Roku is set to start shipping its new HDMI-connected Streaming Stick in April. It is intended to compete directly with Google’s very popular Chromecast. Seeing as Roku’s new device sells for $49.99 versus $35 for Chromecast, it looks like the competition will be fierce.
So what makes this different than the original $99 Roku Streaming Stick? The new HDMI Version is not limited to “Roku-Ready” TVs that use ports that support Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) technology. It will work with any TV with an HDMI input.
According to Roku chief marketing officer Matthew Anderson, the original MHL-compatible Roku Stick will still be available, but most likely limited to being bundled with compatible TVs and specialized remote controls that can work with the streaming device and the set itself. Roku has not disclosed sales figures for the original stick, but since the company certified 60 different products from 14 consumer electronics partners and that 20 companies are already in the Roku Ready program, it is estimated that they have shipped about 8 million devices in the US alone.
And just like the rest of Roku’s streaming boxes, the new Streaming Stick will support Roku’s 1,200-plus apps/channels, including authenticated TV Everywhere apps such as HBO GO, Watch Disney, WatchESPN, and TWC TV from Time Warner Cable.
As long as there is a solid internet connection that can handle the data rates, the new HDMI version can deliver 1080p video and uses a mini USB port that can draw power from a USB port on the TV or directly from a wall outlet. The 802.11n Wi-Fi-enabled device will also ship with a remote control and the ability to use mobile apps that can also control the Roku Streaming Stick. Anderson said the new product is also made to support DIAL (Discover and Launch), a feature currently supported by the Roku 3 that lets users fling video from YouTube and Netflix from a mobile device to the TV, tying in a feature that’s central to the rival Chromecast platform. The new adapter will also let users view locally-stored personal photos on the TV.
Roku is trying on several fronts to compete with rivals such as Google and Apple, who makes the ever-popular iTV. At the International CES event in January, Roku announced that Hisense and TCL are the first television manufactures that will launch models that integrate the Roku platform. The first of the Roku TV models are expected out this fall.
QTOOTH will be on the lookout for this device and will do a review when the Roku HDMI Streaming Stick become available.