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Tuesday, March 04, 2014, 03:15 pm PT (06:15 pm ET)

Roku distills set-top box into $50 'Streaming Stick' with on-screen interface, physical remote

Video streaming experts Roku on Tuesday took the wraps off the latest version of the "Streaming Stick," a thumb drive-sized device aimed at the Apple TV and Google's Chromecast streamers.

Roku


The second-generation Streaming Stick delivers Roku's usual assortment of over 1,200 channels and 31,000 movies, as well as casting of Netflix, YouTube and personal media from a smartphone or tablet, in up to 1080p resolutions. Most important is that the unit acts and feels like a set-top streamer, but is kept out of sight behind an HDTV's panel.

Connecting via HDMI, the stick is akin to Google's Chromecast, but with an on-screen interface and dedicated physical remote control.

Since the device connects over HDMI, a USB power source is also needed. Roku includes a USB cable and wall adapter, though users can connect the stick to their HDTV's USB port if so equipped. The onboard communications suite supports 802.11 dual-band a/b/g/n with WEP, WPA, and WPA2.

At $50, the Streaming Stick is more expensive than Google's offering, but comes with access to more content. Compared to the Apple TV, the Roku does not have access to the iTunes Store, meaning users with large iTunes libraries may be better off with the Apple branded version.

The Roku Streaming Stick can be preordered from the company's website with an expected ship-by date sometime in April.