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roku express streaming stick+ hands-on

Roku recently announced two new streaming devices coming to the UK – the Roku Streaming Stick+ and the Roku Express. The former is the firm's first 4K and HDR streamer to launch on these shores, while the latter is its new budget model. We went hands-on with both – here are our first impressions.

Design

The Streaming Stick+ is the chunkier of the two. But neither is exactly large. In fact, both are small enough to slip in your pocket, which is handy for travelling, taking to a friend's, or just plugging it into a different TV in the house.

They're both pretty plain design-wise, but then that's no bad thing. They are designed to sit around the back of your TV where no one is going to see them, after all.

Functionality

roku streaming stick+ hands-on

Both plug into your TV's HDMI socket, ready to stream films and TV shows over your home wi-fi network.

The Streaming Stick+ is the more advanced model, featuring 4K and HDR. 4K packs four times as many pixels as high definition, making for much sharper picture quality. HDR, meanwhile, stands for high dynamic range. This is a technique first used in photography, and enhances the difference between the light and dark parts of the picture, with more gradual 'steps' in between. This gives the image more depth, and makes it more lifelike.

The Streaming Stick+ supports HDR10, which is the most commonly used format of HDR. So it'll play nice with 4K content from all the major providers like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and so on.

It collates all the 4K content in a new section called 4K Spotlight. Click it, and you'll see everything on offer in 4K, as well as which vendor is offering it.

The Express is actually the second version of the model that first launched in the US. This one has a new processor, making it five times more powerful than its predecessor. It doesn't run 4K content, but does handle high definition. So if you don't intend on upgrading to a 4K telly anytime soon, it will be more than adequate.

Remotes

The other main difference between the two is the remote controls. The Streaming Stick+'s remote has a new power button and volume rocker, so you don't need to reach for your standard TV remote to perform those functions. The Express just comes with the standard remote.

Both players let you use your phone as the remote too, using the app. And if you plug headphones into your phone and mute your TV, the audio will be channelled only through your phone, so you can watch without disturbing anyone else in the house.

Price and availability

The Express is on sale now for £29.99, while the Streaming Stick+ will hit the shops before the end of the month. It will cost £79.99.

Stay tuned for reviews of both.

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