Roku Streaming Stick Plus: Even Better at Streaming One Year Later
Even a year after its release, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is a better 4K HDR streaming device compared to the new Roku Premiere Plus, and Roku Premiere.
The Roku Streaming Stick Plus supports a faster WiFi standard, has a better remote that controls TV power and volume, and now costs $10 less than when it debuted a year ago.
You might expect that the latest siblings in the Roku family – the Roku Premiere and Premiere Plus — would be the best ones to buy because they’re brand new to the market. The two streaming players were released in October 2018.
They do offer a great value, especially the Roku Premiere, because it pushed the entry-level price to 4K HDR streaming down to $40.
That’s even $10 cheaper than Amazon’s new 4K Fire TV Stick.
But the consensus has been that the Roku Premiere Plus is worth the extra money because its remote control controls TV power, has a voice control and can be pointed anywhere.
So, if you definitely want a Roku that’s going to be relevant longer, the question becomes: Would you spend $10 more for superior WiFi range?
Having 5GHz WiFi as an option is probably a bigger deal to you if you’re a cord cutter relying on Hulu, Netflix and live TV in 4K like fuboTV’s offerings. A lot of people will do just fine with using 2.4GHz streaming. But if you’re living in a larger home, or you take your Roku on the road, connecting to 5GHz WiFi will be something you’ll want.
Why Design of Roku Streaming Stick Plus is Better
The Roku Streaming Stick Plus is designed so that you can keep it tucked away, plugged into a HDMI port behind the TV.
That’s going to look a lot better if you have a TV hanging from a wall.
Even if your TV is on a stand, not having to see your streaming device can keep things looking tidy. Hiding your equipment can sometimes cause lagging or hazy picture quality, especially if you are streaming shows or movies over WiFi instead of using an Ethernet connection.
The Roku Streaming Stick did away with such worries thanks to its WiFi antenna, which gives it much better range.
Frankly, I’m not a big fan of new design of the Roku Premiere and Premiere Plus because they’re designed to sit out in front of your TV. They are not really streaming sticks per se. And if it’s not a streaming stick, then the media player should have an option for an Ethernet connection. That will always give you the best possible streaming experience. I made a similar gripe about the new Xiaomi Mi Box S released this fall.
5 facts about Roku Streaming Stick Plus
- Supports 4K HDR streaming
- Voice-search with Google Assistant
- 4GHz/5GHz bandwidth
- WiFi antenna
- Point-anywhere remote
Roku Streaming Stick Plus setup
Compared to its competitors, Roku devices can get up and running surprisingly quick.
The WiFi antenna plugs into a mini-USB port at the back of the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. The antenna doubles as a power cord that can plug into a USB port in the back of your TV. You could also use the power adapter and plug the Roku into a wall outlet using the extra cord that comes in the box.
Once you switch the input on your TV to the HDMI port being used by the Roku, you just need to select preferred language and connect to your WiFi router.
Setting up the Roku remote for controlling TV power and volume is just as easy. Roku’s software does nearly all the work for you with the exception of a couple of volume tests that you have to respond to.
All told, you’re up in running in less than five minutes.
As someone who doesn’t own a universal remote, having easier access to TV power and volume is a pretty nice feature. If you have a sound bar connected to your TV, then you will still need a separate remote control for that.
The home screen is a simple grid of all the apps – a.k.a. Roku Channels – that you’ve downloaded. You can arrange these channels any way you want.
That might not seem like a big deal at first. But if you’re using a service like YouTube TV every day for watching live TV, then having it at the top of your screen is pretty handy. I tend to keep the Roku Channels that I use the most up top so I can quickly get to the business of watching a show or movie.
Apple TV streaming devices don’t let you customize your menu as much, and Amazon keeps its own content front and center.
Roku made significant improvements to the home screen in the last year that can quickly help you find free TV shows and movies to watch.
The Roku Channel: Now carries daily news from ABC and serves as a hub for hundreds of free movies. No subscription or fees are required.
Featured Free: is found in the left sidebar, and aggregates free shows and movies from a number of apps, including Sony Crackle, NBC, FOXNOW, tubi and Pluto TV, ABC, The Roku Channel (of course), and other lesser known apps.
4K Spotlight: The 4K Spotlight Channel pulls together HDR, 4K and 4K HDR content from Amazon Prime Video, Fandango Now, Vudu and others.
I don’t use the 4K Spotlight channel that much because it doesn’t seem that useful unless you rent a lot of new movies from platforms like VUDU and Fandango Now. I’ve become less of a renter in middle age, and more of a subscriber. So if I want to watch something in 4K from Amazon Prime Video, I just go to its app and search for 4K content there.
The amount of free 4K content is pretty sparse. There are some neat travel videos and other bite-sized pieces of content for free on YouTube. But for more professional shows, you can turn to platforms like Smithsonian Earth or Curiosity Stream to get the most out of your 4K HDR TV using a Roku.
Google Assistant comes to Roku Streaming Stick Plus
The new Streaming Stick Plus and the current generation of Roku TVs now have hands-free voice controls when paired with a Google smart speaker. So if you own a Google Home, Google Home Mini, Google Pixel phone or Google Home Max you can make it a control hub for your Roku streaming device.
The commands are fairly limited. But I expect that to change.
All newer Roku devices – including the Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere Plus – will support Google Assistant.
Roku Streaming Stick Plus: One Year Later
My household is full of devices and computers pulling on my WiFi router, so I’ve been happy with how consistent the Roku Streaming Stick Plus has performed.
The best thing I can say is that I haven’t had to think about its performance since buying it a year ago.
It simply works, and continues to be a go-to device for watching live TV, and streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. If you’re fairly certain that you’re going to own TVs with 1080p picture quality for the foreseeable future, then the Roku Streaming Stick is still a great buy at $49.
You’ll get all the same apps and channels as other Roku models with the exception of 4K content. I prefer the streaming stick over the $30 Roku Express because it’s faster, has a better remote control and can be connected behind the TV.
For 4K streaming, there’s nothing wrong with the Roku Premiere or the Roku Premiere Plus. You’ll have access to the same exact software and apps. Just remember, you won’t be able to connect to the faster 5GHz band on your WiFi router.
The Roku Streaming Stick Plus is the fastest streaming stick in the family of streamers. It has the most features, and despite its age, won’t be outdated anytime soon.
Frequently Asked Questions about Roku
Q: What do you mean when you say that Roku Streaming Stick has better WiFi than the Roku Premiere models?
A: The WiFi support for the Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere Plus is 802.11 b/g/n, so you can’t connect to the faster 5GHz band on your router. With the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, you can connect to 5GHz and 2.4GHz.
Q: What does Roku Ultra have that a streaming stick doesn’t?
A: The Roku Ultra does come with a few extras that other Roku players lack, including an Ethernet port. The Ultra has a remote finder feature, an SD card slot and a headphone jack on the remote control for private listening. In 2018, Roku began including JBL headphones as part of the package for private listening. Private listening isn’t exclusive to Ultra. If you download the Roku app to your smartphone, you can use private listening on other Roku players as well.
Q: What’s the Best Roku TV?
Right now, I don’t think there’s another company that makes a better Roku TV than TCL. The TCL 6 Series has high-end features like full array local dimming and wide color gamut. These are features also seen on 4K HDR TVs from Sony and Samsung that cost almost twice as much. TCL makes an exclusive version of this TV for Best Buy called the 615 model that’s about $50 less than the 6 Series. The 615 model doesn’t have a microphone on the remote.
Q: What’s the best Roku for 1080p HD televisions?
A: The Roku Streaming Stick is the best option for 1080p televisions. Like the Plus model, the remote can control TV power and volume. And the stick remains behind your TV. During my two years of owning one, I’ve never had a problem with streaming on-demand or watching live TV online with it.
Q: How much does Roku cost per month?
A: Once you buy a Roku streaming device, there is no monthly fees to operate it. There are thousands of channels, including free and subscription-based ones like HBO. Anyone on a budget can find plenty to watch for free.
Q: Which channels are free on Roku?
A: The Roku Channel, Crackle, Tubi, The CW App, PBS Kids, News On and CBSN are among the most popular free platforms. There are dozens that you can search for once you have a Roku hooked up.
Q: Can I watch live TV on a Roku?
A: Yes, there are a number of live TV streaming services that work on Roku, including YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, Philo, Hulu with Live TV and Sling TV.
Note: This review was originally written Oct. 27, 2017, and has been updated to include two new 4K streamers, the Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere Plus.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble