A few days ago I picked up a Roku 3500R Streaming Stick quite cheap from Amazon after I noticed it was on sale. I don’t usually purchase streaming devices with very limited capabilities but I had heard good things about Roku products from friends so I thought I’d check it out for myself and it would make for a good review.
So Roku make a whole range of different video streaming products, this particular one is a few years old now (so its not the latest); I believe it was released mid 2014 to compete with Google’s Chromecast which are similar in comparison. This model retails at $50 (currently on sale for $37) which is slightly more expensive than Chromecast ($35) however it does have more features which we will discuss.
Design, Look and Feel
As you can probably tell from looking at the pictures, the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick looks overall like a purple USB thumb-drive. Its a little larger than Googles Chromecast with dimensions of [3.1 in x 1.1 in x .5 in] however it still tucks behind most TV sets nice and neatly; not so nicely for TV sets with side HDMI slots, often it can be a tight fit depending on the design. The remote is almost double the size of the Roku, while it is quite light and has a pleasing fit to the hand you cant help but notice that its made quite cheaply. Nowhere near the quality of other remotes, especially the Apple TV one; so its probably best you don’t throw it around the lounge room or “accidentally” drop it on the floor. The remote has all the basic buttons such as power, directional, enter, play, pause etc; along with a few direct channel links such as Netflix and the three other major network services.
Unlike most boxes or HDMI sticks the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick works a little bit different. Because it has no Android based operating system it straight away limits the capabilities and choice of apps to just network video/audio streaming services (which most require a prior subscription). So what is available then?
Rather than referring to them as “Apps”, Roku instead refers to them as channels. They claim to have over 2,000. Now whether or not anyone has actually bothered to count them all, I cant say for certain if this statement is true. From doing a quick search 80% of the “free” no subscription ones are very niche and probably things that wouldn’t be of any interest. However they do have all the major subscription channels such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle and HBO Go etc.. Roku also has you covered with various major audio apps such as Pandora, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Plex, Google Music and a few others.
Lastly there are a few different apps for the kids. Although I didn’t look too deeply into this they have things like Public Broadcasting Service for kids (which I imagine is some kind of 24/7 kids channel) and a separate Disney app that works with your Disney Channel subscription. Something else I didn’t look too deeply into was their News & Weather channels which also come in a variety of networks.
The Roku 3500R interface is very basic and user friendly. Upon starting the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick up for the first time you will be promoted with an introduction message and you’ll also be asked to connect the Roku 3500R to your home network so it can gain internet access (much like the Amazon Fire TV Stick). Once you’re finally in and you get started the main interface is pretty much just a purple screen (to match the physical device appearance) and a grid where you can arrange your channels (apps) in whatever order pleases you.
The menus are great to search through, they give you comprehensive options to assure you can find what you’re looking for with ease. If you want to find a specific film with a specific actor in it on Netflix have no fear, they have you covered. If you want to sort through movies via year it was made, also no problem.
Sometimes using the directional buttons to type can be annoying so also much like the Amazon Fire TV Stick they have included a microphone in the remote so you can easily speak without having to worry about using the tiny remote to type.
Whats In The Box?
With the unavoidable sub heading printed on the box of “This is gonna be fun.” (they wouldn’t lie would they?) lets take a look at what you get inside the ever so small box.
- Basic Instruction Manual
- 2 Batteries for the remote
- Roku 3500R Streaming Stick
- USB Power Adapter
- Remote Control
So yes, pretty much everything you’d expect.
So in conclusion is this $50 HDMI streaming stick worth it? Yes but only with reason. If you’re looking for a way to install apps such as Kodi and various other third-party software then no. – You would only want to purchase this stick if you wanted a way to watch your subscription services such as Netflix on your non smart TV. Most recent smart TVs come with these apps (channels) built in; Perfect for the TVs in your children’s room who want to watch extra channels (since I cant imagine many children having their room decked out with the latest smart TVs).
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