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Roku Streaming Stick 4K review

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is Roku's latest entry into the streaming stick marketplace. It improves on its predecessor and competes with Amazon's offering in key areas.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K
Published: Monday, 13th December 2021 at 3:41 pm
A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
Our Rating
GBP £49.99

Our review

With improved WiFi performance, slick navigation and the addition of Dolby Vision, the new Roku Streaming Stick 4K can compete handily with rival offerings from Amazon.

What we tested

  • Streaming quality
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
  • Design
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
  • Ease of set-up
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
  • Value for money
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
Overall Rating
A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.

Pros

  • Huge choice of apps
  • Responsive and fast-loading
  • Addition of Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus
  • Apple AirPlay support

Cons

  • Voice controls not the most sophisticated
  • Stick heats up after extended use
  • The Roku Channel has hit-and-miss offerings

When Roku proudly announced the Roku Streaming Stick 4K back in September, it claimed the new device offered its best picture quality yet and a seamless, fast user experience. Now, we've got our hands on the new stick to check these claims out and decide if it's really worth your cash.

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According to Roku, a new quad-core processor makes the Streaming Stick 4K up to 30% faster than its predecessor. Working alongside upgraded Roku OS 10.5, the stick does work smoothly, delivering content at a moments notice.

There's a good library of shows and apps, too, though the full extent of this obviously depends on how many applicable subscriptions you have. To make the most of the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, you'll need some additional app subscriptions on top of Roku's own ad-funded offering.

This stick goes head to head with the recently released Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max. For more on streaming sticks, take a look at our in-depth guide to the best streaming device for your TV or see how the cheaper Roku Express 4K and Roku Express compare.

Jump to:

Roku Streaming Stick 4K review: summary

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is the latest addition to the Roku streaming stick line-up, replacing the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, which first became available back in 2017.

According to Roku, the new stick is "more powerful than ever", making for a faster start-up and a more responsive experience. It does feel quick and easy to load up apps, and the stick is a great way to turn a non-smart TV into a smart TV if you haven't upgraded your set for a little while.

The addition of HDR10 Plus — which improves colours and contrast — and support for Dolby Vision is noteworthy. It brings the stick in line with its key competitor, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

To make the most of the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, you will need some additional streaming service subscriptions. While Roku does offer its own range of shows and films — most of which are free to watch as the channel is ad-funded — it's not the most impressive selection. At time of writing, there was definitely a lot of filler in the Roku Channel line-up, including Jason Statham's truly awful fantasy adventure, In the Name of the King, and the equally unappetising White Collar Hooligan 3: Revenge in Rio.

Of course, every streaming service is guilty of having some filler titles in the library, but Roku's channel seems a little heavy on these due to the fact it's funded by advertising rather than subscriptions. That said, it's free, and beggars can't be choosers. Channel 4's free streaming service also comes pre-loaded, and 4OD has some great options to bolster your free viewing.

After the demise of Quibi, Roku bought up the streaming service's content, and much of it is now available to watch on the Roku Channel. Survive, starring Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones fame, is a real highlight.

For sports fans, it's also easy to load up BT Sport, UFC, or NBA, though there is currently no access to Sky Sports, and additional subscriptions are required to access the content these apps offer.

What is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K?

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K really does what it says on the tin. It's a streaming stick from Roku, offering 4K picture quality. That said, Roku's previous stick also offered 4K picture quality. This one does make further improvements to picture quality though, works smoothly and offers a wide range of content.

How much is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K?

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K will set you back £49.99. If cost is a real issue, you can pick up the Plus for about £5 less.

Comparably, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max has an RRP of £54.99. Amazon is currently selling the stick at £49.49, likely in a bid to undercut Roku.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K design

The stick itself is pretty straightforward, as you'd expect. It slots into the HDMI port and is powered by a separate USB cable. You can plug this into the TVs USB port or use the plug provided.

Unfortunately, the stick can't be charged and used without the power chord, which leads to it heating up slightly during use. It would be nice to be able to charge the stick and use it for a few hours without the power chord, but not being able to isn't a huge drawback as it's still compact and portable with the wire.

In the box, there's the remote, stick, cable and some handy plug adaptors — so the stick easily fits a UK or European plug.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku Streaming Stick 4K streaming quality

The Streaming Stick 4K was introduced as the stick that would offer Roku's best ever picture quality, and it delivers.

While the Roku Streaming Stick Plus did also offer 4K, it didn't come with HDR10 Plus capabilities. That's a great addition and means the stick offers an even crisper picture. Of course, the quality will also depend on the television you pair it with.

We didn't encounter any issues with playback interruptions or loading during testing. Everything worked smoothly, and menus were responsive throughout.

One issue we did notice during our time with the TV stick, was that it did heat up after extended use. It's not got its own battery, so it has to be plugged in while in use, as explained in the set-up section. This definitely contributes to the heat issue. While this didn't result in any streaming issues during our testing, it is worth noting and could be a cause for concern if using the stick for a lengthy streaming binge session.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K set-up

The stick itself is fairly simple to set up, but you'll need some AAA batteries for the Roku remote.

Simply pop the stick into the HDMI port, plug the USB power cable provided into the TV's USB slot, and plug the other end into the Roku stick to power it up. Then, once you've connected to your WiFi and signed up for — or logged into — Roku, you're all systems go.

Enabling other apps is simple, though the exact method varies from app to app. Amazon Prime Video offered an appealingly simple set-up, giving you a QR code to scan with a mobile device. The mobile device — logged into your Amazon account — then asks for permission for the Roku Streaming Stick 4K to login to your account, and access is granted seamlessly.

What is the difference between Roku Streaming Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick Plus?

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is the direct successor to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, so it offers boosted performance and adds HDR10 Plus and support for Dolby Vision.

It's the best streaming offering from Roku right now, so if you're weighing up which to buy, you're better of with the Streaming Stick 4K. That's especially the case right now, given that the price difference between the two is minimal.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K (5)

Our verdict: should you buy the Roku Streaming Stick 4K?

The improvements made to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, since the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, make it a real competitor to Amazon's offerings. The addition of HDR10 Plus and Dolby Vision means the picture is clearer than ever, and it's a joy to stream your favourite shows onto a 4K TV.

Faster menus and better WiFi performance also improve the experience, and ultimately the stick is intuitive and straightforward to use. While simple, that's still a real bonus. Unresponsive and confusing menus can quickly become grating very, very quickly.

Overall it's a simple offering that improves on its predecessor, and there's not a lot to choose between the Roku stick and the competition. Perhaps the Roku Channel could offer some more tempting free TV, but overall the stick is well worth the £49.99 asking price, especially if you have a non-smart TV that could do with an upgrade.

Where to buy the Roku Streaming Stick 4K

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is available from a range of retailers, but the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is the only one available at some large retailers at time of writing. Follow the links below to grab yourself a Roku streaming stick or its competitor from Amazon.

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Want more information on how the Amazon Fire TV devices compare? Read our Roku vs Fire TV Stick guide. Or, head to our best smart TV guide. 

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