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4 Improvements I Want to See in a New Roku Streaming Stick

The Streaming Stick 4K has a lot to offer, but Roku can make its successor even better.

Sarah Lord Writer
Sarah Lord covers TVs and home entertainment. Prior to joining CNET, Sarah served as the tech and electronic reviews fellow at Insider, where she wrote about everything from smart watches and wearables to tablets and e-readers. She began her career by writing laptop reviews as an intern and subsequent freelancer at Tom's Hardware. She is also a professional actor with many credits in theater, film and television.
Expertise TVs | Home Entertainment | Streaming | Computers Credentials
  • Member of Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity Association
Sarah Lord
5 min read
Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K and the Roku Express 4K Plus both need an update.

Amazon

Roku's streaming devices are popular and score positive reviews here at CNET for their easy setup, plethora of streaming channels, and simple menu design. Every Roku runs the same software, so they all share many of Roku's strongest features. However, individual players have hardware improvements that set them apart. 

Our two favorite players are the $40 Roku Express 4K Plus and the $50 Roku Streaming Stick 4K.  Right now, the only difference between the models is the inclusion of Dolby Vision compatibility on the Streaming Stick 4K. Both players sit in the middle of the Roku lineup and offer a great mix of features for the money, including 4K HDR streaming and voice remotes that can also control your TV. They're excellent streamers, but they're also more than a year old and due for updates.

Ideally, Roku would combine the two players and offer one device that sits in the $40-to-$50 range. This would simplify the company's lineup and help make it easier for all of us to figure out which device suits our needs. Even so, this new device will still need significant upgrades to make it enticing to users. 

Here are four suggestions for improvements that could convince me to get a new $40 or $50 Roku streaming stick. 

Read more: Roku Ultra 2022: The 5 Things on My Wish List

1. Built-in Bluetooth compatibility

A pair of headphones

Bluetooth headphones should work directly with the Roku.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sometimes you just want to watch TV on the big screen without disturbing the rest of the house. Roku currently allows you to connect Bluetooth headphones to your device through the Roku app on your phone. This is great, but it would be even better if you didn't need to involve your phone at all. Amazon Fire TV devices already have Bluetooth built-in and I think it's time for Roku to catch up. 

I'd love to be able to quickly pair my headphones directly with my Roku, so I can get to watching my shows as quickly as possible.The Roku app also has a way to sync the audio to your headphones so you don't need to worry about lag in the dialog. This is a great feature, but I wish I could access it easily from the on-screen menus instead of once again digging through the app on my phone. 

I appreciate all of the features on the mobile app, but I think Roku could offer a more streamlined experience if we can leave our phones charging in the other room. 

2. A robust password management system

A person holding a remote in front of a TV with app icons displayed

You can use your phone to type in passwords, but it would be better if a password management system did it for you.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While setting up and signing in to your Roku may be easy, remembering all of your streaming passwords is a major pain. Every streaming service has to have its own username and password and you have to sign in to each service before you can start watching on your Roku. 

Roku has tried to make this easier by letting you use the keyboard on your phone through the Roku App. You can even let Roku do the typing by activating voice control and speaking each letter into a compatible remote or through the app. 

Individual apps also try to ease the password burden by having you log on through your computer and typing in a code onto the TV. All of these options help a little, but they still require you to remember your password. 

Roku would benefit from implementing its own password management system or teaming with a company like Last Pass to create a scenario where the user only needs to enter all of the passwords once. 

A password management system can help create and store all of your passwords from various sites and services in one place. The user creates one master password for all of their accounts which they use to login in. From there, the service automatically uses the saved site-specific password to sign you in to whatever you're trying to access.  

This type of service on a Roku could make logging into your streaming services faster and more secure. I know my password-averse mother would appreciate it. 

3. Add a remote-finder button to the device

Roku Ultra 4K bundle with Voice Remote Pro

The Roku Ultra already comes with a physical remote-finder button.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It can be so annoying to lose the remote. It's a pain to look under the tables and through the couch cushions to find your lost clicker. Roku currently has two solutions to this problem. The first is found on the Voice Remote Pro, a $30 remote upgrade that works with any current Roku device. The second, is a physical lost remote button on the Roku Ultra.

The rechargeable Voice Remote Pro comes with hands-free voice controls, which means you can simply say "Hey Roku, find my remote" and the remote will emit a beeping sound to help you locate it. While the remote can be bought separately, it's currently bundled with Streaming Stick 4K to create the $70 Streaming Stick 4K Plus package. It's also found with the $100 top-of-the-line Roku Ultra. 

The Ultra also features a small physical button on the side of the device which, when pressed, will tell the remote to emit a beeping sound. I'm not sure why the Ultra needs two different ways to find a lost remote, but I think a $50 streaming stick could use one of them.

I think it's fine to leave the fancy remote to more expensive packages, but I'd love to get a physical remote-finder button placed on the side of the stick. This way I can just walk up to the device, hit the button and listen for the remote's response. 

4. Color options for players and remotes 

Chromecast with Google TV and voice remote

Chromecast with Google TV already comes in blue, white and pink options.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku's branding is synonymous with the color purple. That's great. Purple is my favorite color. But the devices themselves, along with the body of the remotes are all black. It's professional and innocuous, but ultimately pretty boring.

Chromecast with Google TV already comes in three colors: white, salmon pink, and light blue. Color is a big part of the Roku brand, so why not go all out? How about a soft purple stick? I'd also appreciate blue, red, white and pink. Let's not stop at the device and include a colorful remote as well. It would make the remote stand out in a room and therefore even harder to lose. 

The physical appearance of TVs and streaming devices tend to be uniform and forgettable. I think it would be a cool change of pace to get a streaming stick and remote that are also nice on the eyes.