Reviewed

Roku’s Tiny Streaming Stick Adds Some Big Features

Private listening, voice search, and impressive performance gains

The all-new Roku Streaming Stick Credit: Roku

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If you want to stream media these days, you’ve got a seemingly endless list of choices—everything from smart TV apps, to gaming consoles, to smartphone screen mirroring. Then there are dedicated streaming devices like the Google Chromecast, Apple TV, and many devices from Roku.

Few devices, however, are as affordable as the Roku Streaming Stick. The $50 HDMI dongle usually retails for more like $39.99, and offers nearly all the power of the top-of-the-line Roku 4. Only the Chromecast undercuts it on price, while offering a decidedly unusual—and, to some, unintuitive—user experience.

Today, Roku announced the latest version of the Streaming Stick, which comes packed with some pretty impressive features. While the price stays the same, the new stick adds a more powerful quad-core processor and faster, more reliable WiFi. But mere performance upgrades aren’t the headline feature.

The biggest news here is that Roku has given the Streaming Stick the Roku 3’s “private listening” (with headphones) and voice search capability via an all-new (and free) Roku smartphone/tablet app. Tapping the headphones icon in the app mutes the TV and reroutes the sound to your phone, where you can plug in your favorite cans and listen to late-night shows without annoying the rest of your family.

Roku’s operating system is also getting a refresh, adding dynamic lists of popular movies and TV shows. There’s so much content available on Roku that it can be hard to find anything decent, so a feature that brings interesting content to the surface is a welcome addition.

The new Roku Streaming Stick is up for pre-order today, and should ship in the next two weeks. The new Roku OS is already rolling out, but may take some time to reach existing devices.