“Roku does it once more with a tiny streamer that is enormous on options and worth.”

Very inexpensive

Easy, intuitive interface

4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos passthrough

Voice-capable, wi-fi distant

Apple AirPlay

Restricted Dolby Atmos assist

No Dolby Imaginative and prescient

For Roku followers who’re able to make the leap into 4K streaming, there’s a brand new child on the town: The $40 Roku Categorical 4K+, a tool that appears just like the $30 Roku Categorical, however truly has almost the identical options because the $50 Roku Streaming Stick+.

However does it make sense to save lots of $10 to purchase the Categorical 4K+ as an alternative of shopping for the Streaming Stick+? And the way does this new Roku system evaluate to Amazon’s household of Hearth TV units?

Take a look at our full assessment beneath for all the solutions.

What’s within the field?

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Roku provides you the whole lot you must get arrange. You get the Categorical 4K+, a high-speed licensed HDMI cable, a Roku distant, a pair of AAA batteries, a Micro USB energy cable with an AC adapter, a quick-start information, and an adhesive strip that you need to use to mount the Categorical 4K+ to a wide range of surfaces, together with the underside edge or bottom of your TV.

Design

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

It’s arduous to search out fault with the design of the Categorical 4K+. It’s a tried-and-true mixture of the Roku Categorical’ tiny, curved black field, and the voice distant of the Streaming Stick+.

It’s so small and light-weight that you just’ll in all probability want the included adhesive strip simply to maintain the HDMI cable from pushing the Categorical 4K+ round.

On its again panel, you’ll discover simply two ports — a Micro USB jack for energy and an HDMI port. Not that that is prone to be a problem in 2021, but it surely’s value noting that in case your TV doesn’t have an HDMI enter, you received’t be capable to use the Categorical 4K+. In actual fact, none of Roku’s present lineup of participant units helps non-HDMI TVs any longer.

Over time, Roku has continued to refine its setup course of for brand spanking new units, and it couldn’t be simpler.

There’s no Ethernet port, however the Categorical 4K+ is suitable with a wide range of third-party Micro USB Ethernet adapters must you want one.

Once you unpack the field, you’ll see a sticker on the entrance of the system that signifies the place it’s best to level the distant. For those who follow the included Roku voice distant, you possibly can safely ignore this — the distant can talk with the Categorical 4K+ wirelessly and solely makes use of infrared if it must ship instructions to your TV. This additionally means you possibly can tuck the streamer out of your line of sight if you want — one thing you possibly can’t do with the common Roku Categorical, or with the Categorical 4K, a $35 Walmart-only variant that doesn’t include the wireless-capable Roku voice distant.

Talking of the distant, it contains a voice button, a built-in microphone, and devoted buttons on the aspect for controlling a TV’s quantity and mute capabilities.

Questioning what the distinction is between the Categorical 4K+ and the Streaming Stick+? Two issues: The Streaming Stick+ has quicker, longer-range Wi-Fi, and it’s extra transportable as a result of it doesn’t require an HDMI cable. Yup, that’s it.

Setup and configuration

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Over time, Roku has continued to refine its setup course of for brand spanking new units, and it couldn’t be simpler.

When you plug the Categorical 4K+ into your TV by way of the included HDMI cable (or one among your individual), plug it into energy, after which slip the batteries into the distant.  That’s it — you’re executed with the half.

From there, the Roku interface guides you easily by way of connecting to your own home Wi-Fi and creating or connecting to an current Roku account.

Professional tip: You’ll need your cellphone, pill, or laptop computer standing by as a part of the setup course of entails sending you a affirmation electronic mail, which you’ll need to open and than click on the included hyperlink to finish the setup.

I didn’t have to regulate any of the audio or video settings. To borrow one among Apple’s favourite phrases, it simply labored.

I’ve arrange numerous streaming units and the Roku process is second solely to Apple when it comes to simplicity.

You’ll be prompted so as to add some highlighted channels (the title that Roku continues to make use of for streaming apps), however don’t really feel you want to take action now — channels may be simply added later by way of the Roku interface, the Roku app in your cellphone, and even on the net utilizing the Roku web site.

My assessment mannequin instantly acknowledged that it was linked to a 4K HDR-capable TV and I didn’t have to regulate any of the audio or video settings manually. To borrow one among Apple’s favourite phrases, it simply labored.

Proper earlier than you start utilizing the Categorical 4K+, Roku performs an introductory video that walks you thru the system’s major options and how you can use them. It’s the proper method to get to know the Categorical 4K+, and I feel each streaming system maker ought to comply with Roku’s lead on this. It’s a tool that performs video — why wouldn’t you present individuals a fast how-to video?

The interface may be very quick, with no perceptible lag in any respect.

One other tip: The Categorical 4K+ ships with an influence adapter, however you possibly can plug the Micro USB cable into an out there USB port in your TV and it ought to work simply effective.

Even on my check LG TV, which tends to energy down its USB ports when the TV isn’t in use, the Categorical 4K+ labored simply effective and even responded to the distant’s energy button when the whole lot was shut down.

Ease of use and efficiency

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Roku has given the Categorical 4K+ 1GB of RAM, an upgraded processor, and really quick MIMO Wi-Fi AC — and the outcomes are spectacular.

The interface may be very quick, with no perceptible lag in any respect. For essentially the most half, channels launch shortly (some a little bit faster than others), and leaping from an open channel again to the house display after which into a unique channel is a snap.

Making content material choices inside channels was simply as responsive, and films and reveals began to stream as quick as they do on an Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Defend — and considerably quicker than the built-in apps on my LG C7 OLED 4K TV.

Roku’s interface has modified little over time, and that’s largely an excellent factor. The easy, simple menu choices are a breeze to make use of, whether or not you’re on the lookout for a favourite channel, tweaking system settings, or looking for new channels within the Roku Channel Retailer.

Roku has resisted the pattern of including a content-curation layer to its major interface, relying as an alternative on the free Roku Channel app (channel?) as its major manner of serving to you discover one thing to look at.

This may increasingly not really feel as fashionable as say, Google TV, the not too long ago revamped Hearth TV interface, or the Apple TV residence display, however I confess I desire having the ability to resolve if I need to be proven a bunch of content material, or whether or not I’d desire to dive straight into a selected streaming service.

Just lately, Roku added Apple AirPlay to pick out 4K-capable participant units, and the Categorical 4K+ gave me my first style of this characteristic on a Roku.

I’m joyful to report it really works flawlessly. The Categorical 4K+ confirmed up in my record of obtainable AirPlay units, and I used to be in a position to shortly set up an AirPlay session. After that, it didn’t matter whether or not I used to be taking part in music from Apple Music or Tidal, or streaming from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+ — the content material confirmed up on my TV with none buffering or different connection hiccups. I didn’t check the out there integration with Apple HomeKit, however each Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have been in a position to management the Categorical 4K+ with out issues.

Voice instructions utilizing the distant have been equally slick and satisfying, and I used to be in a position to open channels and seek for actors and film titles.

Audio and video

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

There’s no query that when you personal a Dolby Imaginative and prescient-capable TV, it is smart to get a Dolby Imaginative and prescient-capable streaming system. Nevertheless, when you’re decided to stay with Roku, you’ll need to spend $100 to purchase the Roku Extremely, which is the one Roku participant system that works with Dolby’s dynamic HDR format.

The Categorical 4K+ has wonderful image high quality, with tack-sharp particulars.

As a lot of a fan of Dolby Imaginative and prescient as I’m, it’s arduous to argue that this one characteristic is value spending an additional $60 (150% extra) over the worth of the Categorical 4K+ to get it — particularly when 4K with common HDR10 seems to be so damned good. It’s additionally value noting that regardless of the absence of Dolby Imaginative and prescient, the Categorical 4K+ does assist HDR10+. As a dynamic HDR format, it has the potential to look pretty much as good as Dolby Imaginative and prescient, however remember that your TV must assist it (not all HDR TVs do) and also you’ll want to search out HDR10+ content material. To this point, Amazon Prime Video is your finest wager for HDR10+.

The Categorical 4K+ has wonderful image high quality, with tack-sharp particulars. Even when streaming HD content material from sources like Amazon Prime Video, I discovered I used to be completely happy with the outcomes.

What could also be extra spectacular is that the Categorical 4K+ can go by way of Dolby Atmos content material by way of Dolby Digital Plus over HDMI.

For me, that translated into very good Atmos audio each on my TV’s inner audio system, in addition to my full residence theater 5.1.2 system.

There may be one caveat right here: Dolby Atmos assist when supplied by way of passthrough (versus native Atmos decoding) is completed on an app-by-app (channel-by-channel?) foundation. For the time being, Netflix is the one streaming app that delivers Dolby Atmos on the Categorical 4K+. May this transformation in time? Completely, however for now, it’s finest to consider the Categorical 4K+ as a Dolby 5.1 system.

For those who’re inquisitive about all of the ins and outs of getting nice Dolby Atmos sound, take a look at this useful explainer.

There’s an app for that

No assessment of a Roku product is full with out not less than a passing point out of the corporate’s very good cellular app. Not solely can you utilize it as a full-fledged various to the distant that shipped along with your product, but it surely additionally permits non-public listening (watch in your TV when you pay attention by way of your cellphone’s headphones), and it provides you the flexibility so as to add and take away Roku channels even when your Roku system is turned off.

Higher nonetheless, it acts as your cellular model of the Roku Channel, with entry to all the similar content material that you just’d get in your TV.

The Roku app is a powerful further that, thus far, no different streaming system firm can match.

Our take

Extremely simple to arrange and use, the Roku Categorical 4K+ exceeds our expectations for what a $40 streaming media system can do.

Is there a greater various?

At this value, the Categorical 4K+ has two superb direct opponents: The not too long ago refreshed Amazon Hearth TV Stick and the TiVo Stream 4K.

The Hearth TV Stick and Stream 4K each characteristic native Dolby Atmos decoding, which implies that many extra streaming apps ought to work with this characteristic. The Stream 4K additionally has Dolby Imaginative and prescient — an enormous plus for individuals who have suitable TVs.

However neither of those units helps Apple AirPlay or HomeKit, and we’d argue that the Roku interface continues to be a extra interesting method to navigate a streaming system than both Amazon’s Hearth TV or Android TV (particularly because the Stream 4K lacks Google TV).

And neither of those units has an equal to the wonderful Roku cellular app.

Except you’re feeling that the Hearth TV Stick or Stream 4K has a characteristic you possibly can’t stay with out, I feel you’ll be very proud of the Roku Categorical 4K+.

How lengthy will it final?

Roku participant units include a one-year guarantee. My expertise with most streaming units is that so long as you don’t inadvertently harm them, they’ll work for years. The Categorical 4K+ is simply as well-built as Roku’s different gamers — which is to say, very effectively constructed — and the distant management is powerful regardless of being light-weight.

Roku additionally has a superb observe report in protecting its older units up to date with new software program over time.

Must you purchase it?

Completely. If you wish to take pleasure in 4K HDR streaming for the bottom attainable value, the Roku Categorical+ provides you that and a complete lot extra.

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