As a somewhat frequent traveler, I’ve been in enough hotels to realize that entertainment options are not as good as the ones you get at your home. You end up watching the local version of news for whatever city you’re in, or, if you’re lucky, something good is on either HBO or Showtime as you’re drifting off to sleep.
If you have to be stuck in your room for a longer period of time, it’s likely that you end up watching Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming on your computer, but you usually need to position the notebook (or tablet if you’re one of THOSE people) near a power source/cord so that the battery doesn’t run out after the third episode of “House of Cards” finishes).
The reason I bring this up is that Roku today announced the latest version of its Streaming Stick - the $49.95 device comes with a built-in HDMI plug that you connect to a TV, much like the Google Chromecast stick or similar devices. I’m a big fan of Roku but still prefer the larger box-type device (the Roku 3) than the HDMI stick approach.
However, a new feature piqued my interest - the new version includes a “Hotel and Dorm Connect” feature, which tries to “make it easy for consumers to connect to wireless networks that require sign-in through a web browser like those commonly found in hotel rooms, college dorms and other public locations.” The feature allows you to authenticate the Roku stick through your phone, tablet or laptop, giving access to the Roku streaming stick.
Forgetting for a second that hotel Internet services are often not that good (or too expensive), this feature intrigues me for the usage scenario it sets up. Dorm room I get - many college dorms offer students free Internet access, but they have to authenticate in order to get access. But hotel access was a new one for me, at least the idea that you could now stream Internet TV services via the hotel’s TV instead of your laptop or tablet.
The new Roku Streaming Stick was also made thinner, allowing it to more easily connect to HDMI-enabled TVs (even wall-mounted ones, Roku says!). Whether you’ll be able to access the HDMI ports on your hotel room TV is another question, as it’s likely that the hotel has mounted the TV above a giant, unmovable dresser/credenza, or too close to the mini-bar where you’ll be charged $15 for the can of Pringles with the motion-detection sensor if it moves a few inches.
Given all of these obstacles, could you imagine bringing this device with you on your next trip? Or is it just easier to stream Netflix and other services via your notebook?
I’d say it’s worth a shot, although in all likelihood I’d forget to detach the stick from the TV when it was time to check out of the hotel.
If you’re interested, you can pre-order the new Streaming Stick today at the Roku website, or wait for a few more weeks and grab one at Best Buy, Walmart and other retailers.