Roku introduced Tuesday the latest iteration of its popular over-the-top video streaming stick.

The newly enhanced Roku Streaming Stick was said to have been designed for streamers looking for “the ultimate in power and convenience in a sleek, pocket-sized form.”

The new stick, which will carry a $49.95 suggested retail price when it hits retail shelves this month, is very similar in look and operation to the previous generation, although it has been shaved down slightly in size. The thumb-drive-like device still requires a connection to an available HDMI input and a powered USB port on the TV (or to an AC-to-the-wall USB power adapter) through a mini USB input on the tip.

By connecting the stick to the TV’s on-board USB input, it will reboot every time the TV is turned off and on. Roku has greatly sped up that reboot time, making the Roku Stick almost instantly ready to find and stream apps once the TV is on and ready.

Read more about Roku’s newest Streaming Stick after the jump:

Where the newest stick improves on earlier versions is in responsiveness, power and speed. Roku said it has expanded the operating power by eight times using a quad-core processor. This significantly speeds up movement of the cursor through app icons and helps to load services in just a couple of seconds after selecting its on-screen icon.

In general, operation is much more responsive and “snappier” to use.

The Streaming Stick also offers a remote that continues to offer a minimal button design and is still very compact and comfortable in the hand.

The third enhancement is the inclusion of most of the latest search and discovery features that have been added to newer Roku set-top boxes. Some of these include: “My Feed,” which very quickly finds, lists and updates information on available favorite movies and programs listed in order of most affordable price.

Also added is a “Movies and TV” section, which very quickly lets people find a program or movie, compare available prices, see who’s got it and watch it.

Roku has also developed a new Mobile App that is exclusive to the Roku Stick and will roll out at the same time. The app, which will work with both Android and iOS devices, will allow users to stream TV audio through a mobile device and listen to sound over a connected pair of headphones or earbuds.

Sound syncs very precisely with the video without lag or latency. This provides a solution for people with Bluetooth headphones but don’t have Bluetooth connectivity built into their televisions.

Starting with the new Roku Stick, Roku has updated the Roku operating system to version 7.1. Other Roku devices will be receiving an update to the new OS shortly, the company said. The new OS has expanded flexibility for app developers to make it easier for users to purchase programing and subscription services through the device. It also makes it easier to direct certain forms of advertising to Roku platform users.

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One thing the Roku Stick does not support at this time is 4K Ultra HD streaming. Roku said it recognizes that 4K UHD will be a large part of future streaming services but the installed base is still small and Roku wanted to hit an attractive price point on a stick device today. The Roku 4 set-top box will be used to handle 4K demand for the time being.

Through its various streaming devices and partners’ devices Roku crossed the 10 million current active accounts threshold in February, and registered over 5.5 billion hours of content streamed across Roku devices last year, the company said.

“We looked very closely at the things that people want, and first most requested item was more power,” said Matthew Anderson, Roku chief marketing officer. “The new Roku Stick has more processing power than and Amazon Fire Stick and more than Chromecast.”

Click the links to find the latest Roku media adapter deals.

Roku will continue to position the Roku Streaming Stick as a good gift idea.

“It’s pretty easy to use, it feels lower risk, you don’t have to comparison shop that much, it gets promoted a lot around the holidays, and it’s powerful and portable,” said Anderson.

By Greg Tarr


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