Roku’s Streaming Stick ($49) turns your HDTV into a streaming powerhouse. This small HDMI stick plugs into your TV and gives you access to streaming content from many of the top providers on the internet.
Roku has been making streaming TV boxes for a long time and has developed quite a following. Some owners are so devoted that they their Roku with them for business and leisure travel, plugging it into the TV in hotel rooms.
I reviewed one of their streaming boxes back in 2011 and liked its size and content. Roku’s latest product looks like an oversized flash drive that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV. No longer a box, they’ve shrunk their streaming capabilities into merely an HDMI plug.
The streaming stick can be powered by a USB wall adapter or you can plug the it into an extra USB port on your TV, or other component in your entertainment system, eliminating the need for yet another power cord.
How Roku Works
The Roku Streaming Stick connects to your home’s WiFi to access content over the internet. Roku doesn’t get into the content business themselves, so they are a neutral platform for watching content from other websites like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Target’s video store, and Blockbuster online.
Roku advertises that they have access to 1,000 channels of content. Content ranges from high quality to repackaging of content available elsewhere, but it is well organized and easily accessed through Roku’s interface and remote control.
According to Roku, once the streaming stick is plugged in, you can stream “from more than 1,500 channels of movies, TV episodes, music, news, sports, kids’ shows and free programming.” Roku claims that they provide more channels and genres than any other TV streaming device. But what does this really mean?
For content, if you’re a Netflix or Hulu Plus subscriber, you can watch their streaming content. Pay-as-you-go shows can be watched on Amazon’s streaming store. Several other channels offer movie rentals or online purchases as well.
Abundant Roku content for kids makes it a smart choice for families. National Geographic Kids has a paid streaming channel on Roku with high-quality videos available with ad-free videos for kids ages 2-11. PBS Kids’ channel features their full catalog of children’s shows where you can watch full episodes for free quickly and easily.
Fox’s Roku channel will allow you to watch full episodes of their shows, only if you link your Roku up with your account at your participating cable company. Channels from others like CBS, Disney, and Disney Junior are full of behind-the-scenes content, clip-shows, teasers, trailers, and other bonus-fluff material… no full episodes of shows you’d normally see on cable or satellite TV. Vevo’s channel gives you access to their vast library of music videos, which is a good complement to cable TV since MTV doesn’t actually play music anymore.
The Nitty Gritty
But is it a box that allows you to ditch the Cable or Satellite company? It depends on who you are. If you have a monthly subscription to one or more of the paid services like Hulu Plus or Netflix, it might be. Some people would rather pay $1.99 per episode to watch some TV shows than pay a monthly cable bill.
What’s missing? iTunes. You can’t watch movies you’ve purchased in iTunes on Roku. Apple wants you to buy a $99 AppleTV to do that. In addition to the AppleTV, Google is giving Roku a run for its money with the $35 Chromecast stick which doesn’t come with a remote control, instead using an Android or iOS device to control it.
As the amount of content available for streaming increases and the costs of streaming adapters decreases, it’s becoming a no-brainer decision. Get a full-powered streaming adapter for my TV with a remote for $49? Yes, please.
I received a Roku Streaming Stick through my involvement in the National Geographic Kids Insider program. I am also part of the #PBSKidsVIP and Netflix Stream Team where I receive product for my participation. No compensation was received for this post and all opinions are my own. Affiliate links included in this post.