Roku has given its streaming stick a makeover: The company released a new version of the HDMI-based streaming adapter Tuesday that brings more processing power and headphone listening capabilities to the device. The new Roku Streaming Stick costs $50, and will go on sale at major retailers, including Best Buy and Walmart, later this month.
Roku has been making streaming adapters that directly plug into the back of a TV since 2012. Roku’s SVP of product management Sharad Sundaresan told Variety that the category has been a hit for the company. “It was one of our best sellers last year,” he said.
However, past versions of Roku’s streaming adapter struggled with hardware limitations: Compared to the company’s recent-generation streaming boxes, the stick was sluggish. Browsing app menus and loading streaming apps took considerably longer than with a newer streaming box.
These issues should now be a thing of the past, as Roku has added a quad-core processor to the new stick. Sundaresan also said that the company improved Wi-Fi performance, which should make for smoother streaming in households that are dealing with a lot of interferences.
However, one of the biggest surprise features of the new streaming stick is a headphone listening mode, which prompted Roku to add a pair of in-ear headphones to the box. Roku is already allowing users of its Roku 3 and Roku 4 streaming boxes to use their remote control as a kind of remote listening adapter. Remote controls for these devices feature a headphone plug; once in use, the TV goes silent and all audio is being played through the headphone, allowing consumers to watch loud action movies in the middle of the night without waking up anyone else in their household.
Roku’s new streaming stick doesn’t ship with such a remote, but instead allows headphone listening through the Roku app on your iPhone or Android phone. Sundaresan said that this wasn’t an easy feat to pull off. “By definition, when you are on the phone, there are interruptions” like incoming notifications and even phone calls, he said.
Howewer, Roku decided that it was worth tackling these issues for the streaming stick in particular. Consumers take the stick to their friend’s houses and hotels, Sundaresan said. By adding headphone listening directly top the mobile app, they don’t have to bring the remote control along as well.