Yesterday, Roku announced a new product, the Roku Streaming Stick. It hits store shelves in April for $49 USD and is now available to preorder in the US, Canada, the U.K., and in the Republic of Ireland.
For those unfamiliar with Roku, it's a company that produces a line of streaming internet boxes (Rokus) designed to connect to traditional televisions. Each Roku, once hooked up to a television and configured, is able to join a wireless network and deliver internet video to the TV screen. The company sells four products, ranging in price from $49 USD to $99 USD. Each one comes with slightly different features.
What Makes it Compelling?
There are a few things about the Roku that make it compelling:
- Cost. Starting at just $49, it's cheap enough that almost anybody can get one.
- Lots of channels. Roku has over 1,000 channels, including Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.
- Size. These Rokus are small; they can fit in the palm of one hand, which means it can probably fit into an existing entertainment center.
Roku Streaming Stick vs. Google Chromecast
Not long ago I shared my Impressions on Google's Chromecast, an HDMI dongle that connects to a TV to let you stream internet television. The Roku Streaming Stick also brings internet video to a TV.
Notice any similarities?
It seems pretty clear that the Roku Streaming Stick is positioned to compete head-to-head against Google's Chromecast. The folks at Roku even use the word "Cast" in their device description. See below.
The Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI Version) is a convenient little stick that streams the most entertainment to your TV. Choose from 1,000+ channels and 31,000+ movies with more added all the time. Cast Netflix, YouTube and personal media from your smartphone or tablet to your TV. Control it with the included remote or from your mobile device.
It's hard to say whether the Roku is superior to the Chromecast or vice versa. A lot of their feature set overlaps, but they don't do exactly the same thing. For example, a Google Chromecast is controlled by a smartphone, tablet, or computer, while the Roku is controlled by a remote.
What about Support?
What's the verdict? Should you get a Roku?
Whether you should get a Roku depends on whether you have existing relationships with some of the content provider channels to which the Roku connects. If you have a Netflix account, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, or Amazon Prime, then this is likely a good buy for you. Take a look at their channel list to see what they offer.
If number of channels matters to you, go Roku. If Google integration and Google Play are what's important, then go Chromecast for $35 USD. If Apple content is at the center of your internet movie and television life, go AppleTV for $99 USD.