At $49, the new Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI version) directly competes against the the lower cost Google Chromecast. But in terms of overall content and features, it’s a better investment to pay that little extra.
Now available online and at retail stores, including Target and Best Buy, the Streaming Stick (HDMI version) is a powerful device yet just 3.1 inches long and weighing a meager .64 ounces. Allowing consumers to stream more than 1,200 channels and 31,000 movies, there is simply no other competing device that comes even close. Furthermore, Roku continues to add more channels, thereby increasing its dominance in overall content. In addition to popular channels such as Pandora, Netflix, Blockbuster, M-GO and Facebook, Roku has recently added new channels, such as Condé Nast Entertainment, WATCH Disney Channel, SHOWTIME ANYTIME, WATCH ESPN and the long awaited YouTube. Consumers can also view their own photos and videos right on the television screen.
Along with the HDMI Streaming Stick, the package includes a Roku remote, the power cable and wall adapter, the startup guide and two AA batteries. Missing from the Streaming Stick is a headphone jack, available on the Roku 2 and Roku 3, which also comes equipped with in-ear headphones and motion control technology for video games.
Like other Roku devices, setup is very easy although in this case, the Streaming Stick simply plugs into the HDMI port and connected with a micro USB into the TV's USB port or a USB wall adapter. The following steps are also similar to its other devices – adding batteries to the remote (something Chromecast does not have), connecting via a wireless network and then to a Roku account
My only concern with the Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI version) is the lag time in loading a channel, such as Netflix, Pandora or You Tube. In repeated testing, it took several seconds before these channels appeared on the screen. By comparison, the three test channels appeared within seconds on the top of the line Roku 3 with its faster processor. However, the wait from the Streaming Stick is offset by the brilliant high definition video and through a few days of testing, there were no connection issues with either the remote control or through the updated Roku Mobile App (Android, iOS) which features the very convenient Roku Search. Nevertheless, Roku does inform consumers “in general, the faster your internet connect, the better the video quality”, recommending a minimum of 1.5 Mbps for standard definition and 3.0 Mbps for HD content.
In summary, Saratoga-based Roku has yet another winner in its industry leading line of streaming players. The HDMI version of the Streaming Stick packs a powerful punch to competitors and delivers spectacular video quality up to 1080p HD. Despite the noticeable lag time, there is unquestionably no other similarly priced digital media player that’s better.
Conclusion: The Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI version) gets a solid five star rating.