There are too many choices for streaming stuff to our TV’s.
Google has the Chromecast dongle, which “casts” content from your computer directly to a TV. Apple has the Apple TV set-top box, which hooks into your iTunes account and also lets you stream shows and movies from Hulu, Netflix and many others. Amazon’s Fire TV is similar to the Apple TV, but it also lets you play video games and even has a separate game controller.
There’s also Roku.
This Saratoga, Calif., company makes a series of set-top boxes that can stream shows and movies. Some of the boxes even let you play games.
In addition to set-top boxes, the company released a small dongle, called the Streaming Stick, which does the same thing as the set-top boxes, but in a smaller form factor resembling a USB flash drive. The original Stick only worked with a few brands of televisions, however.
Now, the company launched the second version, called the Roku Streaming Stick HDMI.
I was able to try out the new dongle over the past few days, and I was really impressed with it.
The setup process was painless
I was able to set up the Roku Stick quickly. It didn’t take much time at all for me to create my account and select channels.
All I needed to do was plug the Stick into my TV, and the process was painless after that. The physical remote immediately turned on, and I was able to navigate easily through the guide.
You won’t be disappointed with your streaming choices
Apps is where Roku has the advantage: its app store includes more than 1,200 channels. Those channels include the usual fair, like Netflix and Amazon Instant, as well as more-specialised ones like MLB.TV, and even some music-streaming apps, like Spotify and Rdio.
It even has some big-name apps that are exclusive to Roku, and it’s often the first to get new apps, such as Showtime Anytime.
You can also search for a particular show, and the Roku will tell you which channels it’s available on. This is a good way to make sure that a show you want to watch is streaming on one of the channels for free.
Controls are responsive
You’ll have the best of both worlds when it comes to controlling Roku.
I found the remote to be the better choice.
The phone app took some time to respond possibly because my Internet connection is slow.
Also, it was distracting trying to use the app to find new shows because I kept getting notifications about emails and other messages.
That’s not what I want when I’m trying to relax and watch TV.
The remote responded to every command. I could quickly scavenge the Roku store for new channels. I never had to press buttons more than once to stop, rewind or fast-forward.
There are downsides
The downsides are small but noticeable. The previous Roku box remote came equipped with a headphone jack that made it easier for you to quietly watch TV. Plus, some of the essential apps like Netflix take some time to boot up.
I highly recommend the new Roku Streaming Stick. The $US50 price tag is perfect, especially for the amount of content you can stream. It is missing a few things — like the headphone jack — and its performance isn’t as speedy as some of the other devices that do the same thing, but these missing features don’t necessarily ruin the experience.
You can order the device directly from Roku’s website or buy it from several of the company’s retail partners.