Update: Winter 2018/2019
The Roku Streaming Stick reviewed here was released in October 2017, and it remains our top pick for the best video streamer you can buy under $50 in the US if you don't need compatibility with 4K HDR video. That said, if there's any chance you'll be upgrading to a 4K TV in the near future, it's worth spending as little as $10 to $20 more on the step-up model, the.
On the other hand, if you want the absolute most affordable Roku streaming experience, opt for the(for HDMI TVs) or the (for older analog TVs with only composite yellow/red/white AV inputs).
Check out CNET's best media streamers for more information on competitive products.
The original review of the 2017 Roku Streaming Stick -- first published Dec. 15, 2017, and otherwise mostly unchanged -- follows.
These days just about every TV above 49 inches or $300 hasand probably , too, so if you're buying a streaming device for a newer TV, chances are you want one that does that stuff. My favorite this year is the $70 .
But let's say you don't care about 4K streaming or HDR. Maybe you want to connect that new streamer to an older or smaller TV. Or maybe $70 is just too expensive for 4K's admittedly minor boost in video quality. Or perhaps.
For you, 2K SDR dude, the cheapest option is the, a device that's packed with all the typical Roku goodness: the industry's best selection of apps, awesome search and the simplest menu system. But the better option is the Streaming Stick.
So compared to the Express, what does the extra money for Roku's latest non-4K Streaming Stick get you?
- A sleeker design that hides behind your TV and plugs directly into HDMI, no cord required
- A remote you don't have to aim at the TV
- Voice search and voice command from the remote
- The ability to control your TV's volume and power from the Roku remote
This last one's the biggie. New for 2017, the Roku Streaming Stick's clicker has volume and power buttons that can control just about any TV, and setup is a cinch. If you're sick of having to reach for your TV's remote just to turn it on and adjust volume, stepping up to the Stick might be worth it.
The Stick is also Roku's cheapest device ever to build voice search into the remote, along with some basic commands such as, "launch Netflix" or, "show me some comedies." It's no Alexa-infused Fire TV, however. Speaking of...
Where's the Fire (TV)?
The Roku Streaming Stick's biggest competition is the $40. It's cheaper than the Roku, and runs circles around it for voice control. You can use its voice remote to ask Alexa for just about anything and get relevant results, including onscreen displays like the weather and Wikipedia entries. Better yet, if you own an Echo speaker , no remote required.
But I still like the Roku better for a few reasons. Its menu system is simpler and more familiar, and not cluttered with Amazon ads and promotions everywhere. Where every item in Amazon's system seems designed to push you toward that company's own videos, Roku takes a neutral approach, not prioritizing any one provider over another. Yes, the Fire TV looks cleaner and more modern, but the Roku is easier to customize. And Roku's cross-app search is much better than Amazon's, including its excellent ability to compare pricing across different apps -- including, yes, Amazon Video itself.