting better - I am in fact watching the New York primary returns live on CBSN as I am writing this review and it feels like I never cut the cord some years ago. Almost all the popular ‘pay’ channels (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, HBO Now, MLB.TV , PBS, Showtime…) are there and hundreds of streams you never heard of but may end up watching every once in a while. The on-screen channel store breaks it all down into categories and you can easily browse Roku’s store on a computer or tablet or phone and order your channels to your device. And if there’s something that you can’t find in the official store you can always check the private channel listings. When it comes to ‘content’ Roku 4 and the Stick should be almost indistinguishable because they share a common operating system and interface.
The Stick can pair with Roku’s mobile app to browse and select channels to stream and it should allow for cross-media searches so, for example, you can see where on the (major) channels/services a show or movie may be available and at what price. Also, unique to Rokus at this time, the ‘My Feed’ will track for you movies and shows and update you when they become available on a new service, when prices of purchase or rentals change or when they can be streamed for free on a particular service/channel.
The Stick features 1080p resolution but does not support 4K (UltraHD) for which you will need a Roku 4 but browsing through menus appears to be almost as fast as on the Roku 4. Wi-Fi is as good as on previous models, easy to set and so far stable.
And, of course, the Stick costs less than half as much as a Roku 4.
[Roku Stick vs. Chromecast Two]
We have a Roku 4 and a Chromecast Two attached to the big TV in the living room while the Stick is attached to our bedroom TV. I love the Chromecast, especially its ability to cast off a Chrome browser tab but the Chromecast and the Roku coexist quite nicely and they sometimes complement each other so I will continue to use them both. and this is why. Here’s a comparison where the + means advantage to Stick.
- Remote control (Roku): Yes, controlling the Chromecast from a Chromebook or laptop or tablet or phone is fun but the remote is sometimes easier and I don’t need to mess with my other gadgets.
- Channels management: this is where Roku’s strength lies overall. Yes, they both have ‘thousands’ of channels, probably more for Roku but I happen to prefer Roku’s ability to store all my favorite channels in one place and allow me to arrange them the way I want. Oh, and Chromecast does not have an Amazon app and, given the Google/Amazon rivalry, it’s not likely to have one soon but Roku does.
= Screen casting works well with YouTube and Netflix and it’s the same quality as what you get out of the Chromecast. Both Roku and Chromecast are are supported through a growing number of apps.
- Casting off a browser is what may cause some to pick the Chromecast over a Roku. Yes, it only works with Chrome at this time (on Windows or a Chromebook) and the quality is very much affected by your computer’s CPU and your Wi-Fi network but it does give you a lot of flexibility, especially with live streams and Google seems to constantly improving this because today’s cast quality is significantly better even compared to what we had one year ago…
- Chromecast is slightly less expensive.
[This Stick vs. the ‘old’ Stick]
Well… an upgrade was long overdue. Thanks to more memory, the new quad-core CPU and overall updated electronics this Stick flies when compared to ‘the old’ and that’s expected. What I didn’t expect was its performance almost on par with what we get out of the Roku 4. Yes, the remote is not as fancy and you will need your phone if you want to do private listening and shouldn’t try to do any action games but for its core function which is ‘streaming’, the new Stick is impressive.
If you’ve never used a Roku before but decided that you wanted one the Stick is probably the best bet because it’s the least expensive Roku now unless you can get an LT on sale but the LT is slow…
Installation was as easy as attaching the Stick into TV’s HDMI port. Like the Chromecast, the Stick works with a power adapter that needs a wall outlet. Since I already had a Roku account, I used my existing credentials but for those who don’t it’s easy to create one. Then… go to the channel store and order whatever you want from there. For pay services such as Netflix or Amazon or HBO Now or channels that your cable provider may allow on the Roku you will have to go through additional steps involving separate authentication and access codes but it’s pretty self-explanatory and it’s only done once.
The streaming is exceptionally smooth. I first set the Stick on the second floor which is some 60-70 ft. and two floors away from our dual-band Wi-Fi router located in the basement. Worked perfectly.
Remote control operation is generally smooth and the interface is intuitive. I am very familiar with the Roku interface so this is no surprise for me but I found it intuitive even on ‘day one’ albeit I was using it with a different Roku model then.
I also tried the private listening feature which lets you mute the TV and use your phone, presumably with headphones for sound. It’s not something I am likely to ever do again because I never felt the need but it actually works. The sound off the phone appears to be in sync with the image on the TV so it’s good. Of course, I had an incoming call that wasn’t so good but… it’s a compromise that could work.
So far, the Stick was as stable and reliable as our Roku 4. There were no crashes and I didn’t have to revisit my Wi-Fi setup after the initial installation. Will update if this changes.
The ‘universal search’ feature I like very much. You simply type in the name of a movie or show even an actor and you will see all your options on all ‘major’ channels and you will know in advance whether it’s going to be free or exactly how much it was going to cost. All information appears almost instantly.
I will try to keep this section as objective (factual) as possible. Some of the topics concern Roku in general, not specifically the Stick.
Q: Why would I want a Roku?
A: Roku has, by far, the largest number of ‘channels’ vs. any other competing product. If you like exploring content beyond the popular services (Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Showtime, etc.) you should consider a Roku?
Q: Why would I want a Roku Stick?
A: The Stick is the least expensive Roku at this time. It’s also the smallest and therefore inherently portable.
Q: I already have the old Streaming Stick, should I upgrade?
A: The new Stick’s performance is significantly improved but if faster scrolling through menus and private listening via phones are not important, the overall Roku user experience is virtually the same across the current Roku line.
Q: Between the ‘old’ Roku Stick and the new one, should I maybe pick the old one and save some money?
A: The price difference is so small, especially when considering that you may use this for at least a couple of years, I would go with the new.
Q: Can I use a Roku Stick with a TV lacking an HDMI port?
A: No. To qualify this, ‘maybe’ with an adapter but I haven’t tried one yet.
Q: What are the best screen resolution and audio supported?
A: 1080p, 7.1/5.1 surround sound.
Q: Is there an on/off button?
A: No, the Stick will stay on for as long as it is powered.
Q: How do I reset/reboot it?
A: You can either disconnect it from the power source or you can use the reboot option from the System menu.
Q: Is there an Ethernet (wired) port?
A: No. The Stick supports Wi-Fi connections only.
Q: Does the Streaming Stick support 802.11ac Wi-Fi which is faster and more efficient?
A: No. The Streaming Stick supports 802.11 b/g/n dual-band and does not support 802.11ac. Does it matter? Probably not because the 802.11ac could be put to good use with 4K (ultra HD) streaming which is only supported by Roku 4 at the time I’m writing this.
Q: Is the new Streaming Stick the only Roku device with a quad-core processor?
A: No, Roku 4 has one as well.
Q: Is everything included to make my Roku Stick work besides a TV and an Internet router?
A: Yes. You get the remote (batteries included), the AC wall adapter and USB cable, the Get Started pamphlet, some promo offers.
Q; Will the Roku Streaming Stick work with my 4K TV?
A: Yes, but the screen resolution will be limited to 1080p. Of course, the TV itself may be able to upscale it.
Q: Do I need ‘line of sight’ to control the Stick?
A: No, it comes with an RF remote so you can operate it with the remote even if it’s sitting at the back of your TV.
Q: Can I use my phone or tablet instead of the remote?
A: Yes, you will have to install the Roku app for that.
Q: Can I stream off a PC?
A: Yes through a supported service such as Plex (I know there are others but Plex is the only one I’ve tried so far).
Q: Are the Roku channels free?
A: Many of them are but Roku also streams ‘premium’ channels for which you will require a separate subscription.
Q: If I have a cable subscription, can I watch those channels on the Roku?
A: Your provider may allow for some channels to be viewed on the Roku. Most of them will be VOD (video on demand) rather than live streams.
Q: Can I watch live news on the Roku?
A: Yes, and their number is on the rise. They can be found at Roku’s channel store.
Q: Can I watch local TV channels on the Roku?
A: Yes, some of them. Besides individual channels, there are aggregators that would carry local channels organized by regions/states/markets, often as live streams.
Q: What are private channels.
A: These are channels that, for whatever reason, are not listed by the channel store. You can easily make them ‘appear’ on your TV by picking them from one of the sites that lists such channels. See the first comment to this review for the URLs of such sites.
Q: How much it costs to use a Roku?
A: Once purchased, it could cost you nothing. Or you may subscribe to one or more premium services.
Q: Can I have more than one Roku tied to one account?
A: Yes. I have several Rokus tied to one account.
Q: Will the Stick get the channels I set on my other Roku devices if I am using the same account?
Q: Can I do ‘voice search’ with the Streaming Stick remote?
Q: Can I search for a specific movie, movie director, actor or show across all of Roku’s searchable channels?
A: Yes. Only keep in mind that the not all services are searchable. Only a what we would call the major or more mainstream ones.
Q: Does Roku play favorites with certain services when searching for a specific movie or show?
A: They have a list of more than a dozen ‘mainstream’ services (Amazon, HBO, Netfilx, Google, etc.) and the list, while constantly expanding, is of course finite so you can say that they favor the bigger players but I don’t believe they play favorites with the services that they monitor for content.
Q: Can I watch YouTube on the Roku?
A: Yes, either as a specific channel or, if you run Chrome, you can directly cast YouTube or Netflix.
Q: Can I cast my own content such as photos without having to pay for a third party service?
A: Yes, you will need to run the mobile app for that.
Q: Are there shortcuts buttons to my favorite channels?
A: The remote has 4 dedicated buttons for specific channels such as Amazon and Google. You can’t reassign them, as far as I know. However, all your subscribed channels appear in the channels menu but you can organize them any way you want.
Q: If I also have Chromecast, will I be able to control which device gets the Youtube stream?
A: Yes, tested on a Chromebook.
Q: Are non-video streams supported?
A: Yes, radio stations and music streaming channels such as Pandora are supported.
The first photo shows the new Roku Streaming Stick in the box. The second photo shows the new Stick (black) next to the old one.