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Roku Streaming Stick Review: Better Than Chromecast?

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Roku Streaming Stick Review: Better Than Chromecast?

Reviews Michael Grothaus 12:thirteen, 25 Apr 2014

It prices £50 lower than Apple TV, has 15x the variety of channels and works in an identical method to Chromecast. Yep, we're excited too

Typical Worth: 
£forty nine.ninety nine
Execs: 
seven hundred+ channels means you’ll by no means harm for content material. Easy setup. Straightforward navigation
Cons: 
HDMI cable isn't included. UK Roku Streaming Stick lacks the search function of the US model
Verdict: 
Just about good in each regard. All we'd like now's that pesky search performance added. Do that, Roku, and you may have 5 Stars.

The Roku Streaming Stick hit the UK market this week and its simply the newest of an ever increasing subject of streaming set-prime bins which might be hoping to turn out to be the hub of your front room leisure centre. In fact it’s extra correct to name the Roku Streaming Stick, properly, a “streaming stick”, than a set-prime field, as a result of it takes the shape issue of Google’s Chromecast, a dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. I’ve been enjoying with Roku’s newest for the previous week. Right here’s what I’ve discovered. 

Design, Specs, and Compatibility

The Roku Streaming Stick is a diminutive little dongle that plugs instantly into your TV’s HDMI port. However earlier than I launch any extra into its design, let’s take a fast take a look at all of its recognized specs:   

  • Output: HDMI, (CEC help unknown)
  • Processor: Unknown
  • RAM: Unknown
  • Storage: Unknown
  • Max. Output Video Decision: 1080p
  • Dimensions: seventy eight(L) x 28(W) x 12(H) mm
  • Weight: 18g
  • Connectivity: 802.eleven dual-band (a/b/g/n suitable) with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 help
  • Energy: micro USB (Energy adapter included)
  • Supported Units: iOS, Android, Mac OS X, Home windows  

On this evaluate I simply need to solely concentrate on what the Roku Streaming Stick is and does, however if you wish to see how its specs (and the remainder of the Roku Streaming Stick’s options) stack up towards Google’s Chromecast check out my article here.

The Roku Streaming Stick seems to be like a bigger USB thumb drive bathed in Roku’s trademark purple, however as an alternative of a USB port it’s acquired an HDMI port at one finish. The highest of the Roku Streaming Stick is stamped with the Roku emblem whereas the underside of it has a sticker with its serial quantity. Alongside the edges of the stick there are vents minimize into its physique to let the warmth out so it runs silently.

On the top reverse the HDMI port is a microUSB port that it's essential to plug within the included USB cable to energy the system. Just like the Chromecast, the Roku Streaming Stick wants this USB energy as a result of the facility base couldn't be constructed into such a small system. The Roku Streaming Stick comes with a wall charger you plug the USB cable into or you'll be able to merely forgo the wall charger and plug the USB cable immediately into your TV’s USB port (if it has one). That is the optimum answer as you possibly can tie up the USB cable so it’s not dangling from the again of the TV. The USB cable Roku supplies is six ft lengthy. 

As to how the Roku Streaming Stick seems to be when it’s plugged into your TV completely depends upon your tv. I’m fortunate in that my TV has HDMI ports which might be spaced extensively sufficient the Roku Streaming Stick doesn’t overlap two adjoining ports. My TV’s bezel can also be simply vast sufficient, too, and ensures the purple Roku Streaming Stick stays utterly out of sight. However that’s earlier than I join the USB cable to energy the Roku Streaming Stick. Then issues change and proper now I can see the USB cable awkwardly curving out and again across the aspect of my TV.

Roku hasn’t stated how a lot RAM or storage is contained in the Roku Streaming Stick, nor the kind of processor. However as a result of the Roku Streaming Stick is designed as solely a streaming system you don’t want to fret that its underpowered by no matter is inside. The Roku Streaming Stick will output video as much as 1080p and is suitable with each 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz wi-fi networks. And whereas the Roku Streaming Stick works all by itself, it’s additionally suitable with iOS, Android, Mac OS X, and Home windows. 

Set-Up 

As talked about above, hardware setup was a breeze. I opened the field, positioned the batteries within the distant, then plugged in my Roku Streaming Keep on with my TV’s HDMI port after which the USB cable into my TV’s USB port. I then chosen that HDMI channel on my TV and was instantly greeted with the Roku emblem on my display.

Establishing the software program aspect of issues was virtually simply as straightforward. The distant, which works on Wi-Fi, related to my Roku Streaming Stick instantly. I used to be then requested to pick my Wi-Fi network and enter the password for it. The Roku Streaming Stick instantly joined it and looked for software program updates, discovered one, downloaded it, and restarted.

One annoying factor is when the Roku Streaming Stick restarted I assumed I might be capable of use it instantly, however I used to be truly proven a URL onscreen that I needed to go to in my pc’s net browser to enter a code to register the Roku Streaming Stick to my Roku account. Since I didn’t have one, I wanted to create one and in addition enter in my bank card info (in case I needed to purchase some channels). This took an additional 5 minutes and type of killed the “fast setup” euphoria I used to be feeling. Nevertheless, if you have already got a Roku account, you’ll simply be requested to log in after which you're accomplished.

OS and UI 

After setup I used to be greeted with the Roku residence display. 5 channels have been already displayed: Now TV, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, and Sky Information.

Should you’ve used a Roku earlier than, its OS will look no totally different on the Roku Streaming Stick. Put in channels are displayed as massive grid icons on the suitable two-thirds of the display. On the left aspect of the display is the navigation menu with three sections: My Channels, Channel Retailer, and Settings. I used the distant to launch iPlayer and instantly it was there on scree – and, importantly, it was a lot simpler to work together with (and far quicker loading) than on my YouView field.

One wonderful thing about the Roku OS is that it allows you to simply add, take away, and rearrange channels. This allows you to customise the Roku interface so you'll be able to shortly entry the channels you want probably the most – and utterly take away those you don’t. One other great point is that Roku lets you price channels so you'll be able to hold monitor of your favourites.

Getting into the Channel Retailer you’ll discover all the varied free and paid for channels Roku provides, which is so much – however extra on that under. Including a channel is so simple as choosing it with the distant, then clicking “Add Channel.” The channel will obtain from the Web and when it's achieved will routinely seem in your My Channels display.

One other small function I like concerning the Roku OS is that it’s acquired a clock on the primary display. I’m an enormous Apple TV fan and the one small factor I’m all the time wishing it had have been a clock since its important menu is incessantly displayed on my TV. 

Options and Channels

The one function that Roku clearly beats the competitors on is the sheer variety of channels it provides. Within the UK customers may have over seven hundred channels together with Netflix, NOW TV, BBC iPlayer, Sky Retailer, Demand 5, Spotify, YouTube, in addition to a whole lot of smaller channels which might be positive to supply one thing for everybody, no matter tastes.

However one factor I used to be actually disillusioned to study is that the Roku Streaming Stick within the UK lacks a crucial function the US model (which additionally gives over 1500 channels) has: search. Within the US, Roku Streaming Stick customers can sort within the identify of a present, film, actor, or director and Roku will search throughout all of its channels to seek out related content material. Within the UK that function is totally lacking, which is a serious disgrace because the Roku Streaming Stick provides so many channels it’s onerous to seek out what’s on them manually.

The Roku Streaming Stick doesn’t simply do audio and video content material, both. It additionally does video games – however to not the identical normal as its massive brother, the Roku three. The Roku three comes with a movement controller that doubles as a recreation pad, which works with many informal video games the Roku three provides together with Indignant Birds. On the Roku Streaming Stick the video games are much less superior and embrace titles like Jeopardy and Blackjack.

Remotes

The Roku Streaming Stick features a hardware distant management that works on Wi-Fi. It’s extremely easy to make use of and really responsive and actually makes navigating Roku’s OS a breeze. A pleasant function is the devoted house button that may take you again to Roku’s house display regardless of the place you're. 

As I discussed earlier than, the Roku Streaming Stick distant isn’t the identical one which’s included with the Roku three. Along with not doubling as a gamepad because the Roku three’s does, the Roku Streaming Stick’s distant additionally lacks the progressive constructed-in headphone jack, which lets you plug in headphones and have your TV’s audio immediately rerouted. It’s a killer function on the Roku three that I want that they had included right here. 

As for the design of the distant, it’s a bit cumbersome, however it feels strong and cozy in your hand. People who love the Apple TV’s millimetre-skinny distant will assume the Roku Streaming Stick’s distant is positively overweight. Customers can even obtain the free Roku distant app, which turns your iOS or Android gadget right into a distant management. 

Worth and Verdict

At £forty nine.ninety nine the Roku Streaming Stick is nearly too low cost to move up. It’s £50 lower than the Apple TV and gives over 15x the channels. Likewise, although it’s £15 greater than Google’s Chromecast it provides 25x the channels and in addition features as a stand-alone gadget, in contrast to the Chromecast. Roku’s OS and interface can also be a breeze to make use of and the corporate is regularly including new channels on a regular basis.

I do want the Roku Streaming Stick within the UK had the identical search performance as its US counterpart, however technically including it is so simple as a software program replace, so hopefully it is going to arrive within the close to future.

General nevertheless, the Roku Streaming Stick is the right digital streamer for each worth and content material and by plugging this diminutive stick into your tv you’ll be taking your own home leisure expertise to an entire new degree.

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