I recently had the chance to thoroughly test out Walmart‘s latest foray into the budget streaming device space – the Onn Android TV Stick. Normally retailing for $24.88, this HDMI dongle offers a full Android TV experience at a fraction of the price of streamers from Amazon, Roku and Google.
But can a device this cheap provide a streaming experience comparable to those big brands? After extensive hands-on testing, I think the answer is a pretty resounding "No." While the Onn Stick nails the basics on paper, lackluster wireless performance and software deficiencies make streaming a struggle compared to just slightly more expensive competitors.
Below I‘ll dig into the details on both the pros and cons of relying on the Onn Stick as your streaming portal. Read on for a completely transparent and unbiased look at what this budget device truly delivers.
My Hands-On Test Setup
To fully evaluate the Onn Stick‘s capabilities as a streaming portal, I put it through exhaustive tests under real-world conditions:
- Hardware: Tested on a 55" Samsung Q80 4K QLED TV and a 3-year old Vizio 1080p LCD TV
- Network: Connected over 5GHz 802.11ac and 2.4GHz 802.11n on a Netgear Nighthawk AX4 router
- Video Sources: Streamed content from services like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Plex media server
- Apps Used: Installled Kodi, Stremio, IPTV Smarters, Downloader, web browsers, and various utility apps from the Google Play store and sideloading
- Connectivity: Paired Bluetooth headphones and game controllers to test streaming with accessories
- Benchmarks: Ran benchmarks like Antutu to gauge hardware performance
Using the above setup, I aimed to simulate the typical environment and use cases of a mainstream cord-cutter looking for a basic streaming portal. The results exposed key strengths but also concerning weaknesses compared to pricier alternatives.
Advertised Features and First Impressions
Walmart positions the Onn Stick as delivering core streaming functionality:
- 1080p output: Max supported resolution of 1920×1080 FHD
- Google account setup: Primary account login gives access to Play Store and services
- HDMI plug: Directly plugs into TV‘s HDMI port for video/audio
- Android TV: Provides Android 9 OS optimized for big screens
- Dolby Audio: Supports basic Dolby sound codecs
- Dual-band WiFi: 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless
- Accessories: HDMI extender, USB power cable, voice remote
With the Android TV platform, the Onn Stick grants access to thousands of apps on the Play Store out of the box. It ships with core streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, and Hulu preinstalled.
Setting up the hardware is simple – just plug the Stick into your TV‘s HDMI port and connect the included power cable. The device boots directly into the Android TV interface, which is snappy and intuitive to navigate with the minimal remote.
But that smooth first experience soon gives way to sluggishness once you start streaming intensive media.
Benchmark Performance Lags Rivals
While the Onn Stick‘s quad core ARM-based processor and 1GB of RAM provide enough horsepower for basic streaming, its benchmarks lag far behind its pricier competitors:
|Amazon Fire Stick 4K||Quad core 1.7Ghz||1GB||37,000|
|Onn Stick||Quad core 1.5Ghz||1GB||18,000|
|TiVo Stick 4K||Quad core 2.0Ghz||2GB||63,000|
With an Antutu score around 18,000, the Onn Stick‘s processor and memory benchmark around half as fast as the 4K Fire Stick and less than a third as fast as the TiVo Stick 4K.
While all of these devices can handle basic 720p streaming, the Onn Stick‘s lower horsepower becomes obvious when multitasking or jumping between apps. And it likely contributes to the wireless connectivity issues discussed next.
Wireless Performance Plagued by Instability
The Onn Stick‘s biggest weakness in my testing was remarkably poor WiFi performance. Streaming suffered from constant buffering and drop-outs, despite strong wireless signal.
The Stick was unable to maintain a stable connection to my router‘s 5GHz network. After repeated drop-outs, I would have to manually switch to the 2.4GHz band.
But even then, speeds were a fraction of my network‘s capability:
- Onn Stick over 2.4GHz: 125 Mbps down / 15 Mbps up
- 4K Fire Stick over 5GHz: 350 Mbps down / 25 Mbps up
This indicates an issue either with the Onn‘s wireless chipset or antennas choking throughput. Given the bargain price, it‘s not surprising corners were cut here.
Regardless, the end result is unacceptable buffering and lower-quality video across most streaming apps. This negates any benefit of the Android TV platform.
Software Stability Issues Compound Problems
On top of shaky wireless performance, I encountered multiple software glitches during my testing:
- HDMI handshake failures: TV often failed to detect Onn Stick on power on requiring reboots
- App incompatibility: Many apps failed to install or crashed on launch
- Missing codecs: Popular video and audio codecs did not seem supported
- Spotty Bluetooth: Connections with wireless headphones and controllers were uneven
Again, these types of bugs are likely a side effect of the extremely low price point. The Onn Stick appears to run a proprietary fork of Android TV instead of the stock build.
This prevents it from passing Android TV‘s requirement for certified hardware and optimized software. Many apps are targeting those standards, causing compatibility issues.
Alternate Use Cases
Given the Onn Stick‘s rather dismal performance as streaming portal, what good is it? Here are some alternate ways it could still provide value:
- Universal remote: The included remote is great, controlling TV power/volume plus basic streaming functions
- Retro gaming: Install RetroArch and turn the Stick into an emulator for older game systems
- Network storage: Attach a large external hard drive for accessing media files locally or over your home network
Basically for any usage that doesn‘t rely on smooth video streaming, the Onn Stick may still work decently well. Just don‘t expect a robust experience streaming 4K HDR movies.
The Onn TV Stick delivers on its promise of offering a basic Android TV experience at an unbeatable price. But corners were clearly cut to hit that $25 price point, with crippling impacts on wireless performance.
Streaming on the Onn Stick is an exercise in buffering frustration. Spend just $10-15 more for an Amazon Fire Stick Lite or Roku Express and enjoy hugely better stability.
If you just want to repurpose the remote or tinker with Android apps, it may be worth buying. Just know the streaming experience pales compared to better sticks.
Overall I can only give the Onn TV Stick 2 out of 5 stars based on my extensive hands-on testing. Let me know if you have any other questions!