The battle to turn your dumb TV into a smart TV is heating up mighty fast. Favi's newly announced SmartStick brings the full Android 4.1 Jelly bean experience -- complete with support for Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Slacker, Spotify, YouTube, HBO Go and any other Play Store app you can think of -- in the form of a small, Wi-Fi enabled stick that plugs into any HDTV's HDMI port and plays full 1080p video.
If web streaming isn't your thing, the SmartStick comes with the MediaSHARE app preinstalled, which lets you wirelessly stream music, movies and pictures stored on your computer to the device -- and hence your TV -- using DLNA technology. Micro-USB and micro-SD card ports offer additional expansion options; the micro-SD card slot is an especially useful addition as the SmartStick only comes with 4GB or 8GB of storage.
At $50, the Favi SmartStick seems seriously impressive, but how does it stack up to Roku's soon-to-be-release Streaming Stick? Pretty well, actually -- at least on paper.
Roku's $99 price point isn't as big a disadvantage as it seems, since you'll need to pony up $30 or $40 for a separate pocket-sized mini-keyboard with touchpad mouse functionality in order to take advantage of the Favi SmartStick's full Android functionality.
Favi wins a couple of rounds in this tale of the tape, however. Roku offers virtually every streaming app you can think off (with the exception of YouTube), but Favi works with all 675,000-plus apps available in the Google Play Store and even comes with a web browser. Perhaps more critically, Favi says its SmartStick plugs into any old HDMI port, whereas the Roku Streaming Stick only works in an MHL port -- something few HDTVs include, though Roku is working with partners to bring "Roku Ready" HDTVs to market.
The Favi SmartSitck also undercuts the Android 4.0 Mini PC's price point and displays higher-resolution videos; the Mini PC tops out at 720p.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding, not on the spec sheet. The $100 Roku Streaming Stick is slated to start appearing on store shelves in October; Favi is accepting pre-orders for the SmartStick now for $50 and $80 versions with 4GB and 8GB of storage, respectively, but it isn't expected to ship until November.