Blog Post

Roku’s new $50 streaming stick tries to take on Chromecast

Roku has been downplaying the effect of Google’s (S GOOG) $35 Chromecast stick, but the company clearly knows when it should take some cues from the competition. Case in point: Roku is launching a $50 streaming stick that looks a lot like Chromecast, but is still a Roku product at heart.

Roku’s new streaming stick is being made available for preorder now, but will ship to customers and come to store shelves in April.

Roku Streaming Stick HDMI Version_Plugin

The new stick comes with a dedicated remote that uses Wi-Fi Direct, much like the Roku 3, but it doesn’t feature the same headphone jack available on the Roku 2 and 3 streaming players. It also features the same UI and access to the same 1,200 channels as existing Roku products, including the recently-launched YouTube (S GOOG) channel.

The device will plug straight into a TV’s HDMI port, and use an external USB adapter for power supply — just like Chromecast. However, unlike Chromecast, the new Roku streaming stick doesn’t use HDMI CEC. This means that Roku users won’t be able to turn on their TV with the Roku remote or app, but still have to use their TV remote control for this, as well as to switch to the right input.

This isn’t the first streaming stick from Roku. The company introduced a MHL-based product a year ago, which was tied closely to partnerships with CE manufacturers. Roku representatives have told me that the MHL-based streaming stick isn’t going away, but that it will continue to sell online for a reduced price, and that the company will also continue to bundle it with TV sets from select manufacturers.

6 Responses to “Roku’s new $50 streaming stick tries to take on Chromecast”

  1. Zoli Erdos

    Lack of HDMI-CEC support has been a huge shortcoming of all Roku products. It is actually worse than just lacking; in many configurations (AVR+TV+ other components) attching a non-compliant Roku messes up the HDMI communication between those other components.

  2. I’m surprised Roku is launching a device in 2014 without HEVC hardware decoding. I was assuming all new streaming boxes would have that built in. I think this decreases the chance we’ll see a mid-summer Chromecast refresh with HEVC. It’s important for improving picture quality and lowering bandwidth. On the other hand, perhaps Roku was just under the gun from the Chromecast and wanted to get something cheap out the door.

    While the Roku Youtube app works fantastic with DIAL, the Netflix app does not. When you connect from your phone, it stops at the profile selection screen, requiring you to pick up the remote. The app randomly disconnects during video playback. I hesitate to call Netflix “supported.” While this product matches the surface qualities of the Chromecast, until more apps have native DIAL support that consistently works well, Roku still has more to do. If I was buying a Roku for the first time, this is definitely the one I’d get though.

  3. Toby S

    why would i want this stick instead of the full thing? Is the only difference the ear bud functionality? if so then that feature is worth $50.