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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 05, 2014

Roku Takes on Google Chromecast with Refreshed Streaming Stick

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Forget $100 palm-sized set-tops: This season, cheap HDMI sticks are the new black when it comes to over-the-top (OTT) streaming hardware, judging by Roku’s decision to freshen up its video dongle.

The company has introduced a new, spruced up version of its Streaming Stick (it comes in purple!), which now goes for just $49 and appears to be set to take on Google’s (News - Alert) $35 online video phenom, the Chromecast streaming gadget.

Image via Roku.

The Streaming Stick was originally launched in 2012 and until now has sold for $99—analogous to, say, Apple (News - Alert) TV. It depended on an MHL-enhanced HDMI port to work though, which has limited consumer accessibility. The new version connects to a TV’s generic HDMI port instead, like Chromecast, thus widening the market to virtually any HDTV.

It also comes with its own RF- and Wi-Fi-connected remote to search and navigate various menu items.

The stick offers a range of OTT “channels,” including Netflix, Hulu (News - Alert), PBS, Showtime and other TV Everywhere entrants; along with more than 1,000 niche channels of video programming that are largely accessed for free. Unlike Chromecast though, it lacks YouTube (News - Alert) functionality.

But like Chromecast and unlike Roku’s set-top versions, it allows users to “cast” photos and videos directly from the Roku smartphone or tablet app to the stick and therefore the TV. The apps also have a sophisticated search engine UI.

The revamped Roku Streaming Stick will be available in April.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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