For as much as we wring our hands over Amazon and its ever-growing product ecosystem, let’s not forget the other big-box retailer that is also trying to insert itself into the narrative. Walmart has long invested in its own house brand called Onn, which manufactures everything from Android tablets to Roku TV to sound barsand even positively vintage gadgets like cassette recorders.
Walmart also makes a few extremes affordable Onn streaming devices running Android TV. $ 30 Android TV UHD Streaming Device is effectively a set-top box with 4K streaming capabilities and Dolby audio compatibility. There is also $ 25 Onn FHD Streaming Stick, which I have currently connected to my bedroom TV. That’s what I spent the last week watching Android TV after realizing $ 50 Chromecast with Google TV dongle was a little overkill on a screen I use to help me doze off.
Like Chromecast with Google TV and Chromecast of yore, insert the black Onn dongle into an HDMI port on the back of your TV. The box comes with an HDMI extension that makes it more convenient for you, which is a good touch. There is also a button-packed remote that comes with the device, which I get into just a little bit.
FHD Streaming Stick runs a quad-core Amlogicx S8055Y, made by a company that produces Android TV-based devices and other gadgets and accessories. Amlogic too makes the chipset to Chromecast with Google TV, so there is already some synergy here. The special processor in the FHD Streaming Stick is a cheap quad-core ARM Cortex A5-based SoC with a Mali-450 MP2 GPU. There is also 1 GB of memory inside plus support for 802.11ac wifi connections. Note that there is no support for 2×2 MIMO as on Amazon Fire TV sticks, so expect slower throughput.
The remote is a chunkier version of what you would get through Google, and not unlike the button-down remotes you would get with a device like the Xiaomi MiBox set-top box. There is a button for almost everything: a back button, a button to switch input, a button to pick up the assistant, a silent button, a start button and even a side up and down button that runs in parallel with the volume control. There are also four start buttons at the bottom for YouTube, Netflix, HBO Max and Disney +, the latter of which cannot be uninstalled from the streaming jack if you do not pay for it (I do not!). Android Police discovered that it is not possible to rearrange the buttons with an app. You could, though pair it for use with a Chromecast with Google TV device if you prefer the remote. I liked it because it’s a little longer and heavier than the Chromecast remote.
Oddly enough, there is a button to add titles to your watch list, even though the Onn FHD Streaming Stick runs a version of Android TV that does not use the Google TV introduced feature.
Onn remote control can be paired with your TV for additional hardware control, e.g. volume and input control. Unfortunately, I had trouble pairing the remote with my TCL TV. I’m still trying to figure out the problem.
Everything else about the Onn stick is reasonably straightforward. If you’ve used either Android TV or Google TV, the interface is generally the same for navigation. There are suggestions at the top based on the apps you have installed, plus a carousel below for your favorite apps. Then there is the Play Next module which guides you through content that is either running or next up the list. And then there are Google Play specific suggestions.
Google TV is a bit more of an interface than a launcher that Android TV often feels like. It is also better organized with a clearly marked tab for live TV through a service like YouTube TV as well as a tab for quick access to your DVR library. I asked Google if the Onn FHD Streaming Stick would receive the updated one Google TV update at any time in the future. There is nothing to report yet, but the Onn streaming stick has the new Discover tab that Google pushed for Android TV earlier this year.
In terms of overall performance, I noticed that apps were just slightly slower to load than on Chromecast with Google TV. Even YouTube TV would take a few seconds before I brought myself to the home screen to access my DVR. I used the remote to ask Google Assistant to start something specific, but it would take a while before entering command mode. For the most part, I used the Onn stick to watch Pluto TV and fall asleep to Unresolved mysteries. The slight uneasiness of navigating Android TV made me happy that I had installed the streaming stick on a secondary screen instead of the main one downstairs due to the wait time before a button makes anything happen.
But the Onn stick is one of the cheapest ways to make a stupid TV. It’s more affordable than any of the Amazon Fire TV sticks, which are Walmart’s main competition in this particular category. As I mentioned before, the big-box retailer is already playing well with Roku’s devices.
The main reason you choose this seriously affordable streaming stick is that you want to keep a wild screen you are in the Google ecosystem. Given it the cost of YouTube TV. you might as well make it available on every screen that takes it. A Chromecast with Google TV is affordable enough, but when you want to stream to multiple screens, it starts adding up. The low cost of Walmart’s dongle make it cheaper to upgrade multiple monitors at once. Three Chromecasts with Google TVs start at $ 150 before tax and shipping. Conversely, you can probably walk into a Walmart right now and catch three of these dongles for $ 75, which is half the price.
There is another option: Google is still selling according to Chromecast for $ 30 without a remote, but that does not have an interface beyond a screen saver, so yYou will have to cast what you want to see from a smartphone manually. I prefer Walmart’s Onn offer simply for the extra remote control and software. There’s something about the tangible feel of a brick with buttons that I find more instinctive than poking through my smartphone looking for the next thing to look at – maybe it’s because I do not want to navigate two screens at a time.
Look at this is not a full-fledged set-top streaming experience. If you’re looking for expansion options and a little more performance, you can spend just a few dollars more on Onn’s UHD streaming device. For now, I keep the Onn FHD Streaming Stick connected to my TV. It’s not the full Google TV experience, but because of that it’s a little faster to get what I need – something to put on in the background.