10 Must-have Gadgets for the 2012 Holiday Season


Roku Streaming Stick

The Streaming Stick plugs directly into your TV's HDMI port. ©2012 Roku, Inc.
The Streaming Stick plugs directly into your TV's HDMI port. ©2012 Roku, Inc.

Roku has become a big name in streaming content from the Internet to high-definition televisions and Blu-ray players. This year, the company came out with a new twist on streaming: a stick barely larger than a USB flash drive that plugs directly into a television's high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port. The Streaming Stick brings you the same HD content as Roku's regular media hub, but in a much smaller package.

The Streaming Stick is just the thing for the person on your gift list who likes to be on the cutting edge of technology. Keep in mind, though, that the stick only works with a television or other device with mobile high-definition link (MHL) capability. Hitachi, Insignia and Mitsubishi are among the TV makers who are coming out with sets guaranteed to work with Roku in this respect [source: Greenwald].

Once the Streaming Stick is up and running, users have access to hundreds of channels through Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu and other services. Some channels are free, while others require a monthly subscription fee. The Stick also lets users play games like Angry Birds and listen to personalized music via Pandora. You control it all through the TV's remote. An app also allows the Streaming Stick to stream music and photos from a smartphone. For about $100, this gadget is a big deal in a small package.