13 December 2017

REVIEW: Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Sticking it to the competition

Over the years we've reviewed pretty much all of the streaming gadgets Roku have released in this country, and liked every one. But, with the release of the Streaming Stick Plus, we'll have to start using the word 'love', as this is definitely Roku's best yet. Clear a HDMI port on the back of your telly, as you need to get one these things, pronto. Here's why:

For those unfamiliar with the concept, this is small, flash drive-sized gadget that plus directly into the back of your TV and connects to your home WiFi network. You can then watch the likes of Netflix, Amazon Video, Now TV, YouTube and the BBC iPlayer on the big screen, without a computer or phone in sight. It comes with a remote, which despite being small, is also the best Roku remote we've yet seen.

But, the headline-grabbing feature of the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is that it can stream content in 4K – one of the first small-scale streaming devices that can do that. If you have a 4K TV, forget about it, as you'll quickly be enjoying ultra high def films and shows with stunning visuals. Even on screens with lower resolutions (we also tried it on this fairly standard 1080p Cello TV) the picture is still great, so you won't be missing out on too much if you buy one for a non-4K device.

In the box you get the stick itself, which is slightly longer than the older model (reviewed here), the USB power cable, which can either be plugged into a spare USB port on your TV, or into the included wall adaptor, and the new style remote. The cable features a chunky dongle a short way along the length, which is actually a WiFI range extender. This means that the Roku Streaming Stick Plus will always hold a decent connection to the network, even while at the edges of your router's range.

That extender also means the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is perfect for taking with you on holidays or business trips. Hotel WiFi is notoriously rubbish, and if you find yourself in a room far from the router and suffering from weak signal, the extender will help. Mind you, bear in mind how much data you're using while streaming Vikings in 4K – just in case the hotel charges you.

The remote is nice, once again featuring Roku's 'point-anywhere' operation, but also with an IR controller on the front. This is because, unlike previous models, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus' remote can be used to control the TV itself, as well as the stick. You can turn on and off the telly, and also control the volume – basically everything you need. The set-up process for this is very simple, and once you connect the stick itself to the internet, you tell it what kind of TV you have and the remote finds the correct frequency to be able to control it. We were impressed, and it means fewer remotes cluttering up the coffee table.

Roku have clearly souped up the internals of the stick, as it connects and operates lightning fast. Firing up Netflix, which on the older model Streaming Stick would take a minute or so, now takes less than 15 seconds, and that is from the TV being completely switched off. Searching for shows across all of your downloaded channels is also very quick, and the Roku search feature will bring up results ultra fast, telling you if a show is available, and where it is (and for how much, if applicable).

So, thanks to the strength of the WiFi, the quality of the picture, and useful functionality of the new remote, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is, by far, our favourite Roku product to date, and probably one of the best media streamers we've ever seen.


Available from www.amazon.co.uk

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