back to article Roku flashes $50 HDMI TV web dongle at anyone sick of Google's stick

Gadget maker Roku is touting a Streaming Stick video-playing dongle that plugs directly into HDMI televisions. Previous sticks plugged into an MHL socket in Roku-compatible telly sets. Designed to function solely as an internet streaming TV device, the HDMI stick can plug directly into the back of a TV and draw power from …

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Local content?

So can it stream content on any of my local machines or am I just paying to access their pay-per-view?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Local content?

Pretty sure the Streaming Stick is a pure over-the-internet streaming device. You'll need the more expensive Roku 3 to do something like local streaming (or possibly a lot of fiddling with the Stick).

We've asked Roku for some more info; I'll update the story if that comes in.

C.

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Re: Local content?

On my Roku 1 you can do local streaming with the Allcast Android app or with the Twonky Beam channel (is pretty flaky though). I believe that is true for this dongle as well.

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Re: Local content?

That is what I really want. A dongle that's a frontend to Myth TV or even simply VLC. The clever TVs are pretty sad since even though the H.264/MP4 codec is already on my TV as it's part of the ATSC standard it won't play a file from a USB stick but finds and plays it fine if it's served up from a PC with Windows Media Player.

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Re: Local content?

>On my Roku 1 you can do local streaming with the Allcast Android app or with the Twonky Beam channel (is pretty flaky though). I believe that is true for this dongle as well.

What I meant to say is Twonky is a bit flaky but Allcast works right out of box no problems. I did some more research at home and found these two are great for playing media off an phone or tablet but if you just want to play stuff off a dlna compliant server than the way to go with Roku 1 (and probably this dongle as well) is with the Roku Media Player channel in the channel store. Its free. Basically install on your Roku and with no fuss it will play your movies,songs,images, etc no problems.

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Re: Local content?

"A dongle that's a frontend to Myth TV or even simply VLC"

Our Samsung WiFi HD video recorder will do internet browsing & apps like iplayer, Netflix,etc,etc, but will also play/display H264/mp3/jpg from usb or a networked media server. (I'm using minidlna on Linux at the moment.)

Not a dongle, of course, but I don't see why all of these functions couldn't be easily integrated into one.

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Re: Local content?

> So can it stream content on any of my local machines

Yes.

If you are doing TV programs or films, you're probably best off with Plex. You run Plex Media Server on your PC, which analyses your media, works out what it is, downloads banners, posters etc and splits TV shows into seasons. You then put the Plex channel on your Roku and it will detect any Plex servers on the network. Plex server and the Roku client are free.

For streaming random videos you can use Plex too (set up a Videos section rather than TV or Movie), but you really just need a DLNA server e.g. Serviio, PS3 Media Server. There are several DLNA clients available for the Roku.

The advantage of Plex is that it knows what the Roku can do and transcodes stuff it can't play into a format it can.

As far as I know there isn't anything on the Roku that can look on a network share and play videos, you need a media server of some sort.

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Re: Local content?

> As far as I know there isn't anything on the Roku that can look on a network share and play videos, you need a media server of some sort.

True. I use the Plex client via tablet/Chromecast at home, and also set it up on a friends Roku. The Roku Plex client UI sucks, but with Chromecast, my tablet disconnects from the stream a while after it starts playing, meaning you can't pause/skip. Hoping that gets resolved soon.

I've also noticed that not all Plex content can be sent to a Chromecast, even if it can be played via the Plex desktop and tablet clients (example: MSNBC fails with a weird error)

As usual, tradeoffs with both, so pick your fav.

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The thing about the Chromecast dongle is that there will be apps for it, there's Plex for Chromecast already and guess which media server I run? Will there be as many apps for the 40% more expensive Roku thingy as the Google thing? Doubt it.

Not a fan of Google, but I really can't see the Roku device competing.

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The remote alone will make it worth the extra $15 for many people. Not everyone always carries their smart phone or keeps a tablet always charged and around (which you need to start playing netflix/hulu etc movies on the Chromecast unless you cast through Chrome Browser on a computer). I own a Roku 1 and a Chromecast and think they do compliment each other well on separate tvs in the same house.

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Not sure why you wouldn't have your phone/tablet to hand in your own house.

Of course if you were in somebody else's house I can't see that you'd want to take the remote with you. That's part of the beauty of both these devices, you can take the dongle with you when you go to somebody else's house.

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>Not sure why you wouldn't have your phone/tablet to hand in your own house.

Was thinking more of Grandma who might not have either in the house (though even that is changing these days). As for the dongle at someone else's house hopefully they have a guest network or else you have to futz with wifi passwords. I agree in general though the dongle is a cool idea and the cost alone is why I went with the Chromecast. I do think in a family setting with multi TVs it is great for all but the primary TV. Perhaps its just me being a typical American and having to have the traditional remote instead of a phone. Also Roku having its own interface and channels makes it perhaps more friendly than having to have an app on your phone for each channel. Roku also allows you to search all channels for what you are looking for. Like I said I like both and think they complement each other well.

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>The thing about the Chromecast dongle is that there will be apps for it, there's Plex for Chromecast already

FYI not to shill for Roku but they have a Plex channel along with like 1000+ other channels (with Roku think channels instead of apps but basically the same thing). Although admittedly most people will probably use single digit channels/apps regularly.

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Chromecast

The Google creepy dongle is NOT FUNCTIONAL AT ALL without a suitable host device. It's effectively a wireless replacement for the HDMI cable from a Notebook, Tablet or Smart Phone.

Completely different.

If you want more functionality plug in a Roku3, tablet, smart phone, notebook etc via HDMI cable.

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Doh figures

Recently (last few weeks) bought a Roku 1 when I cut the cord (triple digit cable bills fug that) and would have probably held out for this just for the dual band capability. Oh well waiting until April probably wouldn't have been an option. Once again instead of being on the bleeding edge I tend to be on the dumbass edge where I buy products a few weeks before the next big thing comes out.

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Re: Doh figures

Dumbass edge, I have always called this the healing edge, who the F*&K always wants to be bleeding, not to mention the money you saved cutting the cord will probably pay for the new device by April.

Cheer up, you have a new toy arriving in April:-)

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Re: Doh figures

Yep long live internet TV even if the media studios hate it.

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It's not a new form factor though, is it? I've got one of these stuck into the HDMI in the back of my telly running stock Android 4.2. MK809, JUSTOP K9B etc - 40 quid... Had it for over a year.

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Android Sticks

A good few of the android sticks have built in wifi and are not many more pennies in some cases. Many have bluetooth built in for wireless keyboard/mouse. They have the obvious bonus of having the Play store goodies available, which means most of the streaming apps.

XBMC for android can handle most of the streaming needs although it's worth researching properly if you want the full 1080p goodness using hardware acceleration. You can use your mobile as a remote.

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The one thing people often miss about the Chromecast (and in my opinion it is the most important thing) is it requires no authentication. I'm not talking about authentication to actually use it - which it could really do with.

I have a Netflix subscription, but I can go to my friend across the road and stream a film from Netflix on HIS Chromecast without having to enter details. I can buy a film from Google Play Movies and watch it at his house without logging in to anything. That is what makes the Chromecast so revolutionary.

It doesn't care who is using it or what they are using, it's up to the app to handle that stuff, all the Chromecast cares about is where it has to go to get the content.

I often hear people say that the Roku is more user friendly because it has a remote. But it doesn't offer the same usability, if I go to my friends house I have to download the Google Play Movies app (if there is one) onto his Roku and then enter my Google details, and then faff about with 2Factor authentication (assuming it supports it, otherwise I will need to use my phone to go to my Google account and setup an application specific password) and of course I have to remember to logout before I leave.

With the Chromecast, I open the app on my phone, choose the movie, press the Chromecast icon and start playing the movie. No authentication had to be done and when I leave, my account is still secure.

Additionally of course there is the fact that any developer can add Chromecast functionality to their app, they don't have to write a specific version of the app that only runs on the one device (or device family) and you can add Chromecast functionality to a website just as easily as a smartphone app.

So that's my thoughts.

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Good points. Being as antisocial as I am though I tend to watch the vast majority of my movies at my own house or else I go to the theaters lol.

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What *I* want...

...is a dongle which I plug in my HTPC which will make all of the above (Netflix, etc...) appear as IPTV channels (or even plain TV channels) in the TV section of my media player. Or as movies in the Movie section. Or as TV series in the TV-Series section. You know, make Netflix/HBO/Other's movies/series appear as if they were stored on a local or networked drive so the media software can parse and integrate them with the rest of my media catalogue(s).

I'd be happy with having to set up the Netflix/Hulu/Whatever accounts via a specialised piece of software to make the rest of it transparent to the media player.

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Coat

If it is sold for $49 in the US and £49 in the UK, will they sell it for 49 Yen in Japan?

Mine is the one with all those wallets in the pocket...

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FAIL

1$ <> 1£

No thanks

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Re: 1$ <> 1£

Don't forget that the US does not include sales taxes in advertised prices. They vary from state to state and even sometimes city by city.

With Kentucky's low sales taxes of 6% applied and assuming no further local taxes, people would be paying $52.99 (£31.70), which is still lower than £49.99. Yeah, you're getting jilted, but you do have higher taxes than we do. That said, I certainly hope you don't have a 67% VAT... I suppose there is probably a bit of the "screw you Brits, you can pay us more" attitude in the pricing that seems typical of many electronics.

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Re: 1$ <> 1£

They charge us more because we're used to paying more and they can get away with it, basically. They also know there is no point us buying stuff from the US as the import charges will be way higher than the $ to £ mark-up. The only way to get stuff cheap fro the US is if your company sends you over for some reason, and you have a free Saturday to go shopping.

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Re: 1$ <> 1£

I find the entire import/export tariffs to be a bit bizarre in general, especially given how they lack uniformity. Back in 2007, I was somehow able to import a few Cisco textbooks from a seller in the UK via Amazon for a total cost lower than the cheapest retailer from the US, including shipping, by 10s of dollars. They were the exact same books that my community college/"university" sold in their bookstore for double the price, down to the UPC. I know the situation is different with books versus electronics, but I don't really see why it should be.

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Re: 1$ <> 1£

US students pay $50-100K to go to college so paying $200 for a textbook is noise.

UK students (until recently) didn't and so resented spending on anything other than beer - so you sell the same textbook for £30.

Students in India can't afford either so you sell it, printed on cheap paper, for $3

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Simpler solution for audio

I have just got a bluetooth adapter for my hifi (digital out, to high end kit) and I am really pleasantly surprised by the quality. I was expecting it to merely be a convenience, however I am now seeing it as a serious source. (flacs playing on a Q5, maybe the qnx core is really makes it low jitter)

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Decisions, decisions

In my job I travel a lot across Europe, so have a little HD and wifi hub set-up which I use to carry some movies and TV programmes on to keep me away from local TV and somewhere near sane. Usually I take my old netbook with me (with HDMI output) and play them onto the hotel TV via that, but I'm very much in the market for an alternative solution where I can just take the hub/HD, plus my Nexus7 and HTC 8X and use one of those to send the media to the TV (the hub has SMB support, and apparently is soon to get DLNA via a firmware update, also probably around April-ish).

So I've been looking at both Chromecast (not in the UK yet), some of the cheap Chinese DLNA/HDMI dongles (cheapest I've seen is ~£20 inc P&P), the Android-on-a-stick's (which I'm not keen on as I don't want to need a bluetooth keyboard/mouse) and now Roku have added this to the mix.

I'd be interested to know of others experiences doing something like that. Current front-runner I think is the cheap Chinese job, as I don't really need iPlayer/Netflix (said hotels are usually abroad which would kill off live iPlayer, and their wifi speeds would kill Netflix et al) so just looking for something to act as the receiver for the locally-sourced files (mostly MP4).

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Re: Decisions, decisions

if it had a built-in VPN client, it would be an AMAZING business travellers' tool - no more crappy overpriced hotel movies and local TV!

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Anonymous Coward

And this is better than Chromecast how?

I don't understand why this is better. The only thing it has that Chromecast doesn't is a remote, but I also don't know why I would want to use an old school remote when a tablet or phone will make it easier to type in searches of what I want to access.

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Re: And this is better than Chromecast how?

Unless I've missed something, this is a standalone device. Chromecast only works with a phone or tablet. That's fine if you're in a household of adults with their own smartphones, not so good in a family situation. I wouldn't want to let my kids loose on my phone, but would happily do so with a standard remote.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And this is better than Chromecast how?

Because it's not from evil Google corp so nobody is secretly raping your life up your phone line

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Info for clarity

Roku offers no pay-per-view that I'm aware of. It asks for a credit card number when you create an account, but it is not required.

With the Roku 3 box, you add the Plex channel to your channel list and add the Plex Media Server to your pc. It works flawlessly. Alternatively, RARflix is a turbo charged Plex clone that works with the Plex Media Server. I assume the dongle would work the same.

The Roku remote app for Android delivers way more functionality than the included remote. It allows you to play media stored on your phone, limited voice navigation, allows the use of the phone's keyboard searches and account information entry as opposed to using the arrow rocker to enter one character at a time.

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broadcom bcm2835?

I wonder if it uses the same Broadcom bcm2835 chip as in the Roku boxes and Raspberry Pi

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