Roku has released two other Streaming Stick media players. Despite their superior selection of apps and user interface, competing sticks have been better. Prior Roku sticks are slow to boot and unresponsive to the remote, making the whole experience one you don’t want to come back to. With the new 2016 Streaming Stick, Roku has finally gotten it right. Quick to boot, a smooth user experience, and extra features that the competition doesn’t offer make it a winner. Throw in a low $50 price point that includes a remote, and you have the best media streamer on the market today.
Most importantly, the Roku Streaming Stick is now as fast as the Roku 2 when you’re using it. The Streaming Stick is powers over Micro-USB, letting you connect it to a USB port on your TV or projector instead of an AC outlet if you would like. The other Streaming Sticks could do this, but they took over two minutes to power on. The new Streaming Stick is ready to go in 20-25 seconds by comparison. Now you can have it connected to an HDMI port, powered off USB, and completely hidden away on the TV with no other wires.
|Streaming Services:||Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu, and more|
|Size:||.5" x 3.3" x .8"|
|Review Date:||April 24, 2016|
Roku also updated their iOS and Android apps to include a new Private Listening mode. When you fire up the app and plug in headphones, the audio now goes to your device instead of through the TV. For people who want to listen to a program at night without disturbing anyone else, it works great. I was able to walk around the house and still have audio stream to my headphones. This might not be typical behavior, but it shows that the feature works well.
You can also use the Roku 3 remote control with the Roku Streaming Stick. This includes a headphone jack for the Private Listening feature, and is also RF. If you prefer doing this instead of using an app you can buy both for $80 and save $20 over the usual cost of the Roku 3. You give up the Ethernet port, but it’s a good deal for most people.
The Roku Experience
What makes Roku the choice is that the user experience is just better than other options. Unlike Google, Amazon, and others there is no push to put one company ahead of another when searching. If you search for a title on a FireTV, it shows the options from Amazon first no matter what. When you search on the Roku, sorts the results in two ways. First, it sorts by if you have the channel (what Roku calls apps) installed, since you likely favor those sources. Then it will sort them in descending order of price. If you have Netflix and Amazon installed and a movie is free on Netflix but $3 on Amazon, then Amazon will come after Netflix. This is far more in line with how most people want to find their content.
You can use text search from the included remote, or you can use voice search from the iOS and Android apps. If you spend $30 for the updated Roku 3 remote you also get an integrated microphone for doing voice search. If you plan to use the search feature a lot, the extra money for the remote is worth it. The apps work fine, I just prefer to have a solid remote control I can use all the time instead of needing to open the app.