Roku announced today that it is accepting pre-orders for its new Roku Streaming Stick, which provides 8 times the processing power of its predecessor, Roku OS 7.1 with numerous new features, and a unique private listening feature that works with your smart phone. Best of all, it’s as cheap as ever, costing just $50.
As you may know, the Roku Streaming Stick is one of several “stick”-type streaming media devices that also includes the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the Google Chromecast. But it also competes with other stick-type devices—Miracast dongles, stick PCs and so on—and full-sized streaming media devices like Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku’s own family of products.
Streaming sticks are popular because they’re inexpensive and highly portable: You just plug the HDMI end into a port on your HDTV—or in a hotel—and use the USB end for power (possibly with an optional power adapter if there’s not a port). But performance is sometimes an issue, especially with the first-generation Roku Streaming Stick. In my testing, the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the recently-released second-gen Chromecast were much faster. So it is perhaps not surprising that Roku is focusing on performance with the new version.
Here’s what’s new in the new Roku Streaming Stick.
Improved performance. Roku claims its new Streaming Stick is faster than both Fire TV Stick and Chromecast, thanks to its quad-core processor.
Smaller size. The new Roku Streaming Stick is even smaller than its already diminutive predecessor, which could make for an easier fit in the cramped space behind an HDTV.
Private listening. Using the Roku app on your Android phone or iPhone, you can redirect the audio from the TV to your headphones. This sounds like a neat idea for a dorm room, or any other place where you want to watch TV but not disturb those around you.
Roku OS 7.1 The latest Roku OS includes a user interface refresh, of course, but also enhanced search, a new categories view to discover popular movies and TV shows across streaming channels, a ‘Follow’ feature so you can receive updates about shows and movies, and more. Other Roku devices will get this OS update soon too, of course.
Beyond this, the Roku Streaming Stick obvious includes all of the advantages of the previous device, including its bundled remote, dual-band wireless, video casting from mobile apps, Hotel and Dorm Connection functionality for public networks, and universal search.
So I won’t be buying this particular device since I already have numerous streaming media devices, including at least three Rokus. But overall, I prefer Roku to Apple TV or Fire TV, and it has the best channel (app) selection by far. But your choice in media streamer(s) should be based on where your content is. So this is the obvious time for me to complain, yet again, that Microsoft’s services—Groove Music, Microsoft Movies & TV, and OneDrive (for photos)—are nowhere to be seen on media streamers. So you’re stuck using an Xbox One or a PC with a Miracast dongle, neither one of which is particularly elegant for the task.
Come on, Microsoft. Please.