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How the Roku Streaming Stick Works

Is the future now?

The new HDMI version of the Roku Streaming Stick is available for $49.99 in mid-2014. The Roku Ready (MHL) version has been available since 2012, and is currently $69.99, plus $24.99 for the optional remote.

Reactions to both versions have been largely positive, citing the large number of channels, ease of use, compact design, inclusion of the remote with the HDMI version and the handy cross-channel search feature in the mobile app. One complaint about the new HDMI version is that certain apps, including Netflix, are slow to boot up, although the lag seems to go away once they are booted.

When the first Roku Streaming Stick was released, the company expressed a hope that manufacturers would embrace the idea of using their streaming stick to provide Smart TV capabilities to consumers rather than concentrating on integrating software and computer hardware themselves, which involves a high cost and a good amount of complexity. Roku's VP of Marketing stated that developers find them very easy to work with, and they get products and services to market quickly, which is part of the reason they have been able to port so many channels, often before anyone else [source: Tong]. Now even Roku is jumping into the integrated TV market [source: McCracken]. But until you're ready to entirely replace your TV, the Roku Streaming Stick gives you an inexpensive option for greatly increasing the content available through your TV -- in a tiny, unobtrusive package.

Cable and satellite TV aren't likely to disappear soon, due to business models and licenses that keep a lot of broadcast and cable content off the Internet and set-top boxes, but as fast as our online, on-demand options are growing, there is little doubt that streaming will one day overtake traditional broadcasting routes as our chosen means of viewing entertainment. Streaming can be a complement to existing TV options, or a total replacement if you aren't addicted to particular shows that you can't get online.