The integration of a set-top box or USB drive from Roku or Fire Stick with an array of televisions and computers proves one of the handiest things about product. Roku and the company’s main competitor, Amazon Fire Stick, integrate with any TV set or computer that features an HDMI port.
Most hotels and motels upgraded their televisions in the past decade, so each location offers sets with at least one HDMI port. If you stay in a motel or hotel with an older model television set, you simply plug the Roku or Fire Stick into the HDMI port on your laptop computer.
What is a Set-top Box?
The term set-top box refers to a box-shaped electronic device that takes the place of a cable box. Most set-top boxes come with some free TV channels and apps for the major cord-cutting apps, including Hulu, Amazon Prime TV, Vudu, and Netflix. These devices also offer subscription channels and cable replacement subscription services.
The utility of the set-top box or USB drive stems from the user’s ability to register for all of their TV services through it and to add their existing services. For example, an individual who subscribes to Spectrum TV, a cable service, can install the Spectrum app to their Roku, then sign in to their account.
This lets them watch their cable subscription through the device on any TV or computer they plug the box or USB into. The first generation of set-top boxes resembled large cable boxes of the 1980s and 1990s, but today, the entire technology fits into a USB drive-style device.
How it Works When You Travel
You can unplug the device from the HDMI port on your home television and slip it into your pants pocket or purse. When you arrive at your hotel or motel, you slip the device – Roku or Fire Stick – into the HDMI port of the television in the room or suite.
When you turn on the TV, use the TV remote control to choose the HDMI port instead of the TV’s antenna or cable feed. You’ll have access to all of your channels, subscriptions, apps, etc. while you travel.
What is a Roku?
The brand name Roku refers to a family of products that began as set-top boxes and honed their technology until it fit into a device the size and shape of a USB drive. Founded in 2002, the Roku company built one of the first set-top boxes. It expanded its line to include smart TVs, audio components, and Roku players (set-top boxes and USBs).
The company offers its own TV channel, Roku TV, for free. Using a Roku player, the viewer can watch programs via apps, movies, live TV, and independent channels. It offers more than 20 channels free – YouTube, Pluto TV, Tubi, Crackle, Xumo, Fawesome, NewsOn, Stirr, PopcornFlix, CBS Sports, TED, Comet TV, Vevo, Crunchyroll, and many others.
Its cheapest device costs $29.99.
What is a Fire Stick?
In 2014, major e-retailer Amazon launched its competing product, the Fire TV. It followed up the television the same year with the Fire Stick. The Fire Stick works like a USB drive set-top box, but you plug it into the HDMI port.
It also comes with many free services via apps that you choose to install once you’ve plugged the Stick into an HDMI port and set up your account. It offers six channels free – You Tube, Pluto TV, Tubi, Crackle, FilmRise Classics, and Rakuten Viki. Its cheapest device costs $29.99.
Minimum Requirements for Roku or Fire Stick
You only need the device itself, a TV or computer with an HDMI port, and high-speed Internet. When you book your motel, hotel, or bed and breakfast stay, choose an establishment that provides free Wi-Fi. This maximizes the utility of the device.
If you choose the set-top model instead of the USB-style drive, remember to pack your HDMI cable! You must have an HDMI cable to connect the box to the TV’s port.
If you forget it, there’s probably a Walmart near you, so you can pick up a cable for less than $20, but as a failsafe, simply purchase a pack of two and stick one in your suitcase pocket or briefcase. You can never forget it now.
Which One Works Better?
Their ease of use and transferability have made the two devices wildly popular. Which a person chooses comes down to personal preference. Personally, I stayed in a bed and breakfast owned by a businessman who travels frequently.
He showed me his Roku and how far they’d come. When I’d first come across this type of device, it consisted of huge boxes that required half the space of a DVD player. Trying out the USB-style tantalized me, but it wasn’t until I purchased one for my sister and brother-in-law for a holiday gift that I decided to purchase one personally, too.
We’re now a family of Roku users and I find it useful since, as a writer, I conduct a mountain of research. The Roku provides me with access to essentially every documentary channel and most cost nothing.
Another plus – I love American football and could add ESPN, ESPN+, and Sling TV, to ensure I can watch football any night of the week and not just during football season.