Gadgets
Update on Roku Streaming Stick
Also new smartphone app
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September 20, 2012 by Grant Clauser

Roku announced that its new Streaming Stick will sell for $99 (with a motion-sensitive remote), but some TV makers may bundle it for free.

A month ago we told you about the upcoming Roku Streaming stick—a device about the size of a thumb drive that fits into an MHL (mobile high-definition link) USB port on a compatible HDTV or other device (such as an AV receiver) to allow Roku services to play on the TV.

The concept sounds pretty good. No longer will you need the bulky (well, it’s not that bulky) box on your shelf in order to get all the streaming audio and video content Roku offers. You don’t, however save on the price. Currently the most expensive Roku player, the XS, is $99 and comes with Ethernet, a free full version of Angry Birds and a motion-control remote for playing games.  The Roku XD does almost everything the XS does and costs $79. The entry-level Roku goes for $49.

The company also released a list of manufacturers offering TVs (or other products) that will be Roku Stick-compatible: Element Electronics, GlobalVue, Haier, Hitachi,  Insignia, Mitsubishi, Onkyo and Integra, OPPO and Apex Digital. Roku’s press release note that some companies may bundle the Stick, but no further info about that was available.

Notably absent from the partner list are major TV makers Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Sony and Sharp. It seems plausible that those major TV makers are more focused on promoting their own smart TV platform rather than supporting another brand’s.

Here are the first models to be Stick-compatible:

· Apex Digital 32” LED model LE3243R, 39”LED model LE3943R, 42” LED model LE4243R and 46” LED model LE4643R

· Insignia, a Best Buy brand 46” model NS-46E480A13A and 55” model NS-55E480A13A

· Hitachi 42” models LE42S606 and LE42T506, 46” models LE46S606 and LE46T506; and 55” models LE55S606, LE55T506 and LE55U516

Still, I really like the idea. Roku’s platform is proven, easy to use and popular. I have smart TVs in my house, with their own apps for Netflix and the like, but I still prefer to go to my Roku XD when I want to listen to Pandora or watch a movie on Amazon. To do this without an extra box, an extra remote and an extra HDMI cable is a benefit enough for me.

In addition to the Stick update, Roku has a few other announcement today—the company has added VUDU to it’s video lineup and updated the device’s smartphone app.

The app now lets you stream photos and music from your phone (or tablet) to your TV. The feature works with MP3, MP4, JPG and PNG files. Other updates to the app let you:

•      Assign names to Roku players
•      Instantly replay favorite movie moments
•      Quickly add and remove channels
•      Control and switch between multiple Roku players
•      Enter text easily with the included keyboard feature

The app, of course, is free, and comes in handy when you can’t find the original remote or need to type in a movie or artist.

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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