If you‘re looking for an affordable 4K streaming device, the TiVo Stream 4K is one option worth considering. But how does it compare to other popular streamers from Roku, Amazon, and Apple?
As a long-time tester of streaming devices, I decided to take an in-depth look at the TiVo Stream 4K. I‘ve used the device extensively over the past few weeks to evaluate all aspects of its performance and feature set.
In this TiVo Stream 4K review, I‘ll compare it head-to-head against the competition and share my honest thoughts on its pros, cons, and overall value in 2022. Consider this your guide before deciding if the Stream 4K is right for your home streaming needs.
Overview and Pricing
First, let‘s recap the TiVo Stream 4K‘s key specifications:
- Release Date: April 2020
- Price: $49.99
- Resolution: 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160)
- HDR Support: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
- Processor: Quad-core Amlogic S905Y2
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 8GB (expandable via USB)
- USB Port: USB-C
- WiFi: Dual-band 802.11ac
- Bluetooth: 5.0
- Voice Assistant: Google Assistant
- Remote: Voice remote with TV controls
- Dimensions: 4.5 x 1.4 x 0.5 inches
At $49.99, the TiVo Stream 4K is priced identically to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick+. This positions it as a budget 4K HDR streaming option a tier below more premium devices like the Apple TV 4K ($179+), Nvidia Shield TV ($149+), and Chromecast with Google TV ($49.99).
Of course, meeting the same retail price point as Fire TV and Roku doesn‘t necessarily mean the TiVo Stream 4K delivers an equivalent overall experience. Let‘s compare how it stacks up.
To understand where the TiVo Stream 4K fits in the streaming device landscape, it‘s helpful to look at current market share:
|Amazon Fire TV||25%|
|TiVo Stream 4K||<1%|
As a new entry into the market in 2020, the TiVo Stream 4K has a long uphill battle to gain adoption versus veteran brands like Roku, Amazon, and Apple. But its pricing aggressively matches Fire TV while undercutting Apple TV and Chromecast with Google TV.
Continuing hardware improvements and software updates could make it a more compelling option over time, especially for cord cutters looking to move beyond Roku and Fire TV‘s closed ecosystems.
Still, with less than 1% market share, the Stream 4K has limited name recognition among casual streamer shoppers compared to longtime market leaders.
Design and Build Quality
The TiVo Stream 4K isn‘t flashy, but its understated matte black design allows it to blend into your home entertainment center. The small, rectangular puck measures just 4.5 x 1.4 x 0.5 inches — even more compact than an Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Despite its slim size, the Stream 4K feels sturdy and well-built. The matte plastic exterior nicely resists fingerprints while providing a smooth, rounded feel in hand.
By comparison, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is even smaller and more discreet at just 0.7 x 3.7 x 1 inches but feels slightly cheaper and flimsier.
Like the streaming box itself, the TiVo Stream 4K‘s voice remote gets the job done without much pizzazz. It has a no-frills matte black finish but feels substantial in hand. The remote runs on two included AAA batteries.
All the expected media control and navigation buttons are present, along with dedicated app shortcuts for Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Live TV.
My biggest gripe is that the remote relies on an IR (infrared) connection rather than Bluetooth. This requires direct line-of-sight to the Stream 4K — a disadvantage compared to Bluetooth/RF remotes from Fire TV and Apple TV that work at wide angles and distances.
By comparison, the Roku Streaming Stick+ remote includes RF wireless support and rechargeable battery for more flexible usage. But the TiVo‘s remote functionality is on par with Amazon‘s IR-based Fire TV Stick remotes.
Streaming Performance and 4K/HDR Quality
When it comes to actual streaming performance, the TiVo Stream 4K delivers excellent 4K HDR video perfectly on par with the Roku Streaming Stick+ and Fire TV Stick 4K.
Popular apps like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, and YouTube all loaded quickly and streamed without any buffering or quality issues. Even navigating outside streaming apps back to the Android TV home screen felt snappy thanks to the Stream 4K‘s capable quad-core processor and 2GB RAM.
I streamed hours of 4K test content from Netflix and Amazon — including shows like The Witcher, Jack Ryan, The Expanse, and movies like Extraction — and the TiVo Stream 4K never failed to impress. Streaming quality was perfectly smooth and stable.
The Stream 4K matched streaming devices costing twice as much in flawlessly rendering all the extra detail 4K resolution provides. High dynamic range content also dazzled with expanded brightness, accurate colors, and improved contrast.
According to TiVo, the Stream 4K supports common HDR formats like HDR10, HLG, and HDR10+. Noticeably absent is Dolby Vision, which is limited to premium streamers like the Apple TV 4K and Chromecast with Google TV in this price range.
But for most buyers focused on core 4K HDR streaming quality, the absence of Dolby Vision won‘t represent a huge limitation. HDR10 and HDR10+ still offer a significant boost over standard dynamic range streaming.
Interface and Software
The TiVo Stream 4K runs Google‘s Android TV software, which provides a customizable home screen interface. Google Assistant is built in for robust voice control as well.
If you‘ve used an Nvidia Shield TV or other Android TV device, navigating the Stream 4K will feel very familiar. You can add favorite apps to a customizable home screen row for quick access.
The home screen provides personalized recommendations for content to stream or download. You can also add additional rows like one just for movies or preferred streaming services.
I appreciate the high degree of personalization compared to the more rigid home screens of Fire TV and Roku devices. Android TV just offers much more interface flexibility.
In addition to the core Android TV experience, the Stream 4K includes TiVo‘s own streaming app. This aims to aggregate shows and movies from across all your streaming services in one place.
The TiVo app provides an alternative way to find content without having to directly launch Netflix, Hulu, etc. It includes over 50 streaming services with content centered around categories like New Releases, Trending Now, Reality TV, and more.
For cord cutters juggling multiple streaming apps, I found the TiVo experience a useful way to browse and discover shows without service silos. But launching shows still requires opening the corresponding streaming app.
App Support and Flexibility
A huge advantage of Android TV over Amazon and Roku‘s operating systems is its openness and flexibility. The TiVo Stream 4K provides access to all the major streaming services including:
- Prime Video
- HBO Max
- YouTube / YouTube TV
Plus, you can download additional apps right from the Google Play store. I easily installed Plex, Twitch, Crunchyroll, and numerous other streaming apps not available on Fire TV or Roku.
And thanks to Android TV‘s open platform, it‘s also possible to sideload third-party apps not found in the Play Store, something restricted on Fire and Roku. For example, I loaded Kodi and Cinema APK to access a wider world of content.
Overall, the TiVo Stream 4K offers the most streaming app flexibility and customization among affordable streamers — a key advantage of Android TV.
Remote and Voice Control
The TiVo remote handles all the basics reasonably well given the limitations of IR connectivity compared to RF/Bluetooth remotes.
In addition to standard media playback buttons, you get dedicated app shortcuts for Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Live TV. There‘s also a button to launch Google Assistant for voice commands.
Speaking of voice, the TiVo remote features excellent hands-free voice support powered by Google Assistant. Press the mic button and you can launch apps, search for content, control smart home devices, and more.
Voice input proved very accurate, correctly interpreting my requests to pull up shows, control volume, switch inputs, and open apps like YouTube and Spotify. Alexa voice functionality on Fire TV isn‘t nearly as robust.
Between Google Assistant and the on-screen keyboard for text input, the remote nicely complements the Android TV interface despite lacking more advanced Bluetooth connectivity.
Storage, USB-C, and Expandability
A common pain point of streaming sticks is their paltry internal storage. For example, the Fire TV Stick 4K includes just 8GB, which fills up fast if you download more than a few large apps.
That‘s why I really appreciate that the TiVo Stream 4K allows you to easily expand storage via the onboard USB-C port. Just plug in a cheap flash drive or external SSD to massively expand available storage space.
I moved some large Android game files to a 128GB flash drive plugged into the Stream 4K which freed up plenty of room on the main 8GB internal storage. This also provides a handy place to store personal media files.
The Stream 4K‘s USB-C port opens up other exciting possibilities. You can connect hubs, Ethernet adapters, keyboards, and more. It‘s a handy feature unavailable on entry-level Fire and Roku devices.
For example, I connected a USB-C hub to add a wired Ethernet connection for faster streaming speeds compared to Wi-Fi. The Stream 4K recognized my Ethernet connection instantly without any setup.
While not its main purpose, the TiVo Stream 4K works very nicely for casual Android gaming thanks to Google Play access.
Less demanding games like Crossy Road, Alto‘s Odyssey, and Angry Birds loaded lightning fast. Even graphically intensive 3D games like Asphalt 9 ran smooth and fluid without any lag or choppiness.
The TiVo remote isn‘t ideal for gaming, but you can connect wireless controllers from Xbox, PlayStation, and other brands to transform the Stream 4K into a capable game console.
Of course, serious gamers will still prefer a dedicated console or high-end Android TV box like the Nvidia Shield. But for casual couch gaming, the TiVo Stream 4K provides a console-like experience at a fraction of the price.
Pros vs Cons Compared to Fire TV and Roku
Based on my testing, here are the key advantages I see the TiVo Stream 4K holding over the Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick+:
TiVo Stream 4K Pros
- More open and flexible Android TV software
- Voice remote with Google Assistant
- USB-C port for expanded storage
- Wider app selection including sideloaded apps
- Smoother performance for gaming
Fire TV Stick 4K Pros
- Familiar Fire TV interface for Amazon ecosystem users
- Large 4K streaming app library
- Ethernet adapter available (sold separately)
- Alexa voice assistant
- More discreet stick design
Roku Streaming Stick+ Pros
- Broadest 4K app support
- Excellent Roku mobile app
- RF-based remote with headphone jack
- Robust Roku ecosystem
- Blind-friendly interface
Who Should Buy the TiVo Stream 4K?
The TiVo Stream 4K is best suited for the following streamer profiles:
Value-focused cord cutters – With top 4K/HDR quality and Android flexibility at just $50, it‘s an affordable way to cut cable without sacrificing features.
Android fans – Provides a true Android TV experience similar to the Shield TV in a smaller package and at a lower cost.
Tinkerers – Sideloading support provides endless customization for experienced Android users.
Google Assistant users – Hands-free Google Assistant voice makes it easy to control your smart home and search for content.
Casual gamers – Android gaming runs smoothly for those looking for a living room game machine on the cheap.
The TiVo Stream 4K holds its own against veteran streamers like the Roku Streaming Stick+ and Fire TV Stick 4K. It delivers an excellent 4K HDR streaming experience via a compact Android TV package.
For just $50, you get full-featured Android TV, handy Google Assistant voice features, and useful extras like USB-C expandable storage. Gaming performance also punches above its weight.
Downsides include a learning curve for those new to Android, limited Dolby Vision HDR support, and fewer streaming apps than Roku or Fire TV. But for shoppers wanting flexibility beyond those walled gardens, the TiVo Stream 4K is a compelling option.
Overall, the Stream 4K feels like an impressive first step for TiVo into the mainstream streaming device market. With continued updates and growing app support, it provides an affordable 4K streaming option thanks to the power of Android TV.