Roku‘s already built a media streaming empire with its family of set-top boxes, but now the company is offering a direct challenger to Google’s $35 Chromecast with an HDMI dongle of its own priced at $50. You can pre-order the device now, but it won’t ship until April.
The new streaming stick looks very similar to the Chromecast and plugs into your TV the same way . The main, difference, besides the price, is what each dongle can do. Roku’s biggest advantage is its countless channels, which offer everything from music and movies to cooking shows and Ted Talks. On the other hand, Chromecast lets you stream anything from the Chrome browser on your computer, or various apps on your phones and tablets. Roku also comes with a designated remote, while Chromecast is controlled using your smartphone or tablet.
Roku’s new streaming stick marks a huge improvement from the original model, which launched back in 2012 for $99 and only worked with “Roku Ready” TVs which needed MHL support. While this took care of the power issue at the time, the number of televisions it could support was fairly small. While the new model removes that requirement, it will need a USB port or to be plugged into an electrical socket to power it this time around.
Whether the new device will offer a real challenge to Google’s cheaper Chromecast is unclear, though for now there are plenty of potential cord-cutters left to go around.