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Waylon Reed
Waylon Reed

Roku Streaming Stick Plus

The Streaming Stick Plus is still a solid choice, however, and if you can find it on sale for the same price -- and maybe you prefer its stick-like form factor -- it's worth considering. Its closest competitors are the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Chromecast with Google TV, both of which also cost $50. Both offer Dolby Vision HDR and superior voice support, thanks to Alexa and Google Assistant, respectively. Their menu systems are more modern-looking than Roku, with TV shows and movies on the home pages as opposed to just app tiles, but they're also more cluttered and potentially confusing.

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In our experience, most of the major problems with streaming -- the ones that make the video look terrible, take forever to load, drop out multiple times, or fail completely -- are due to a poor internet connection.

The Roku Streaming Stick Plus was the first streamer to make a big deal out of better Wi-Fi. Roku claims the Advanced Wireless Receiver can improve reception up to four times compared to its 2016 streaming stick. In our quick tests, however, we couldn't discern much benefit.

We hooked the Plus, the 2017 Fire TV and the 2017 Roku Streaming Stick to the same TV and wheeled it around the CNET office, moving to four spots progressively further from the Wi-Fi access point in our lab. In no instance did the Plus perform better than the other two, despite having the Advanced Receiver. All three failed to detect our AP at one distant location, and when we moved a bit closer all three did connect, but with relatively weak signals -- Netflix loaded slowly and took longer to get to full resolution, if it did at all. At one location Roku's basic stick actually saw and connected (albeit crappily), while the Fire TV and Plus did not.

In spite of a few quibbles about the remote control and some dated navigational issues, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is simply the most complete 4K HDR streaming device you can get for the price. Folks with 1080p TVs don't need it; videophiles with huge content libraries may want something a little more robust. For everyone else, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the best streaming device, as it's hard to imagine a better marriage of functionality and affordability.

If you're familiar with Roku's first garish purple stick, or its second squat black stick, you may be surprised to learn that the Roku Streaming Stick+ doesn't resemble either one very much. The device is long, shiny and vaguely cylindrical, like a cigarette designed for a futuristic android. It's a bit longer than previous devices, though, which means it may stick out a bit if your HDMI port is right near the edge of your TV.

Save for the Apple TV, no other streaming player even comes close to Roku's clean, simple, streamlined interface. Your home screen shows you the apps you've downloaded. You click on an app and watch whatever you came to watch. That's it. If you're not watching a show or movie 30 seconds after booting up the device, it's probably because you're still deciding what to watch.

While most of the apps are, charitably speaking, too niche to be worth your time (and, uncharitably speaking, bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings that barely qualify as "content"), the important thing is that Roku has the widest variety of apps you'll actually want to use compared to any other streaming platform.

The wireless amplifier is also hard to test, although Roku claims that it can enhance the effective range of the device up to fourfold. In crowded NYC apartments and offices, it seemed to work as well as any other streaming device, but if you live in a big house out in the boonies, there's a good chance that you can set it up far away from your router and still get a strong signal.

The Roku platform is very media-centric, with one of the biggest libraries of apps and services available among media streamers. All of the major streaming services are here except for Twitch, along with a number of more targeted channels based on interest, region, and other categorizations.

Paired together, the Streaming Stick 4K and Voice Remote Pro offer a powerful media streaming experience with the ability to find what you want to watch and control playback using only your voice. However, those functions are about all you can do with voice commands, whether you hold the remote or not.

Roku's latest media device, the Streaming Stick 4K, is a compact streaming player designed to plug right into your TV's HDMI port. Once connected, the stick gives you access to a huge selection of streaming apps with up to 4K resolution playback.

As a whole, though, I wouldn't say the processor upgrade is much of a selling point. The Streaming Stick 4K is fast enough to satisfy most streaming needs, but it's not worth upgrading from the older model just for this improvement alone.

If you have a compatible TV, Dolby Vision playback can provide a more accurate image than the standard HDR format, known as HDR10. But, in most cases, the actual differences are subtle. Since I own a Dolby Vision TV and I'm a big videophile, this is a feature I always look for in a streaming player, but don't expect a huge leap in video quality.

The Streaming Stick 4K comes with a standard Roku Voice Remote that requires a button to initiate voice controls. But, buyers who want a hands-free experience can opt for the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ bundle ($70). The stick itself is exactly the same, but you get Roku's upgraded Voice Remote Pro instead of the regular remote.

That said, it doesn't offer a huge upgrade over the older Streaming Stick+. It boots a little faster, has better Wi-Fi reception, and supports Dolby Vision, but buyers who are already satisfied with the previous model don't need to upgrade. Shoppers who don't already have a streaming stick, however, should go with this newer version since it's more future proof.

When it comes to competing streaming devices, Amazon's new Fire TV Stick 4K Max is worth considering as well. Its full retail price is $5 more than the Roku, but it has noticeably faster loading times. I prefer Roku's interface, though, and Roku has an edge with its platform agnostic support for Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit devices. It also supports AirPlay while the Fire TV Stick does not.

In a perfect world, cutting the cable cord and setting up a new streaming player would allow you to toss your TV remote in a drawer. One remote should be all you need to control both the streaming device and your television.

Most of Roku's streaming devices are still on sale. Including the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which is half price. At just $25, it matches the price of Amazon's 4K stick, and it's our current favorite streaming device. The Roku Streambar is down to $80, which is $50 less than usual and a record low. Roku's 2022 Ultra set-top box has dropped to a new low of $69.

Roku's Streaming Stick 4K is on sale for $25 right now, which is half off its usual price. This small dongle connects directly to your TV's HDMI port and streams content in 4K, supports Dolby Vision and offers voice command capabilities via its remote. And finally, Roku's Express has dropped to $18 which is one of the best prices we've seen. If you just want an inexpensive streaming device with basic features, the Express is a solid option.

Amazon's most affordable streaming stick, the Fire TV Stick Lite is still going for just $15 right now, which is half off its usual price. This is a good option if you want to upgrade an old, "dumb" TV in your home into a smart one. If you have a 4K screen, grab the Fire TV Stick 4K, which has dropped to $25 or 50 percent off its normal price. For Amazon's most capable streaming stick, grab the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. It's down to $35 right now. It has all of the features of the standard Fire TV Stick 4K: UHD streaming capabilities, Dolby Vision and Atmos support, and the live picture-in-picture feature. But on top of that, it has WiFi 6 support and a bit more RAM than all other Fire streaming sticks, improving its overall performance.

Like the Fire TV and Roku sticks above, the Chromecast with Google TV 4K turns a "dumb" TV into a smart one, and right now it's just $40, down from $50. We reviewed it when it first came out and gave it a score of 86, particularly impressed with the Google Assistant integration.

Disney+ will switch to a two-tier model on December 8th. After that, the ad-free version, which is the only way the service is currently offered, will increase to $11 per month instead of $8. The new ad-supported plan will then go for $8. If you want to hang on to that $8 per month price for an ad-free plan, you can sign up before December 7th and pay $80 for a year of ad-free streaming. That works out to a 39 percent discount over the elevated $11 per month plan. If you didn't already know, Disney+ includes a dominating trove of content from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic.

Switching to an all-streaming diet often means forgoing live TV and other content cable offers. YouTube TV is one way to get back some of the live sports, live news and "cable channels" you're missing. YouTube's limited time offer is still going and gives you your first three months for $55 per month, with no contract required. If you decide you like what you're seeing, don't cancel and the price will revert to the regular $65 per month.

With a more than 50 percent discount, Eufy's RoboVac X8 Hybrid is down to $320, which is 51 percent off its usual $650 sticker. We gave the X8 a shout out in our robo vac guide for its great customization features, including a "tap and go" option that lets you direct the vac to a particular spot for extra on-demand cleaning. The hybrid X8 can wet-wipe your floors as well as vacuum them, and comes with a fillable tank and swappable cleaning pads to enable the mopping function. If you don't need your vac to mop, the vacuum-only Eufy RoboVac X8 is on sale for 40 percent off, making it just $300 instead of $500 right now.

Razer's Kishi mobile controller turns your smartphone into a Switch-like gaming device. It's usually $100, and Black Friday knocked 55 percent off the list price. Now the Android version is just a tad cheaper, bringing the sticker to $40. It's the same $45 for the iPhone version as it was for the shopping holiday. The Kishi connects via your phone's charging port, as opposed to via Bluetooth, so there's no wireless latency. Note that this is the original version of the device, not the recently released V2. That version isn't budging from its $99 MSRP. 041b061a72


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