The Roku Streaming Stick is the size of an average USB thumb drive.

Image courtesy of Roku

What is the Roku Streaming Stick?

The Roku Streaming Stick takes all the capabilities of the current Roku box, the smallest of which is 3.3 by 3.3 by 0.9 inches (8.4 by 8.4 by 2.3 centimeters), and crams them into a tiny thumb drive-sized form. It will plug directly into a special television port, and will allow you to stream shows, movies and music, and play games, all via your home WiFi network, without taking up the living room real estate required by current set-top boxes and their cables and power adapters. It won't even add to your collection of remote controls.

It will require a MHL, or Mobile High-Definition Link, port on your television or monitor, so unlike the current Roku choices, it won't work on just any TV. The Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) capabilities inherent in MHL will allow you to use the remote that came with the TV to control the Roku, rather than a separate Roku remote. The MHL port will also power the Streaming Stick, so there will be no need for an extra power supply to plug into the device.

It really packs an astounding amount of capability into a minuscule space. This incredible miniaturization of electronics is being brought to us by the existence of and demand for more and more powerful mobile devices and portable storage. Many smart phones, and even some tiny computers like the Raspberry Pi and the Cotton Candy, use small and powerful processors to provide lots of computing capacity in a small space. Flash memory SD cards have also taken us from the day when kilobytes to megabytes of data were stored on large spinning hard drives or slightly less cumbersome but fragile floppy disks to modern times, when you can store gigabytes on a portable thumb drive, card or other small device. There is no word yet on the specific models of hardware being packed into the Roku Streaming Stick itself, but it includes a processor, software, WiFi and memory, and no doubt takes advantage of these new tiny but high-functionality hardware components.

For those who have an MHL-enabled television or monitor, the Roku Streaming Stick can be an alternative to any of the more obtrusive streaming devices that are on the market today, or even to a more expensive Smart TV. It will be cheap, easily updatable and easily replaceable, and in essence, can turn your TV into a pared-down Smart TV.

Read on to find out what an MHL port is and whether your current TV set is likely to have one.