I have mixed feelings about the Google Chromecast.
On the one hand, it's cheap. In fact, today, it's really cheap: Amazon has the Google Chromecast for $29.99 shipped (if you're a Prime subscriber, otherwise pad your cart to at least $35). That's only $5 off the regular price, but still a crazy-good option for adding "smart" to any HDMI-equipped TV you own.
Update:Well, shoot, Amazon pulled an unexpected switcheroo and bumped the price back to $35. My apologies for the sudden change. There's just no way to know when sales like these are going to end.
Indeed, consider grabbing one of these for Mother's Day, Father's Day, or Graduation Day. Boom -- shopping done.
Getting back to those mixed feelings, though: The key thing I don't like about the Chromecast is that it requires a smartphone or tablet, which serves as the remote. Granted, you can look upon this as a feature, not a shortcoming, but I must admit to an old-school preference for Roku's nice little handheld (and included) remote.
Speaking of which, the Chromecast has a new competitor in the form of the Roku Streaming Stick, a nearly identical dongle that plugs directly into an HDMI port -- no box or HDMI cable required.
The new Roku costs $49.99 -- a steal any way you slice it, but also $20 more than the Chromecast. Still, it comes with the aforementioned remote, which is seriously handy for navigating menus and channels by feel -- something you simply can't do with your smartphone or tablet. To control a Chromecast, you need at least one eyeball.
In terms of channels it carries, the Chromecast lags way behind Roku, though it does have nearly all the major ones: Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora, MLB.tv, and so on. Plus, it offers YouTube (which older Roku boxes don't support), Google Play (definitely not available on Roku), and the option of "casting" your Web browser to your TV.
If you're seriously trying to decide between one and the other, check out CNET's recent Chromecast vs. Streaming Stick Prizefight. (Spoiler: Roku wins by a nose, but both products rank as "awesome.")
Again, for $30 out the door, the Chromecast is a supersweet buy. Can't believe I dropped $35 like a sucker!
Bonus deal: Ever wish your smartphone could double as your wallet? Sure, there are cases that add pockets, but they also add bulk.
One of the slimmest solutions I've seen is the RooPouch, a slim stick-on holster that can accommodate some cards and cash. It normally sells for $15.99, but for a limited time you can get the RooPouch for $9.99, plus $1.50 for shipping. It's available in your choice of black or white and should fit most phones. (It can also adhere to most nonsilicone cases.)