For those looking to sever their cable and head full bore into the world of streaming content, Roku has long offered one of the best experiences, with more than 1,200 content providers and spritely hardware that made launching episodes only a few seconds away. Then, Google's tiny $35 Chromecast beat it on price and convenience – it's hard to get more portable than a streaming stick the size of a pack of gum that plugs directly into your TV's HDMI port.
But Roku's new $50 Streaming Stick unites the best of both. The device is similar in size to the Chromecast and plugs into any HDMI port (Roku's other streaming stick, now called the Roku Ready, requires a special, awkward MHL port). At half the price of the flagship Roku 3, the Streaming Stick delivers all of Roku's apps and services with a few less features (no USB port, for example). Its faster than Chromecast, offers more content, and comes with a remote – something not all of us are ready to eschew yet.
And if you like controlling your streaming device with your mobile device, you can do that, too. Roku's updated app for iPhone includes a clever universal search feature that finds a movie or show across different channels. If you're looking to catch up on Mad Men, you can see which channel has the episode you're seeking. Select the show on your app and it launches the channel on your TV.