A Smart TV, sometimes referred to as a Connected TV, is, at its simplest, a television that can access the Internet. Usually, these terms are used to refer to television sets with computer components and software built into them, allowing everything from surfing the net to streaming movies to playing games. The Streaming Stick will provide some, but not all, of these capabilities to any HDTV that isn't already a Smart TV. And for those that already are, it's likely to provide far more streaming channels than the TV's built-in software.
Smart TVs offered by different manufacturers have differing features, and all seem to be evolving and offering more and more channels. Some manufacturers have developed their own software, and some have incorporated existing software, like Google TV. These sets generally have more interactive Internet features than the Roku. For instance, on a Google TV enabled Smart TV, you can search the Web through the Chrome browser, as well as stream videos and download a wide variety Android apps -- including games.
Through Roku's many channels, you can stream lots of content, play games, view your Facebook pictures and videos and now even cast Netflix and YouTube videos from your phone to your TV. Roku's mobile app also includes a very handy search feature that allows you to type in the name of a movie or TV show, and it returns a list the channels on which it is available, and the prices, if applicable, across several of the more popular apps. You can even type in the names of actors or directors to find their work. But you can't surf the Web via Roku, since there's no browser. You're limited to the Channel Store's offerings and the mobile app capabilities.
But as the people at Roku point out, TVs are expensive and people don't tend to replace them very often. Smart TVs have a reputation for being a bit difficult to use, and require a complicated remote or Bluetooth keyboard, whereas the Roku has an intuitive user interface that can have you streaming content with a few button clicks on its simplified remote. TV manufacturers are also slower to update their software than Roku, which is able to put out frequent software updates. And Roku's hardware is much easier and cheaper to replace than an entire TV. You could even buy multiples to smarten up your spare TVs.
So, the Roku Streaming Stick is definitely a viable alternative to a Smart TV for a lot of consumers. As long as you're looking to watch programs, view pictures, listen to music, or play the sorts of games you would on your phone, rather than turn your television set into a full-fledged computer monitor, the Roku Streaming Stick might make your TV smart enough for your purposes.
Continue reading to find out about some of the other streaming options.