Desktops

New Roku Stick Gets More Firepower, Improved Search

Stick-style streaming media players are inexpensive and convenient, but they often lack the power of larger set-top boxes. Roku has addressed that issue with its new Roku Stick, which packs a quad-core processor into its diminutive frame.

The player, officially called the Roku Streaming Stick, costs $50, and it can be pre-ordered from the Roku website. Later this month it will be available at national retailers including Best Buy and Walmart.

In addition to more processing power, the new Roku Stick will get the latest Roku operating system (OS 7.1), which is also being rolled out to other Roku players today. The OS eventually will be used by Roku TVs, as well. Among the chief enhancements is an improved search that will crawl through 30 popular streaming services to find TV shows and movies.

Compared to the Roku Stick it replaces—which is now being sold for $40, or $10 less than the new model—the new model is a bit longer and sleeker, and is black rather than purple. Roku claims the Roku Stick is the only stick-style player with a quad-core processor, and that it's eight times faster than the older model.

The new Roku Stick has dual-band Wi-Fi and limited casting ability—like other Roku models, it can cast videos from Netflix and YouTube. And it comes with a small remote control. However, if you use the new mobile iOS or Android app on a phone or tablet, you can use that device's built-in microphone for voice searches. You can also use your mobile device for private listening, using either its headphone jack or Bluetooth.

OS 7.1 Improvements

Among the benefits of Roku Stick's new operating system is a universal search capability that checks 30 popular streaming services for TV episodes and movies for shows and movies you want to watch. Also, unlike some of it competitors, Roku doesn't prioritize content from one service over another, and the results are ranked by price, with the least expensive option listed first. 

In addition, the Roku Feed now lets you look for movies and TV shows from the same area in the menu; when the search turns up a movie or show you're interested in, you can watch it immediately or follow it in your Roku Feed and get automatic updates when it appears on a service or its price changes.

Last week I had a chance to see the new Roku Stick in action, and it did seem faster and more responsive than its predecessor. Roku also appears to be steadily improving its search and discovery features. The new Roku Streaming Stick will be competing with the updated Google Chromecast, as well as with Amazon's Fire TV Stick. We're looking forward to getting the new Roku Streaming Stick into our hands to see how it stacks up to these other players.

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