Roku’s new $50 streaming stick tries to take on Chromecast

Roku has been downplaying the effect of Google’s (S GOOG) $35 Chromecast stick, but the company clearly knows when it should take some cues from the competition. Case in point: Roku is launching a $50 streaming stick that looks a lot like Chromecast, but is still a Roku product at heart.

Roku’s new streaming stick is being made available for preorder now, but will ship to customers and come to store shelves in April.

Roku Streaming Stick HDMI Version_Plugin

The new stick comes with a dedicated remote that uses Wi-Fi Direct, much like the Roku 3, but it doesn’t feature the same headphone jack available on the Roku 2 and 3 streaming players. It also features the same UI and access to the same 1,200 channels as existing Roku products, including the recently-launched YouTube (S GOOG) channel.

The device will plug straight into a TV’s HDMI port, and use an external USB adapter for power supply — just like Chromecast. However, unlike Chromecast, the new Roku streaming stick doesn’t use HDMI CEC. This means that Roku users won’t be able to turn on their TV with the Roku remote or app, but still have to use their TV remote control for this, as well as to switch to the right input.

This isn’t the first streaming stick from Roku. The company introduced a MHL-based product a year ago, which was tied closely to partnerships with CE manufacturers. Roku representatives have told me that the MHL-based streaming stick isn’t going away, but that it will continue to sell online for a reduced price, and that the company will also continue to bundle it with TV sets from select manufacturers.