KEY POINTS

  • Roku introduces a new streaming dongle for 4K and HDR fans
  • The new Stick is a significant improvement from the older version
  • Roku Streaming Stick 4K retails at $39.99

In theory, the new Roku Streaming Stick 4K seems like the perfect device that offers better performance and portability at the right price. To find out if Roku's newest streamer hits all these marks, using it daily as the go-to streaming device is the best way to evaluate it.

Design and Hardware

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is the company's replacement for the old model Streaming Stick Plus. But, like its predecessor, it sports the same hardware design and plugs into an HDMI port behind the TV.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is just 3.4 x 0.6 x 0.4 inches, which is way smaller than Amazon Fire TV sticks. It has rounded sides that make it appear less blocky, making it one of the sleekest dongles available today.

Introducing the Roku Streaming Stick 4K | Model 3820 (2021) Roku® Streaming Stick® 4K is faster and more powerful than ever. The redesigned long-range Wi-Fi® receiver is super-charged with up to 2x the speed—exactly what you need for smooth streaming in spectacular 4K, Dolby Vision®, and HDR10+ picture. Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Roku Official YouTube Channel

The matte finish dongle comes with a power/WiFi cable that is much longer than that of the Streaming Stick Plus. Unlike other streaming sticks in the market, the Streaming Stick 4K does not support WiFi 6 but features Wifi 5, which is actually not a really big deal at the moment.

The new USB cable that comes with the new streaming stick has an inline antenna that amplifies the dongle's WiFi range. According to the company, the new module in the Streaming Stick 4K supports WiFi speeds twice as fast as the previous model.

Software And Performance

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K contains an ARM Cortex A55 CPU, which is the same processor as other Roku streaming sticks like Express 4K, 4K Plus and the premium Roku Ultra. But unlike the company's more expensive streaming dongle which has 2 GB RAM, the latest offering has a RAM of only 1 GB.

One of the reasons to upgrade to this stick for those using the older Streaming Plus model is the Dolby Vision. The latest streaming dongle also offers a wide range of content using the HDR format on fan-favorite streaming services like Disney Plus, Vudu and Netflix.

Aside from that, it features HDR10 Plus, which is a factor if you are using a TV with this feature. Also, I used the dongle for a long time and it did not run into any overheating issues.

Moreover, Roku Streaming Stick 4K supports Apple's AirPlay 2, which allows users to easily mirror their Apple devices like iPad, iMac and iPhone to the device. As for its interface, Roku keeps things simple with apps arranged on a simple grid.

It is a bit refreshing and less cluttered compared to thumbnail-heavy menus that Google TV or Amazon Fire TV offer. One downside of Roku's interface is the user's inability to watch a show directly from the home page.

The OS 10.5 on the Roku Streaming Stick 4K offers a list of other improvements aside from the AirPlay support mentioned earlier. Users can now dictate passwords, which comes in handy in times when you can't log into a streaming service from the web.

Major apps and streaming services are featured in the software, including HBO Max, Apple TV Plus, Sling TV and more. Unfortunately, gamers would frown knowing that game streaming services like Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming and Google Stadia are still not available.

There are times that I find it hard to connect the Roku Streaming Stick 4K to my WiFi network. The 2.4 GHz network connects smoothly and even if it is only 2.4 GHz, the streaming stick showed strong performance.

The Menu navigation is responsive and fast and opening apps takes around 10 seconds or less. But, once the app starts, it is stable and smooth. The same goes for voice search results, which pop up almost instantly.

Final Verdict

Overall, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K offers significant performance improvements compared to the older Streaming Stick Plus that it replaced. It has more robust features, particularly for those looking for better HDR standards like HDR10 Plus and Dolby Vision.

The $39.99 is a fair and competitive price among various brands in the market but Roku 4K proves to be a more compelling choice. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K checks all the marks when it comes to portability, price and performance. Definitely a bang for the buck.