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roku streaming stick plus

There's no shortage of streaming devices that offer 4K and HDR support: the Apple TV 4K, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast Ultra all pack both technologies, and are all made by household names. Then there's Roku.

It's not as well known as the other companies in this space, but it has some serious pedigree. As well as being hugely popular in America, Roku is the firm behind Sky's Now TV boxes. So it knows a thing or two about making streaming devices.

The Streaming Stick+ is the firm's first 4K device for the UK. But is it better than its big-name rivals? Read on and find out.

Design

roku streaming stick+ hands-on

When it comes to looks, the Streaming Stick+ doesn't exactly rewrite the rulebook. But then it doesn't have to.

These kinds of devices are designed to slot into your TV's HDMI port and sit around the back of the telly, out of sight and out of mind. Which is exactly what the Streaming Stick+ does.

It looks just like a USB memory stick. Apart from the HDMI connection, there's a mini-USB socket which you use to plug into the mains using an adapter (or into one of your TV's USB sockets).

The bundled mini-USB cable also houses a wireless amplifier to help boost the Wi-Fi signal strength and range.

The remote control is small and comfortable to hold. It includes dedicated buttons for four apps: Netflix, Red Bull TV, Rakuten TV and Yupp TV. One of which we got a lot of use out of. No prizes for guessing which...

The remote has power and volume buttons, which control the respective functions on your TV. That means you don't have to use a second remote control, which is something of a godsend.

You can also control the Streaming Stick+ from your smartphone using the Roku app. Plug a pair of headphones into your phone, and you can use the private listening mode too – this means only you can hear the audio from whatever you're watching, so you don't disturb anyone else in the room.

Some Roku models include this function on the remote, but not the Streaming Stick+. It seems a bit of an oversight, though it's not a deal-breaker.

Features

So what features does the Streaming Stick+ offer?

Roku is best known for its healthy app selection, thanks to its open ecosystem. This lets the big boys like Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Video and the UK terrestrial broadcasters' catch-up apps rub shoulders with more niche offerings like Mubi (arthouse films) and Crunchyroll (anime).

The Streaming Stick+ supports 4K and HDR, as do the other high-end streaming devices mentioned earlier. 4K boasts four times as many pixels as high definition, making the picture much sharper. HDR stands for high dynamic range – it increases the difference between the light and dark parts of the image, with more gradual steps in between. It makes for greater depth, and hence a more lifelike image.

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube all broadcast content in 4K HDR, though not all content. Still, there's plenty to watch.

The Streaming Stick+ supports HDR10, which is the most commonly used format of HDR. Which should mean it's future-proofed.

Usability

roku express streaming stick+ hands-on

Roku's user interface is a dream to use. Images are nice and big, and it doesn't prioritise one service over another, like most streaming devices. You can arrange channels on the homepage how you like, so you're very much in the driving seat.

You can also earmark certain films or TV series, and receive a notification once they become available, which is handy.

There's no voice-activated personal assistant, a la Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri. But it does support casting, so you can stream content from your phone to the big screen.

The UI is nice and responsive too, with channels and content loading quick as you like.

Setting it up is a doddle, and it can be powered by your TV's USB socket instead of the mains (most streaming devices require mains power to run). Which frees up a plug socket for another games console or set-top box.

Value for money and verdict

The Streaming Stick+ costs £80 – that's a tenner more than the Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast Ultra, but £100 cheaper than the Apple TV 4K.

Considering it brings a greater selection of channels than any of these devices, it's great value.

The Streaming Stick+ is a fantastic all-rounder. Picture quality is superb, there's an awesome selection of content to watch, and it's reasonably priced.

Sure, most 4K TVs will have smart features with a smattering of apps. But if you want a broader selection and far more intuitive user interface, look no further than the Streaming Stick+.

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