In a marketing age in which movies are mainly sequels or reboots, or come ready made with "cinematic universes" of intellectual property, it stands to reason that product marketing for consumer tech be pretty staid and unoriginal, too.
In the case of the latest HDMI streaming devices from Roku and Amazon, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, a lack of originality when it comes to product naming is probably some deft, well-thought-out maneuver, from two companies locked in a heated battle to proliferate their respective operating systems.
They want to plus up on users. To the max.
Debuting almost simultaneously, both of these streaming sticks, each retailing for around $50, ply significantly more computer horsepower and performance to existing, less expensive 4K streaming stick product lines.
Neither Roku or Amazon want to necessarily forsake the low-end market segment for streaming devices, where participants have to compete with a host of off-brand, Android TV-powered under $20 solutions.
At the higher end of the market, meanwhile, there's an emerging trend of consumers forsaking player pucks in favor of elegant smart TVs with integrated streaming OS.
But there's also the reality that those TVs age fast--a consumer might not be ready to replace a smart TV purchased five years earlier, at the zenith of the Ultra HD display product adoption curve, but the internal silicon might not be able to handle the latest versions of the OS.
Sticks and dongles represent an elegant way to experience state-of-the-art streaming, without the clutter of a puck or the price of a new TV. Google seems to have understood this with the release of the $50 Chromecast with Google TV last year.
And the new solutions offered by Roku and Amazon solve that problem with updated horsepower powered by voice remote.
Amazon Fire TV 4K Max
Now available for $54.99 on Amazon, the Fire TV 4K Max offers 40% more computer processing power than the legacy Fire TV 4K, which is now sale priced at $33.99.
This results in the faster launch of apps and an overall smoother feel during navigation, while additional RAM means users don't have to wait around as much for things to load.
Amazon upgraded its Max stick to WiFi 6, and users get an updated version of the Alexa voice remote.
Just like the legacy Fire TV 4K, the Fire TV 4K Max supports Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG. Notably, however, the Max also supports AV1 video decoding. This is a technology requirement that Google has been pushing the industry towards, and Roku has been resisting.
Also differentiating the Max: It runs the the latest Fire OS 7 and supports Dolby Atmos, an audio feature now offered by Netflix.
Reviews are already out for the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, with The Verge calling it, "the one to buy."
Roku Streaming Stick 4K+
Meanwhile, streeting next week with an MSRP of $50, Roku says its Roku Streaming Stick 4 (sans the plus) is 30% more powerful than the company's previous streaming stick iteration, with users able to double the efficiency of their WiFi connection without upgrading their router to WiFi 6.
Introduced as part of Roku's broader fall product refresh last month, the latest version of Roku's signature streaming stick comes with a voice-enabled remote, integration of Roku's latest OS, v. 10.5, and support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
So where does the "+" come in?
For a few dollars more ($70 MSRP), prospective purchasers can plus up their remote game with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, which adds the rechargeable version of Roku's voice remote, the Roku Voice Remote Pro.
The ability to save those pricey AAA batteries--from draining your wallet and topping off your local landfill-- is a feature that Amazon and Google don't yet have.
We'll have our own reviews out for the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max in a few weeks.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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