REVIEWED: Roku Streaming Stick

Take the world of streaming video to any hotel TV with this 18-gram dongle that’s brilliant on business trips.

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You can’t travel with a smart TV. The usual way around that is to fill-up a laptop or iPad with movies and videos to entertain you on those long and lonely business trips, but the appearance of the streaming sticks is changing all that. Cue the Roku.

Three-way fight

There are lots of so-called ‘streaming sticks’ around; as well as Roku, there’s Google Chromecast and the Amazon Fire TV Stick. All three HDMI-dongle streaming sticks have their pros and cons, but all enjoy the same massive pro for business travellers; they cost a few bucks and bring the world of streaming video to any hotel TV.

How it works

Always stay in a hotel that offers free WiFi? You will do from now on. Plug it into a HDMI slot in any hotel room TV, and then connect it to your internet over Wi-Fi in order to stream content (advice here). It’s that simple. While the ChromeCast can be controlled using an app on phones, the Roku – just like the Fire stick – uses a dedicated remote control. Luckily, it’s small. You can also send YouTube from your tablet. We would have liked an HDMI extension cable; although the hotel TVs we tried took the Roku fine, it could be that the jutting-out design doesn’t fit into hotels mounted in corners etc. If you want to bullet-proof your Roku, buy one (they cost pennies). It’s got a great interface, too, and HD video worked fine in our test.

Apps: wot no Amazon?

Here’s where the real action is. On the UK version, choose from BBC iPlayer, 4OD (exclusively), Demand 5, ITV Player, YouTube, Netflix, Sky Now TV (for all the very latest movies), Sky Store, Plex, Sky News, Vevo, Spotify, Flixster, Rdio and even music and movies via the Google Play store, though bear in mind the geographical restrictions. For instance, you can forget watching the BBC iPlayer while on foreign soil. There’s also no Amazon Instant Video app on the UK version, though users in the USA get it, as well as Time Warner Cable, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vudu, Pandora and HBO Go.

Easy to use

OK, so if you’re in a new city, you’re probably out exploring. If you’re back in Amsterdam for the fiftieth time and need some rest, the Roku Streaming Stick is for you. Sure it’s the priciest of the three available, but it’s also the spiciest – with an open platform approach that will work with any TV, and tons of apps, it’s easy to use and offers a slick performance. Weighing just 18-grams, the Roku is brilliant for business trips.

Price as reviewed: UK£49.99/US$49.99

Buy the Roku Streaming Stick in the UK and the US