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Roku Streaming Stick+ 2017 review: 4K HDR powerhouse

The Good

  • 4K HDR support
  • Enhanced WiFi range
  • Simple setup
  • Great channel selection
  • Private listening app

The Bad

  • No Dolby Vision support

If you want to add 4K HDR streaming services to your telly, complete with access to private channels and impressive WiFi capabilities, the seriously smart and compact Streaming Stick+ from Roku is one of your best options.

Roku’s Streaming Stick+ boasts the same compact form factor of the standard Streaming Stick, but with the high resolution abilities of the premium Roku Ultra. In other words, the tech-filled Roku Streaming Stick+ is capable of throwing 4K resolution video to your TV, complete with HDR support and playback at 60 frames per second.

That’s a big jump over the standard Stick’s Full HD output, yet without much added bulk – this device will still hide away behind your television, out of sight.

Despite adding 4K and HDR streaming support and keeping the size down, Roku has also extended the Wi-Fi range by up to four times compared with the older model. Some bold moves on a streaming device that is a meagre £80.

So is this new smart stick worth the money to get those extra Roku channels, including the private ones which modern smart TVs lack? Or is the inclusion of 4K and HDR not so necessary at this stage, where content is still limited? We plugged in and dug around the legendary Roku menu for this in-depth review.

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Roku Streaming Stick+ 2017 review: Design, build and setup

The Roku Streaming Stick+ actually looks pretty good, for a dinky USB streamer. Despite being designed to sit hidden away behind a TV, the stick is surprisingly sleek, with a premium finish. Perhaps this is because Roku also expects users to take this device on their travels, to friends’ houses and hotel rooms. While the stick itself plugs straight into the TV HDMI port, which is neat and tidy, there is also a separate cable for both power and WiFi.

By separating the WiFi into the cable, Roku was able to extend the range of this 802.11ac dual-band MIMO WiFi by up to four times. That should mean that it now works in any room in your home, regardless of where the WiFi router lives; unless you’re residing in a mansion, of course.

This new setup worked well with superfast streaming of 4K and UHD content, even when tucked away behind the TV; normally you might think this would partially block the signal, yet we saw no signs of this issue here. The inclusion of an extension cable for the power adapter is also a nice touch that makes installation easy.

The only negative we can see here is the need for an old school mini USB cable. If this was the more modern micro USB found on phones and wireless headphones you might already have that cable on you when moving about. Instead, if you’re taking the Streaming Stick+ to a hotel or friend’s place, you’ll need to remember that old fashioned cable too.

But setting the Streaming Stick+ up anywhere is a doddle. Plug it in, power on the TV and it auto detects the screen itself. This not only includes finding the maximum resolution and frame rate; the Roku device also pairs up to the remote so it can offer TV controls, meaning you only need one remote. More on that later.

Once you’re powered up, you simply need to setup WiFi, pop in an activation code on a browser using your new Roku account, and everything sets itself up. A five minute process, end to end.

What works?

This compact streamer offers a neat and tidy design that actually looks pretty neat. Setup is clean and simple too, making for a great first impression of the Streaming Stick+.

What doesn’t?

It’s a shame the more recent Type C USB tech isn’t on offer, but most streamers still use the old micro USB method and it’s far from a proper issue.

Roku Streaming Stick+ 2017 review: Quality, content and speed

When it comes to video quality, you can’t ask for much more than what the Streaming Stick+ offers. That dinky stick automatically detects the maximum resolution and frame rate your TV can handle and supplies up to 4K resolution visuals (3840×2160) at up to 60fps. Our test TV, which is a two year old top-end Samsung, was limited to 30fps for some reason. Thankfully we could still take full advantage of the HDR10 support, although if you’re using a Dolby Vision television, you’ll be left wanting.

The quad-core processing onboard the Streaming Stick+ is plenty fast enough. Once apps are setup and signed into, they can be opened or jumped between quickly. Thanks to that super Wi-Fi connectivity, you can even get 4K and HDR video streaming quickly without waiting for all that buffering of lower quality content you sometimes have to put up with. This is particularly great for Netflix binge sessions in 4K and HDR.

Thanks to the Roku platform, you have access to a massive catalogue of content. Over 150,000 movies and TV shows, in fact. But since there are only a few 4K offerings like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, this doesn’t offer much more than most 4K smart TVs already have onboard.

The big sell here is the Roku private channels, which allow for third-party developed platforms – meaning all sorts of content including games and even less-than-legal film and TV access. Of course, you could get a cheaper Roku Express for £30 and still get access to those channels, which don’t require 4K anyway. But expect more 4K content to arrive in the future, and take into consideration that having everything on one device is far easier than mixing and matching.

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What works?

4K HDR10 support means you’ll enjoy gorgeous visuals if your TV is up to it. We also love the strong selection of channels, both private or otherwise, which gives access to a diverse range of content.

What doesn’t?

If you have a Dolby Vision telly, you’ll need to look elsewhere for a HDR-ready streamer.

Roku Streaming Stick+ 2017 review: App, remote and private audio extras

The remote control with the Streaming Stick+ is great as it not only controls the Roku device, but works with your TV too. This was so easy to setup, with auto detection via HDMI, that it meant that we simply tapped a few buttons to confirm it was working and then had full TV controls via the Roku remote. By giving you access to volume (via a side rocker) as well as the TV power, you can do everything with that single remote. So long, old telly controller.

The remote doesn’t feature a headphone port for private listening, like some older Roku devices. This is both good and bad. It’s bad if you want to plug right in, but also good as you can now listen in via your phone instead, meaning you don’t churn through remote controller batteries.

Listening via the phone app, with your headphones connected to your mobile, works really well without any kind of lag. This makes getting lost in films, turned up nice and loud, really easy even when others are trying to get some rest. We imagine this would be a nice feature to use when watching in a hotel, too.

Talking of moving about with the Streaming Stick+, the app also makes for a great remote replacement. You’ll only need the Streaming Stick+, cable and a USB plug to get up and running anywhere you go, which is good news if you accidentally leave the remote control behind.

Roku’s remote app is instantly picked up, complete with proper dynamic on-screen menus. It’s a clever setup that actually makes using the Streaming Stick+ easier. For instance, you can be playing something on your telly while you’re browsing all of the other available channels on your phone, to pick what to watch next. Perfect for endless YouTube binge sessions.

Check out our Roku tips and tricks guide for more on the software side, including our favourite hidden features. We’ve also chosen our favourite Roku apps that you need to download straight away.

What works?

The remote control is well designed and versatile enough to function with your TV as well. Otherwise, the Roku app offers smarter controls as well as private listening.

What doesn’t?

You might be gutted to hear that you can no longer plug your earphones directly into your Roku remote, even if it does mean longer battery life.

Roku Streaming Stick+ 2017 review: Verdict

If you want a streaming device that allows you the extra range to work anywhere in your home, the Streaming Stick+ is ideal. The remote that controls the TV as well as the Roku box itself is a brilliantly simple yet effective addition, while the app offers an even better experience, including private listening.

The fact that you also get 4K and HDR support on board, plus the myriad Roku channels (including those specialist private channels) really makes for a comprehensive streaming device. That £80 price tag really does seem low when you consider everything that the new Streaming Stick+ delivers.


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