The best features of Roku's new Streaming Stick may be an app that makes living with your roommates slightly more tolerable.
The $49.99 Streaming Stick, which ships later this month, is being released alongside an updated version of Roku's mobile app (available for Android and iOS) that lets users listen to streaming content like House of Cards on Netflix, Seinfeld on Hulu, and Game of Thrones on HBO Now via the headphone jack of their smartphone. That means you can find out whether or not Jon Snow is actually dead without audibly bothering your housemates (or your partner, in my case).
Besides the all-new app, the new Streaming Stick has a processor that's about eight times more powerful than the previous model. That helps address a key problem with the previous model, which was namely that it could be sluggish as your moved throughout the user interface. (Some quick searching turns up thread after thread of people complaining about how slow the previous Roku Stick could be at times.) When Motherboard tried a demo unit at Roku's office in New York last week, there was nary a hint of UI sluggishness—at least not related to the office's spotty Wi-Fi connection.
Roku first introduced its Streaming Stick in 2012, calling it at the time a "great solution" for people looking to stream Netflix because it effectively turned any TV into a smart TV. That may be true, but undoubtedly the primary reason for its success over the years is that is helped usher in the era of sub-$100 streaming devices. It wasn't long before this price fell even further, to $50, and before other companies, including Amazon (Fire Stick) and Google (Chromecast) released their own inexpensive take on streaming hardware.