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Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Roku Express 4K Plus: Is One Better Than the Other?

These excellent streaming devices have similar features and are often close in price. How do you choose between the two? We'll help you decide.

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
3 min read

Roku makes a lot of streaming devices. It currently sells five different streaming players and two streaming soundbars. We've reviewed all Roku's streaming devices, along with rivals from GoogleApple, and Amazon, and picked the Roku Express 4K Plus as our best overall streaming device. That said, the newer Roku Streaming Stick 4K offers Dolby Vision support and is often similarly priced. Which one should you get?

Before we get started, it's important to note that the Roku Express 4K Plus and the Roku Streaming Stick feature the same Roku operating system. Roku's interface is easy to navigate and lets you quickly start streaming your favorite shows and movies from Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu and other streaming services. The simple setup process, excellent search functionality and rich feature set help to propel Roku devices ahead of their worthy rivals.

But the Roku Express 4K Plus and the Roku Streaming Stick have a lot more similarities than just the operating system. Let's compare the two so you can choose which one is better for you.

The Express 4K Plus supports 4K HDR streaming media and, thanks to the AirPlay update, can connect your iPhone or other Apple device to your TV. Traditionally, it has been the cheapest Roku to offer 4K HDR, which is the main reason we picked it as the best streaming device overall. 

No, it doesn't support Dolby Vision, but that feature is only useful for people who own TVs that also support Dolby Vision. If you own a Samsung TV, for example, don't bother -- your TV doesn't support it. And even on TVs that do support Dolby Vision, its improvement over standard HDR is usually minimal.

Instead of a stick, the 4K Plus is a small box that can be affixed to any spot near your TV, such as the wall behind it. Unlike the Streaming Stick 4K, you can hardwire the box to the internet through a secondary dongle to provide Ethernet support.

Lately, we've seen aggressive pricing on streaming devices. Depending on when you read this, the Express 4K Plus might be the same price or even more expensive than the Stream Stick 4K. We're all about saving money here at CNET, so our best advice is to pick whichever one is currently cheaper. If that's the Express 4K Plus, know that you're only missing out on Dolby Vision, which probably won't affect you anyway.

Read our Express 4K Plus review.


The Streaming Stick 4K also supports 4K HDR and Apple AirPlay. The main highlight of this newer device is that it includes support for Dolby Vision. If you have a TV that supports Dolby Vision and want to stream Dolby Vision content, then this is the pick for you.

This device might also appeal to those who prefer a stick design to a box. You can just plug the Streaming Stick 4K into the HDMI port in the back of the TV and forget about it -- perfect for those wall-mounted TVs. 

The Streaming Stick 4K can't be connected to the internet via an Ethernet cable, but that's hardly a deal-breaker for most people. 

Normally, the Streaming Stick 4K is slightly more expensive than the Express 4K Plus, but that's not always the case. We generally don't think it's worth paying more for the Streaming Stick 4K, but if it's priced the same as or less than the Express 4K Plus, go for it. Even if you don't have a TV that works with Dolby Vision, you'll still get 4K HDR and the convenient stick design. The only thing you'll miss by getting the Stick over the Express is the option to get an Ethernet connection using a dongle -- which, frankly, isn't a big loss.

Read our Streaming Stick 4K review.

Ultimately, the Express 4K Plus and the Streaming Stick 4K have more similarities than differences. Either would be a good choice for your home. If you have a specific need for an Ethernet connection, then get the Express 4K Plus. If you prefer a stick design or Dolby Vision, then the Streaming Stick 4K is for you. Otherwise, save yourself time and money by picking the one that's cheaper.