Roku, a leader in the streaming space, today unveiled a new version of their popular Streaming Stick. For those unaware, Roku is a company that is dedicated to making streaming video more accessible on a TV. Whether through one of their great Roku 3 boxes, or a Roku-enabled TV, all options provide access to tons of HD content. In fact, the Roku employee I spoke with cited that Roku products are present in 10 million households globally, and each househol watches an average of 60 hours per month through Roku. That’s a lot of streaming! Most notably, in 2015, Roku achieved 5.5 billion total streamed hours, which adds up to more content streamed than any other competitor (think Apple TV or Chromecast). So what’s new in the 2016 Roku Streaming stick?
The New Roku Streaming Stick
The new Roku Streaming Stick is the company’s 3rd Generation stick product, which works as a portable HDMI dongle that easily plugs into any TV to unlock a world of streaming video. Roku offers thousands of Channels (or apps), such as YouTube, Netflix, Vevo, Crackle, and Spotify for users to enjoy. The company has always focused on simple, intuitive interfaces, and the new Roku Streaming Stick is no exception.
The new Roku Streaming Stick comes in smaller than any other digital content box or stick on the market today, and is 20% smaller than Roku’s last generation Stick, which was released in 2014. The new Streaming Stick has a Quad Core processor, making navigation and viewing incredibly snappy. I was a bit skeptical as to why users would care about this, but after using my laggy Sony Android TV for a few month now, I can understand why processing power is important. The Roku Streaming Stick is responsive, and when 1080p HD content is selected, it renders almost instantly. Obviously this depends on the strength of your WiFi connection, but the processing power helps content be delivered faster than ever before.
My favourite feature of the Roku Streaming Stick is Private Listening Mode, which is something you won’t find on any other boxes. The feature allows a viewer to listen to their TV’s audio through headphones, to avoid disturbing the people around them, say for late night binge sessions. While previously limited to the top of the line Roku 3 box, this feature is now compatible with the Roku Streaming Stick through the Roku iOS and Android app.
With the release of the new Streaming Stick, Roku is releasing a new version of their operating system. The update addresses the question of “What should I watch?”, by adding the ability to discover popular TV shows and movies in the Roku My Feed section. Roku has also added the ability to ‘follow’ TV shows for new episode notifications. This follow feature was previously limited to movies.
Life in 4K
If you’re in the market for a new smart TV, Roku has partnered with Insignia to release a line of 4K Roku TVs. These TVs pack the latest 4K technology, providing a picture that is 4x the resolution of Full HD. Along with the great picture, Roku’s streaming platform is built directly into the TV to avoid the need for a separate content box purchase. The TVs boast beautiful colour, with crisp resolution that lets you see the finest of details. Given 4K content is still quite hard to find, Roku has included specific 4K-compatible services on the TV to help users discover hi-res content. For many, the most exciting part about these new TVs is the price, which start at $599 CAD for the 43″ model, or $799 for the 50″ model. These prices put the Insignia 4K Roku TVs at the entry-level in Canada, and from what I’ve seen, there’s little sacrifice here in terms of quality.
The new 3rd Generation Roku Streaming Stick will be released today, at a price of $59.99 CAD, which is the same price as their last generation stick. The new Roku software update will roll out to all Roku boxes today. Roku 4K TVs are available now at Best Buy, priced at a low $599 for the 43″ model, and $799 for the 50″ version.