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Roku Streaming Stick: has many apps that people want right now

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Update: The Roku Streaming Stick is an admirable space-saving video streaming device. But if you’re looking for the full experience, including 4K Ultra-HD video, check out the Roku 4.

The Roku Streaming Stick seems to get better every day. By combining over 1,000 apps – including Sling TV, Plex and now NBC Sports Live Extra in the US – with an HDMI dongle design that’s the size of a thumb drive and an irresistible price of $49/£49, the Roku Streaming Stick may just win the streaming cold war with its cord tied behind its back. Recent advancements in home entertainment technology have granted the power of HDMI compatibility, making it the more app-inclusive alternative to the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

That’s important because Roku has been down this road before with a similar streaming stick that only worked with MLH-compatible TVs. It’s an idea that pre-dated Chromecast as an affordable way to instantly project apps onto a big-screen television by nine months. But Roku’s MHL requirement meant consumers had to buy or already own a “Roku Ready” TV with this special HDMI slot. Now, the company is taking cues from Google with the Roku Streaming Stick 2014 that delivers apps to any TV when it’s plugged into an HDMI port. It comes with a handy remote and sports a familiar interface that has made past Roku devices so easy to use. It costs a little more than Chromecast and doesn’t have all of the special features like mirroring an entire computer to the TV, but that’s the price of having more than 50 times as many compatible apps and a physical remote control. (2,000 at last count.)

Design

The Roku Streaming Stick is small, but its designers managed to bathe almost every inch of it in the company’s familiar purple hues. It’s a bit obnoxious to have what appears to be an oversized purple thumb drive jutting out of a black or gray television, as much as we appreciate Roku for sticking to its guns with the color choice. The good news is that the Roku Streaming Stick dimensions allow it to easily hide behind a TV set – in most cases. It’s 3.1 in x 1.1 in x .5 in, which is a tad larger than the Chromecast at 2.8 in x 1.4 in x .47 in. While the Roku stick is a lot lighter at 18 grams vs Chromecast’s condensed 34 grams, the more important factor is the size.

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

These extra tenths of an inch could make the Roku Streaming Stick a tight squeeze in the back of a television set, depending on where the HDMI ports are located. We weren’t able to slide it into HDMI 1 of the TV we tested it on because there wasn’t enough room. Remember, these HDMI slots are designed to accommodate HDMI cables with flexible cords beyond a inch. The Roku? It can’t be bent. Google solved this problem by boxing Chromecast with an HDMI extender, an optional adapter with a flexible body. It’s an extra accessory just in case your HDMI ports are too close together or the open HDMI slots are inconveniently on the rear of a wall-mounted TV. It’s also supposed to boost WiFi reception. The Roku Streaming Stick includes none of this, even though it costs more.

Once the Roku is securely in an HDMI slot, it works as advertised as long as you have a way to power it. There’s a micro USB cable included that’s 6 feet long – the same length as the Chromecast micro USB cable – and a power adapter. They can be plugged into any power outlet or a USB port with enough wattage. Roku says that the streaming stick typically takes less than 2W when streaming HD video, so it’s green-planet friendly and not overly demanding if your TV does have a nearby USB port. The vents that line the sides of this HDMI stick ensure the hardware on the inside runs silently, and the dual-band wireless N antennas keeps the WiFi connectivity fast enough for all of the HD video thrown at it. We didn’t experience slowdown from the single-band Chromecast once videos got started, but because Roku has dual-band antennas, it supports both the overcrowded 2.4 GHz frequency and the less trafficked 5 GHz frequency. Of course, this only matters if your router supports the 5 GHz variety.

Apps

Roku always confidently boasts that it has more apps than all of its competitors combined. With over 2,000 apps that statement is true, even if a large chunk of them are niche apps no one has ever heard of. What’s important is that all of the major apps or “Roku channels” are here. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vudu and HBO Go all stream movies and TV shows without a hitch.

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

For US users, there’s also a clutch Time Warner Cable app, but it’s requirements aren’t as subscriber-friendly. It not only needs the name and password of a TWC TV subscriber, it forces streaming to happen in the home using a Timer Warner cable modem. There’s no HBO Go-style password sharing possible here. On the other hand, if you’re ready to cut the cord you’ll find the excellent option Sling TV available to download on the Roku Channel Store. Sling TV made a splash on the Roku Streaming Stick by offering a free $49.99 streamer to new subscribers who prepay for three months of service. Overall the service works really well on the device, with only small amounts of hiccups to interfere with your cost-saving cable service alternative.

The Roku Streaming stick ecosystem also has your music streaming playlists on demand with Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, iHeart Radio, Plex and so on. Google Music and the newer Beat Music are the only major music streaming services you won’t find on this or any Roku device. There are over 50 apps for kids, including PBS Kids and four separate Disney stations, and 66 apps for sports fans. WatchESPN is the most popular, while MLB.TV, WWE Network, MLS Live and NHL GameCenter make the top 10 list among sports apps. Each requires a subscription or pay-per-view for live streaming. There’s an NBA GameTime app, but it only offers live score updates. Still, these 66 sports apps are 66 more than non-athletic Chromecast offers right now.

Other channel genres include News & Weather, Science & Technology and the niche among niche apps, Special Interest. QVC is the No. 1 app here followed by the Aliens and UFOs Channel, and it just gets weirder from there. You can fall for the dedicated Pranks channel or spend time checking out the bizarre Occult Network Channel. It’s also nice to see the Liquidation channel is still hanging in there like an “everything must go sale” that never seems to end.

Remote

The Roku Streaming Stick remote control is just larger than the palm of your hand. It’s size and pill-shaped form factor make it easy to hold with one hand and still reach all of the buttons. A two-handed approach to this small remote makes you look ridiculous. That’s when you know a company got its TV remote design right. Intuitive buttons for going back and home are up top, followed by the traditional Roku directional pad. Below that are skip backward, an OK button and the options key. Rewind, play/pause and fast forward are the only other media playback buttons. It’s just the essentials and sometimes that’s all you need.

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

The bottom portion of the remote is dedicated to four apps. The logos of M-Go, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Blockbuster, adorn these four shortcuts and make navigation a bit easier and less confusing. In fact, pretty much the only confusing about the remote is why Blockbuster was included as one of the shortcuts. HBO Go, Hulu Plus or, heck, even QVC wouldn’t been a better choice. As easy as it is to use the Roku Streaming Stick remote, it’s not as advanced as the Roku 3. That’s the one that includes a headphone jack for a unique “private listening” mode. It’s one of those ideas that you haven’t seen anywhere else before, so it’s curious as to why Roku didn’t it in this Roku model.

Motion control sensors for games are also absent. Fans of Angry Birds Space are going to have to bow out of the remote wagging fun when using the Roku Streaming Stick version. Of course, if it’s games you’re after, the Amazon Fire TV is shaping up to be the best choice. It has a dedicated gamepad sold separately and promises 1,000 games by the end of April. Losing this Roku remote doesn’t spell the end of streaming. There’s a Roku remote app offered in the iOS and Google Play app stores, and it goes beyond simple on-screen controls. It boasts a QWERTY keyboard for a much quicker method of searching through content. You’ll never want to hunt and peck with the remote’s direction pad again after using the app.

Interface

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The Roku Streaming Stick interface is decked out in purple, which helps emphasize the colorful logos of its apps. After all, the 1,000-plus apps are rightfully the main focus of every Roku. Sorting through them is just as clear cut. The default My Channels menu arranges your favorite apps into a easy-to-navigate grid layout that can be customized with a few clicks of the remote. Do you want Netflix in the top row of this 3 x infinity grid? You got it. Want to demote Blockbuster to the very bottom or even delete it? That’s just as simple. You just can’t get rid of its permanent shortcut button on the remote.

Below My Channels are separate sections for movies and TV shows. Unfortunately, both menus are dedicated to the on-demand video service M-Go. As tempting as its “two free movies for signing up” deal is, it would’ve been nice to see a more fleshed-out pair of sub-sections. Ones that catalogued new and interesting video content from all apps installed, not just M-Go, would’ve done the trick.

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

The comprehensive search menu actually does just that if you do some of the heavy-lifting. It offers a deep dive through all apps installed when typing in the name of a movie, TV show, actor or director. Simply typing in “Wolf of Wall Street” lists four entries, all in HD, with Amazon Instant Video and Vuvu displaying cheaper rental prices. M-Go and Redbox Instant are more expensive. Save a dollar, earn a dollar, and eventually this Roku will pay for itself.

Searching through the Roku ecosystem is only matched by the Amazon Fire TV, which lets you perform voice searches via a built-in mic on the remote. There’s no hunting-and-pecking with the remote or even a need to pick up a smartphone to activate the on-screen QWERTY keyboard. Saying “Wolf of Wall Street” aloud is a whole lot easier than typing it out with the remote’s directional pad. Last but not least is the new ability to download themes from the Roku Store. So far HBO has released a free premium theme for Game of Thrones, while Netflix has offered up some of its House of Cards concept art.

Roku Streaming Stick vs Chromecast

The Roku Streaming Stick is the instant winner over Chromecast right now if you’re looking for apps like Amazon Instant Video, Time Warner Cable or niche content that isn’t available Google’s device just yet. However, the Roku Streaming Stick costs $50 (£50, about AU$54), which is half the price of a Roku 3, but more expensive than the Chromecast. Google undercuts the price of all streaming players at $35 (£30, about AU$39).

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

This Roku is also missing the ability to mirror a computer display onto a big screen. That’s the standout feature of Chromecast and its clutch Chrome tab browser extension. All Roku devices can beam photos and music from iOS and select Android devices, but it’s clunky software that isn’t worth the buffering time. Roku is clearly charging a premium for its more expansive ecosystem. It’s going to be some time before Google is able to catch up to the 1,000 apps that are available right now on Rokus.

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

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Roku Streaming Stick vs Amazon Fire TV Stick

The Roku Streaming Stick is the agnostic older brother to the Amazon Fire TV Stick. If you can’t decide which e-tailer to give your money to, and would rather give it to the services themselves, this is the streamer for you. It also has the most content than any other platform. However just be prepared to wait a bit longer for it to load, speed really isn’t Roku’s strong suit.

Amazon Fire TV, on the other hand, is lightning-quick and is best suited for those people who have really sunk their teeth into the Amazon ecosphere. It has better specs than anything in that form-factor and is $10 cheaper than the Roku Streaming Stick. Amazon Fire TV feels like a device specifically engineered for Amazon Prime subscribers and while everyone else is welcome, you’ll have a hard time finding something to watch without ponying up a $99 per year subscription fee.

Want to know more? Check out our handy Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Chromecast free-for all! We liked

The Roku Streaming Stick slims down Roku’s popular app delivery system and halves the price of the Roku 3. There are over 2,000 apps and yet the grid is easy to customize. Its interface ties everything together and the remote is small enough for one-handed navigation. Those are two things missing from Chromecast. It requires you to go into individual apps on a phone or tablet to beam them to a TV and it is only compatible with iOS and Android devices.

This Roku platform is the remedy for people who want ditch the smartphone and tablet and, instead, press the “easy button” on a physical remote to be entertained.

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Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

We disliked

The size of this streaming stick is larger than the head of any HDMI cable, and some TVs tuck their HDMI ports into the frame of the television. That can make the Roku Streaming Stick a tight fit. Roku its all about its apps, but not much else. There’s no computer or mobile device mirroring going on here, and its remote doesn’t think outside the set-top box like the Amazon Fire TV does with its innovative voice search. The Roku Streaming Stick isn’t necessarily better than Roku 3. In fact, it’s missing the unique headphone jack in the remote for its private listening mode. It just happens to be cheaper, but not as inexpensive as Google’s Chromecast.

Review: UPDATED: Roku Streaming Stick

Verdict

The Roku Streaming Stick is a cinch to plug into any spacious enough HDMI port now that it doesn’t require an MHL-compatible TV. From now on a “Roku Ready” HDTV just means having a TV with an ordinary HDMI port thanks to this more compatible version of the device. It’s not quite as affordable as the Chromecast, but it has more of the apps that people want right now, including Amazon Instant Video. That’s significant because Amazon often has cheaper HD movie rentals than other services. It’s an app you won’t find on either Chromecast or Apple TV. There are a number of new streaming devices out right now, but the the Roku Streaming Stick stands as the most efficient way to make a normal HDTV into a smart TV without springing for a pricier set-top box. At least until the Google Chromecast app list is able to catch up.

Source: feedproxy.google.com

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33 thoughts on “Roku Streaming Stick: has many apps that people want right now

  1. True, RyanD, but remember when Gmail was in beta for about five years?

  2. Buyer Review: http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=roku%20streaming%20stick&linkCode=ur2&sprefix=roku,electronics,145&tag=buyadealorg-20&url=search-alias%3Delectronics – I got mine today and it was simple and easy to set up. I have a Roku 3, as well as 2 Apple TVs. I primarily use my Roku 3, and now having the Streaming Stick, it will be nice to have when traveling. It’s a simple and easy interface. I also have a Chromecast, and right now, Roku has a leg up because it has a great deal of apps available. It’s a good.Simple, easy to use and easy setup! Roku is the dark horse company that is giving Google and Apple a reason to be quite nervous!

  3. It seems to me that all these devices are a major compromise, I know they are well priced, but I would gladly pay extra if it did everything. I don’t want to carry all of them, at the moment, I use an hdmi from my tablet as it’s more capable. Is there a device that can stream local content stored on a device (like Samsung allshare app), stream apps (like chromecast) and mirror a phone/tablet screen (like netgear ptv3000)? I don’t use Apple products, so rule that one out. Can Techradar review this device http://www.prestigio.com/multicenter it looks pretty interesting.

  4. @scottgilbert Not much in the way of reviews for the Prestigio on youtube yet, and nothing on Amazon. Come on Techradar, pull your finger out and get one in for a review, or at least let us know you have plans to review it!

  5. I purchased a streaming stick to be able to use my Netflix and Spotify in the bedroom, this does not work in the Netherlands (and none mentioned this as it even had a picture on the box)…. I feel let down and disappointed and it is a waste of money for me, will remain in the box or I will sell it on (if I can)

  6. It’s a streaming service, all programs are received over the wifi connection, but for the most part you have to pay for access to Roku and then pay for the network. So you have to have 3-things; a cable or high performance network accessible via wifi; a Roku account and a TV.

  7. I just canceled AT & T UVerse cable and I already have Net-Flix but thinking of getting the Roku stick, do you have to attach an antennae to the tv as we’ll or just use the stick, TIA.

  8. Great article Matt! :) . For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Roku by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

  9. Great article. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Roku by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

  10. My streaming stick works great…..for a while, then it freezes and has to be manually reset, but that doesn’t last for long. I am told there is to much interference between the modem & the stick. they suggest the more powerful roku 3, which of course costs much more. Any ideas of how to boost the stick?

  11. i’m thinking about getting a ROKU streaming stick, but hearing a lot of negative revues about this item, is this only because the app can on be used on say Netflix, Amazon etc? Can this or other boxes be used for mainstream tv channels,such as BBC1,ITV1, plus all freeview ?

  12. Roku 3500 (HDMI) is a gimmick to me, you get better performance from one of the

  13. I had so many problems with the Streaming Stick it drove me crazy! Replaced it with the Roku 3; not one problem, works great, love it!

  14. I don’t know why you would say casting chrome tabs is the signature feature of the Chromecast. It is faulty and considered a beta feature. It even says beta when you access it. It would be great if it worked better on all computers.

  15. Have just purchased Roku 1 streaming stick – setup ok but not able to get BBC I player, sky news, crackle, Netflix etc – only USA channels – contacted support desk via live chat to be told not available even though advertised on box etc – poor product, poor service do not buy waste of time and money and Roku service worst in world

  16. you can skip the credit card section… when it asks you to enter your credit card while setting up the roku just scroll down to the bottom of the page. should be at the bottom right i belive! i set these up as demos at a retail store all the time

  17. Yes you are buying a device to access those services. There are free services if you want like Youtube.

  18. I thought (nothing I read indicated otherwise) that once the purchase of Roku was made that was the extent of $$$$ out of pocket! NOT the case…….. I have ACCESS to Neflix yes, but it’ll cost an extra 8.00 a month to view! I have ACCESS to Huluplus yes, but it’ll cost an extra $$$ a month to view! I have ACCESS to Movies yes, but it’ll cost an extra $$$$ to view! ETC, ETC…… One other aspect that is EXTREMELY troubling……they absolutely must have CREDIT CARD info before you can EVEN ACCESS the SYSTEM THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN PURCHASED!!! AMAZING!!!! One would think, in this day of technology, I’d be able to ACCESS&VIEW system I purchased & THEN IF I DESIRED access to programs requiring MORE MONEY then CC info would be required AT THAT TIME!!!!! WHAT a GIMMICK! I made this purchase for those visitors that are already accustomed to seeing more than basic TV! Well live and learn; unfortunately, I feel others need this info upfront & will certainly make my voice heard so their experience into the

  19. Mine was a piece of junk too, replaced it with the Roku 3…it’s wonderful!

  20. Save your $50. I purchased a Roku Streaming Stick with remote at end of Oct 2014. Didn’t even use it a dozen times, and here it is May 2015 and this piece of junk no longer works.

  21. Could be, however I think maybe the Roku sticks are not compatible with my older LG, maybe early HDMI issue? The Roku 2, I suspect was defective? My chromecast works perfectly as well as an LG blueray, PS3, PS4 and WiiU. I even use a remote controlled HDMI switch now with no problems for the PS3,4 and WiiU. I have heard of others not being able to use the Roku stick on older TV’s? I may try a Roku again sometime but I am enjoying the chromecast now that there are more apps for it.

  22. Tried two of them on my LG 32 inch TV. Both gave me nice totally black screens when they actually were recognized by the HDMI port which they were not most of the time I was trying to get than to work. So went to the Roku 2 set it up with a new account etc. and it worked for three hours before overheating and dying. Could not get it to work after even with a reset! So bad experience so far for me!

  23. Just a note for anyone who goes and buys one of these based on this review – the Amazon LoveFilm Instant Prime (or whatever it’s called nowadays) app has been removed from Roku. Neither Roku or Amazon are committing to whether or not it will be supported in future. It is still available on devices with US firmware, but no UK devices will run Amazon Instant Video services, despite what this review says.

  24. No, but I had multiple other problems with it; got rid of the streaming stick and got the Roku 3 and have not had one problem…love it!

  25. has anyone had a problem loading roku 3500r and keep getting (error 0110) when you go to the support site they tell you your network is infected but they can fix it for anywhere from$199.99 for a year up to 499.99 for 5 years?

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