Roku’s new streaming stick, which is expected to hit stores April 20, is a powerful update to their first HDMI streaming stick which launched in 2014. The product is actually Roku’s third streaming stick. The first one relied on an MHL port for power and deliver audio and video but was most likely ahead of its time as many TV’s did not have MHL ports at the time. The new model like its predecessor relies on HDMI and is powered via a 1.5 USB power adapter. It can be
either used with the included outlet adapter or plugged into an available USB port. I’ve always enjoyed Roku’s products but had not used one regularly in the past month while working with a number of other products. While it does not deliver 4K resolution like the flagship Roku 4 the new Roku Streaming Stick reminded me why I have so often recommended products from this company to family and friends. Boasting more speed than any of its main competition in the (dongle) category and featuring Roku’s latest software OS 7.1.0, the pinky sized dongle packs quite a punch.
What do you get in the box
The new Roku Streaming Stick ships with the unit (of course) a 1.5 USB cord, an adapter plug a remote and batteries for the remote. The item does not come with an HDMI cord but one is not needed because the unit itself plugs directly into an HDMI port. There is also a very basic set up pamphlet that explains the very basic steps of plugging it in and such.
The remote for the new Roku Streaming stick is a major upgrade from the remote available with the last one. While similar in size and feel to the last one and including quick launch buttons for Netflix, Sling TV, Amazon and Google Play (Units at Walmart will feature Vudu instead of Google Play). The big differentiator in the remote though is that it is Wifi based instead of IR based. That means that users do not have to have a line of sight to effectively use the device. This is helpful considering the likelihood that the dongle will not be visible during use. This feature had been reserved for the Roku 3 and 4. Will it become the new standard? There are the typical minimal buttons Home, Back Directional button, the “OK” button is in the center of the directional buttons like other smaller Roku remotes. There is also a Play/Pause button forward and backward scrubbing a 10-second replay button and asterisk button used for numerous settings changes inside and out of channels.
New To The Quad Core Streaming Stick
Many Roku reviews focus on the basics of what a Roku is in its essence and while we covered the interface and other features for those unfamiliar with the product the question people are going to want to know is how is it different/better than the last one. Is it worth the upgrade?
Speed and performance
This is where the new Roku Streaming Stick really outshines its predecessor. Roku says that the quad-core processor is 8 times faster than the CPU in the last model. I cannot confirm this for certain but can say that
there is a noticeable difference between the speed of the new model and the former. Something I check immediately when to test performance is Plex. This is because Plex has applications that rely on accessing separate servers. The streaming stick found the Plex server on my laptop immediately. I was able to launch video from the Plex CBS channel and catch the latest episode of Supergirl with no buffering and an almost instant launch. Anything that can render Plex as though it were streaming directly from an app passes my test. Menus and icons loaded quickly in all of the apps I tried. One exception was YouTube which seemed to lag. Video loaded fine but navigation felt a little sticky.
The Streaming Stick is small and skinny like a model at a fancy New York fashion show. This version is back in black eschewing the gaudy purple of the last edition. Roku managed to give the new model an even more narrow footprint than the last one. The color should help shoppers easily differentiate between the new and old model and avoid the kind of confusion that often accompanies a new Roku product launch like the brand new Roku 3m which replaced the Roku 3. Its most distinguishable difference on the surface was a small
microphone on the controller. This meant that shoppers at retailers like Walmart could easily purchase the old model expecting non-included features.
Exclusive App Feature (private listening)
While the controller for the new Roku Streaming Stick may, in fact, feature the higher end wifi connectivity of the 3 and 4 it does not feature a headphone jack. But private listening is still available to users as long as they have an IOS, Android or Windows device and the latest Roku mobile app. At the time of this writing, the app-based private listening feature is exclusive to the new streaming stick, though I can’t imagine that staying the case. The mobile app also allows users to utilize voice search (also not on the remote) and add a keyboard if needed.
Roku has a number of Hallmarks on all of its models that are expected by those who have been using its products for years now. But if you are new to the Roku world there are some great features you should learn a bit about.
Helpful Features (found on all Roku models)
My Feed is a feature that allows users to cue up titles that Roku will track. It was introduced originally as a
movie tool but has been expanded to feature TV shows also. This great for fans who can never remember when something is coming back like Game of Thrones or Firefly….episode 15 has to be right around the corner right?
The Quad Core Streaming Stick utilizes the standard grid-based interface that has been with Roku since the introduction of the Roku 3 in 2013. It displays 3 Channels/apps from left to right and nine overall in a 3×3 styled grid. A quick tap of the home button will
bring you to Roku’s home screen where users will be able to zip in and out of the search feature, key controls and settings, browse the company’s streaming store (app store) check out news from AOL On, peruse movies and TV shows from Roku’s new video partner. Fandango, which bought out M-GO earlier this year.
Often imitated but never replicated Roku’s cross-platform search allows users to search multiple services for a given title, director or even find apps if you lose track of them or want to know if they are available. This is a helpful feature because it allows users to find content without searching individual apps and is especially helpful when considering purchasing content because users will see how the prices stack up amongst many choices.
Setting up a Roku is rather simple. It is essentially plug and play if you already have a Roku account set up. As Roku says you will need a Credit card to get started. The company does not charge you but you have to register with one in order get started. Users can remove the card later if they choose to. You may also need a computer or wireless device. to link the Roku with certain apps or register the device. See this video for more on setting up the Streaming stick here.
Very important note: Streaming requires a broadband or high-speed internet connection and the Roku streaming stick requires wireless connectivity. You will need 15-20 megabits per second for a solid streaming experience.
I wish it had;
Some sort of HDMI adapter that would allow users to change the angle of the device in order to help it fit into tight spaces. Something like that can be purchased but inclusion would have been thoughtful.
A more detailed instruction book. While Roku is a relatively easy product to set up compared to a Raspberry Pi or even a basic Android box more instructions would be helpful for those just starting out.
A way to set up more of the premium apps without using a separate device. Again this is not a problem for a techie like myself but the setup requires users to log into websites, type in codes and other steps the first time around that might cause someone without a good comfort level problems. Roku though is not unique in this. It is one of the challenges of any set-top device. But if you give one as a gift consider setting it up for the person if they are computer phobic.
Overall the new Roku Stick is a very impressive product that should work out well for anyone looking to get into the streaming game.