Wish your dumb, non-Internet TV could get smarter without adding another box to your system? Favi Entertainment says its new plug-in dongle, called the SmartStick, can transform almost any TV with an HDMI input to an Android-powered smart TV with access to streaming movies and TV shows from a variety of services.
Like the $99 Roku Streaming Stick we recently wrote about, the Favi SmartStick plugs into a TV's available HDMI input; power comes via the TV's USB port, using the included adapter. Once connected, an on-screen guide walks you through the setup. Two models will be available when the product launches at the end of October: a 4GB version ($49) and an 8GB version ($79).
Like other streaming-media players, the SmartStick offers access to online services and apps, including movies, TV shows, and videos from Epix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and YouTube, as well as music from streaming services including Pandora and Spotify. You can also access popular social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
The SmartStick also includes a full Web browser—something many other streaming media players lack—and has access to apps in Google Play, which is not surprising given its Android backbone. You can also use the SmartStick to stream content from a PC using the included DLNA-based MediaShare app.
Although the SmartStick uses the Android operating system, it appears that it's not a full-blown Google TV device. Unlike the Sony NSZ-GS7 and Vizio Co-Star Google TV media players we're currently testing in our labs, the SmartStick doesn't get connected between a cable or satellite set-top box and the TV, so it can't integrate live TV within searches for content. (Stay tuned for our upcoming First Look review of these new Google TV devices.)
Favi says it will offer several optional accessories for the device, including a mini wireless keyboard with a touchpad ($40) that should help make Web browsing easier. The SmartStick will be available from several retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and RadioShack. Pre-orders are now being taken on the company's website for shipment at the end of this month.
—James K. Willcox