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Roku Streaming Stick 4K review: The little streaming stick that could

Roku is out to prove that size doesn't matter when it comes to streaming devices.
Reviews
By
October 15, 2021
roku streaming stick 4k on remote in front of box
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
aa2020 editors choice
aa2020 editors choice

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku's classic streaming stick is back with an extra kick in an even smaller package. The new processor puts the Streaming Stick 4K on par with the best of them, and the Voice Remote makes TV control and navigation a breeze. Put simply, the Streaming Stick Plus 4K is a tiny triumph and one of the best and most user-friendly streaming sticks you can buy.

Retail price: $49.99

$49.99 at Amazon$49.99 at Roku

What we like

Crisp 4K resolution
New, faster processor
Tiny footprint for life on the go
Handy Voice Remote with TV controls

What we don't like

Can't remap the remote hotkeys
Dated micro-USB power port
Still has homepage ads
No Dolby Atmos
No Google Cast

Roku’s classic streaming stick is finally all grown up. It’s slimmed down, sped up, and sharper than ever before. The only question is just how much punch Roku managed to fit into the new smaller footprint. Let’s put the new streaming device through its paces to see how it stacks up in a crowded field. This is Android Authority‘s Roku Streaming Stick 4K review.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K
$49.99 at Amazon

What you need to know about the Roku Streaming Stick 4K

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K leaning on the remote
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
  • Roku Streaming Stick 4K: $49.99 / £49.99 / €59.99
  • Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus: $69.99

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is one of the company’s smallest streaming devices, and it serves as a successor to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. This version is a shade smaller than the previous generation at 93.98mm long, 20.32mm wide, and just 11.43mm tall. It plugs into your TV via an HDMI port. The only other opening is for the micro-USB power cable.

Inside the box, you’ll find the Streaming Stick 4K itself, a power cable with an included wall block, and Roku’s Voice Remote. It’s not the rechargeable Voice Remote Pro ($29) with its extra buttons and remote finder feature, but you can still deliver voice commands and control your TV’s volume and power using the traditional Roku remote. The bundled remote has four keys to quickly access popular video streaming apps — Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, and Hulu for the model we reviewed, though these will change depending on your region and the available services. If you want the best stick and the best remote, you’ll want to grab the Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus ($69.99) which bundles the Roku Streaming Stick Plus with the Voice Remote Pro together.

Learn more: Which Roku streaming device is right for you?

The Streaming Stick 4K gives away one of its key features right in the name — streaming quality. It supports up to 4K video content with a compatible TV, as well as HDR 10, HDR 10+, and Dolby Vision — the latter a welcome upgrade over the Streaming Stick Plus and a feature previously exclusive to the more expensive Roku Ultra. It also supports Dolby Audio but not Atmos. Likewise, you can stream content shown on your Apple devices to the Streaming Stick 4K thanks to AirPlay 2 support, but there’s no Google Cast functionality.

The Roku app is the final piece of the streaming puzzle. It’s available for Android and iOS and adds support for Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is available to buy now from major retailers while the Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus will be released on October 17 in the US.

What’s good?

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

All streaming devices should come with their own version of Roku’s Voice Remote — it offers TV controls, voice commands, and a simple setup. It also skips the number pad, which is great for cord cutters. I found the size to be just right for my hand, and had no issues reaching all of the buttons with one hand. The voice commands work pretty well, too, as I had no problems with clarity or accuracy.

It’s not always easy to get a customized feeling out of a streaming device, but I enjoyed choosing from Roku’s selection of themes. The Space theme became an instant favorite, packed with easter eggs from an excellent selection of movies. I noticed nods to Dune, Star Wars, and Alien, and that was just in the short time I spent outside of an app.

Roku packed a punch into its tiny stick, with a fast, lag-free experience thanks to the quad-core processor.

Roku also packed plenty of power into its pocket-friendly Streaming Stick 4K. The 4K resolution is crisp and smooth as long as you have a compatible TV, and it offers a level of future-proofing for the next time you upgrade. The stick also boasts a new quad-core processor that’s up to 30% faster, with up to double the Wi-Fi speeds of previous models. It’s not possible to test those claims exactly, but I never had any issues with lag or buffering during my experience with it and it’s notably faster than Amazon’s rival Fire TV Stick 4K.

It’s all the more impressive once you realize just how small the Roku Streaming Stick 4K really is. I could easily fit it into a pocket or in my backpack for trips away from home. The remote is the largest item to worry about, and even that is no taller than a standard smartphone.

What’s not so good?

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K remote
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

I enjoyed almost all aspects of using the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, but a few of Roku’s decisions left me scratching my head. The first is the choice to stick with a micro-USB port to power the stick itself. Even though USB-C is still a mess, it makes sense to switch to the latest connection as people build up their collection of cables. I know that if I misplaced Roku’s included cable, I’d have to go on a bit of a quest to find a micro-USB replacement.

Roku's hotkey buttons are great if you have all four services, but good luck remapping the controls.

Another issue that some users may face with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is with the four hotkey buttons. There’s currently no way to remap them to launch different apps, which means you’re stuck with what Roku gives you. If you already subscribe to all four services it’s not an issue, but if you’re missing any one of them then you won’t have much use for that button.

There are still a few ads peppered throughout Roku OS 10.5, including one right on the homepage. It’s easy enough to ignore as long as you spend most of your time in an app or streaming a show, but the screensaver ads can be a bit more annoying if you let the stick idle.

See also: Here are some common Roku problems and how to fix them

Roku Streaming Stick 4K review: Should I buy it?

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K next to lip balm for scale
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

If you want a speedy streaming stick that you can take with you wherever you go, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is worth a look. While existing Streaming Stick Plus users don’t have a lot of reason to rush out and upgrade, the faster processor for better startup times and faster Wi-Fi access as well as improved HDR support make it a worthy successor. Roku gets the price just right at $49.99, too, especially given the crisp 4K video options. The choice to stick with micro-USB is a curious one but far from a deal-breaker.

Roku's Streaming Stick Plus 4K is a tiny triumph and worthy successor to the Streaming Stick Plus.

Those of you without a 4K TV may be better served by the Roku Express ($29.99). It’s more affordable, but tops out at 1080p streaming quality. The aforementioned Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus ($69.99) offers all the same features, and also includes the Voice Remote Pro for hands-free voice commands, personal shortcut buttons, and more. There’s also the more expensive Roku Ultra ($99) if you really need Dolby Atmos support and the best possible performance.

See also: The best media streaming devices

Of course, Roku isn’t the only name to know — Amazon’s Fire Stick 4K ($49.99) and Google’s Chromecast with Google TV ($49.99) are two other great options. Both offer the same high-quality streaming experience, though they make the most sense for users who are invested in Alexa- or Google Assistant-powered product ecosystems due to deeper feature integration. For everyone else, however, the Streaming Stick Plus 4K is a tiny triumph.

roku streaming stick 4k box contents
Roku Streaming Stick 4K
Roku's classic streaming device is back and sharper than ever. The Streaming Stick 4K packs a new quad-core processor, Roku OS 10.5, and a tiny footprint that's ready for life on the go.