A great media streamer at a low price with plenty of content, but it can be a bit sluggish
Video outputs: HDMI 1.4, Networking: 802.11n (dual band), Dimensions: 78x28x12mm, Streaming formats: UPnP, Plex, Internet streaming services: BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand Five, Netflix
With the success of the Google Chromecast, it’s no wonder that Roku’s decided to have a go at the same market with the Streaming Stick. As with the Chromecast, this media streamer looks like a USB memory stick, only it has an HDMI port and the end so that you can plug it directly into your TV.
It’s a little slimmer and lighter than the bulbous Chromecast, so it shouldn’t obscure any of your TV’s other HDMI ports. Sadly, the Streaming Stick doesn’t come with an HDMI extension cable if it does get in the way; the Google Chromecast comes with an extension cable for this very reason.
The Roku Streaming Stick is powered by USB, so you should be able to plug the supplied Micro USB cable into a spare port on your TV. If you don’t have one, or you find that your TV’s ports don’t provide enough power, there’s a 1A mains USB power adaptor in the box.
That’s as far as the comparisons go with the Chromecast, as the Streaming Stick doesn’t require you to send content to it from a smartphone or tablet, but runs its own self-contained apps and operating system. One advantage of this system is that the Streaming Stick is exceptionally easier to set up and configure, as you do everything on-screen using the bundled remote control.
It’s a rather basic remote, with a cursor pad, home, back, OK and playback controls, but that suits the simple interface of the Streaming Stick. It’s a shame that this remote doesn’t have the headphone port of the Roku 3’s remote, which was great for watching late-night TV.
Your first job is to set up the Streaming Stick. You’ll have to wait a while for it to start up, which took over a minute. If you turn your TV off at the mains or use its physical power button when you’re not using it, it means you’ll have a bit of a wait every time you want to use the Streaming Stick, which is a little annoying.
The first time it powers up you have to log in to your Roku account (you can create one for free if you don’t have one) and join the device to your home network. It has an 802.11n Wi-Fi adaptor inside and supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks.
Once you’ve got the Streaming Stick on your home network you can then use the Remote for Roku app for Android or iPhone. These have the advantage that you can use your phone’s software keyboard to enter text, which is faster than using the Streaming Stick’s on-screen keyboard via the remote control.
Anyone familiar with Roku’s other media streamers will be immediately at home here, as the Streaming Stick has exactly the same interface. A large tiled home screen shows you the apps (called Channels) that you’ve got installed. New Channels can be added through the Channel Store. It’s split into categories, but there’s no way to search for a specific app, which can make finding a Channel rather laborious, especially when there are over 450 to search for. Not all Channels are free, which is why you have to provide your credit card details when you create your Roku account.
Unfortunately, we found the Streaming Stick a little sluggish when navigating between screens, with occasional slow transitions and animations. Some channels were also slow to start. This is a real shame, as one of the best things about regular Roku streamers is their speed and responsiveness. Fortunately, the breadth of content available mostly makes up for any slight shortcomings with the interface.
|Micro USB (for charging)
|802.11n (dual band)
|Android and iOS
|AAC, MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV
|Video file extensions
|MKV, MP4, MOV, WMV
|JPG, PNG, GIF
|Internet streaming services
|BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand Five, Netflix
|Price including VAT