Roku Streaming Stick 2017 review – CNET


These days just about every TV above 49 inches or $300 has 4K resolution and probably high dynamic range too, so if you’re buying a streaming device for a newer TV, chances are you want one that does that stuff. My favorite this year is the $70 Roku Streaming Stick Plus

But let’s say you don’t care about 4K streaming or HDR. Maybe you want to connect that new streamer to an older or smaller TV. Or maybe $70 is just too expensive for 4K’s admittedly minor boost in video quality. Or perhaps your TV’s HDR kinda sucks

For you, 2K SDR dude, the cheapest option is the Roku Express, a device that’s packed with all the typical Roku goodness: the industry’s best selection of apps, awesome search and the simplest menu system. But the better option is the Streaming Stick.

So compared to the Express, what does the extra money for Roku’s latest non-4K Streaming Stick get you? 

  • A sleeker design that hides behind your TV and plugs directly into HDMI, no cord required
  • A remote you don’t have to aim at the TV
  • Voice search and voice command from the remote
  • The ability to control your TV’s volume and power from the Roku remote

This last one’s the biggie. New for 2017, the Roku Streaming Stick’s clicker has volume and power buttons that can control just about any TV, and setup is a cinch. If you’re sick of having to reach for your TV’s remote just to turn it on and adjust volume, stepping up to the Stick might be worth it.

The Stick is also Roku’s cheapest device ever to build voice search into the remote, along with some basic commands such as, “launch Netflix” or, “show me some comedies.” It’s no Alexa-infused Fire TV, however. Speaking of…

Where’s the Fire (TV)?

The Roku Streaming Stick’s biggest competition is the $40 Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote. It’s cheaper than the Roku, and runs circles around it for voice control. You can use its voice remote to ask Alexa for just about anything and get relevant results, including onscreen displays like the weather and Wikipedia entries. Better yet, if you own an Echo speaker you can use it to control Fire TV hands-free, no remote required.

Sarah Tew/CNET

But I still like the Roku better for a few reasons. Its menu system is simpler and more familiar, and not cluttered with Amazon ads and promotions everywhere. Where every item in Amazon’s system seems designed to push you toward that company’s own videos, Roku takes a neutral approach, not prioritizing any one provider over another. Yes, the Fire TV looks cleaner and more modern, but the Roku is easier to customize. And Roku’s cross-app search is much better than Amazon’s, including its excellent ability to compare pricing across different apps — including, yes, Amazon Video itself. 

If you’re a heavy Alexa user and don’t mind Amazon’s pushy menus, the Fire TV stick is probably a better choice than Roku’s stick, but otherwise, get the Roku. Especially if you want to be sure you can access YouTube.

Ditch your TV’s remote

If you only pick up your TV’s original remote to turn it on or adjust the volume, Roku’s new clicker has another advantage over the Fire TV. Its power and volume controls worked great on multiple TVs.