The Favi SmartStick is another alternative to Smart TV and competitor of Apple TV and Roku, using a small dongle to give non-smart TVs access to online video and the web.
The SmartStick isn’t the most perfect solution, but it represents a low-cost alternative to a costly smart TV. It’s available in 4- and 8GB denominations, at $49.99 and $79.99.
The SmartStick is a small white dongle. It connects to the TV through an HDMI cable, with another chord attaching to a power source. It connects to a home wi-fi network and magically turns older HDTVs into smart TVs.
It can be controlled either through a small remote control (which comes with it), or the Favi keyboard accessory. But more on that later.
The on-screen interface is Android-based, albeit slightly different from that of Google TV. There’s access to Google Play, and therefore downloads of all major video apps (including HBO Go, Netflix and YouTube. Pandora, Spotify and other music apps are available as well, as are various games. The SmartStick also gives you access to an on-screen web browser, but like with most such attempts throughout history, it’s not of much use.
In all, the interface isn’t quite as smooth as that of Roku or Apple TV, although the functionality is on par with both.
I tried the SmartStick out on a five-year old, 32-inch Vizio that came out before smart TVs had reached their current ubiquity. I was able to easily watch a movie and TV episode on Netflix and a couple of things on HBO Go.
The SmartStick also offers access to YouTube- which Roku, for instance, does not- although it was relatively slow-loading the few times on tried it, and most things on YouTube aren’t exactly optimized for a big screen anyway.
One major drawback to the device is that the remote control is virtually useless. It only works if you’re standing inches away from the dongle itself. The pocket keyboard works much better, and a total must, and not only because it makes playing Angry Birds possible.
It’s not the best solution on the market, but the Favi SmartStick is a practical, affordable solution for trying out smart TV.