First Look: Superior streaming stick, but a tad underpowered
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First Look: Superior streaming stick, but a tad underpowered

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Roku's Streaming Stick offers tons of apps, a real remote, and a compact design for just $50, but its slow boot-up time on some key apps keeps it from being the ultimate streamer.

[MUSIC] Roku streaming boxes have gotten smaller and smaller over the years. And now, they've finally whittled it down all the way to the Roku Streaming Stick. This is actually the second streaming stick that Roku's made, but the new model is a huge leap forward. Now that it works with any TV that has an HDMI port and it's half the price at just $50. Hey, I'm Matthew Moskovciak for CNET. And if you've been waiting for Roku's answer to Google's $35 Chromecast, this is it. It has the same compact form factor with essentially, all the hardware of a full-size Roku box, packed into a device that's not much bigger than a USB flash drive. The plastic casing sports Roku's signature purple color, which won't be on display, since it's designed to live behind your TV in the spare HDMI port. The back of the TV placement would leave the stick almost entirely concealed, except it needs power, which it can get from a USB port on your TV or by connecting the included power adapter. There's not much else to the device. Say, for a micro-USB port, a tiny indicator light, and a small button that you can use to reset the stick if it freezes up. In terms of internal hardware, it has dualband WiFi support as well as full 1080p output. Now, while the Chromecast relies on your smartphone or tablet for all its navigation, the Streaming Stick includes an actual remote. It's essentially the same remote you get with Roku's other budget streaming boxes, although it works for your WiFi direct, so it can communicate with the stick when it's hidden behind your TV. Roku also lets you control the stick using its mobile app. And the Streaming Stick supports some casting functionality, similar to the Chromecast, for Netflix and YouTube. So with the Streaming Stick, you get to choose which kind of control scheme you prefer. The Streaming Stick is also packed with apps. There are over 1,200 apps on Roku's platform. And while many of those are filler, there's a lot of great content, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB. TV, Amazon Cloud player, VUDU, and Showtime Anytime. Even better, the Streaming Stick has cross-platform search, so you can search for a movie or TV show, and it will show you all the services that offer that content and how much it costs. Now, everything sounds pretty great about the Streaming Stick so far, but it does have a bit of an Achilles heel. And that's speed. Well, it's fast enough when you're navigating menus. Some apps like Netflix and YouTube take forever to load. Over 30 seconds of just looking at the loading screen. Every other Roku box I've seen loads Netflix in 12 seconds or less. So it really feels like a step backwards when you're using the Streaming Stick. Now, once you load up the app, the speed is fine. And it's worth pointing out that the sluggishness doesn't affect every app on the Streaming Stick. But Netflix and YouTube are two of the most important apps, so the speed issues are more than just a nuisance. So that's the major drawback with the Roku Streaming Stick. Its huge library of apps, the included remote, and cross-platform search all make the Streaming Stick worth the $15 over the Chromecast. And it's still an impressive streamer at just $50. But, the speed issues on Netflix and YouTube mean the $100 Roku 3 is still our favorite streaming device, even at twice the price. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET, and this is the Roku Streaming Stick. [MUSIC]

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