Roku Streamers Receive Major Refresh

roku streamers

Roku has dominated the streaming market for years, offering access to more content providers than just about any other platform. Today, the company announced major updates to its entire lineup of Roku streamers with higher performance, more convenience, and greater value than ever before.

The second-generation Roku Express streams HD content for only $30, making it easy to add Roku to any TV in the home. The new Roku Express+ offers HDMI connectivity as well as composite video and 2-channel analog-audio outputs for legacy TVs for $40, exclusively at Walmart. Both are five times more powerful than the original Roku Express.

Next up the food chain is the next-gen Roku Streaming Stick, which plugs directly into an HDMI input on a TV or AV receiver. It’s powered by a USB cable connected to the host device’s USB port or an AC outlet. Features include a quad-core processor and 802.11ac dual-band MIMO wireless connectivity for streaming HD content at a price of $50.

New to the lineup is the Roku Streaming Stick+, which streams HD and 4K/UHD content (including HDR10) at up to 60 frames per second. This model offers up to four times the wireless range than the 2016 model thanks to an advanced wireless receiver built into its USB power cord. Also, the remote can control the power and volume of a TV. And the price is right at $70, the same as the Google Chromecast Ultra.

Like the Streaming Stick+, the top-of-the-line Roku Ultra can stream HD, 4K/UHD, and HDR10 content at up to 60 fps, and it offers what Roku describes as “our best wireless performance.” It also provides an Ethernet port for wired connectivity—which is best for streaming IMO—and a microSD memory-card slot to help speed up load times. Plus, a new remote can power up and adjust the volume on the TV, and it includes a microphone that lets you use voice commands to find content. In addition, it provides a headphone jack and a remote-finder button. Even better, the list price of the Roku Ultra has dropped from $130 to $100.

In addition to new hardware, Roku announced a new version of its operating system, Roku OS 8. Many of the new features apply only to Roku TVs, such as those available from TCL. For example, Smart Guide is an electronic program guide that integrates information about streaming content and local over-the-air broadcast channels from an antenna from seven days in the past to 14 days in the future. Also, OTA options are now included in search results. Other enhancements for Roku TVs include voice control, fast start, and the ability to listen to OTA and streaming content on headphones.

Perhaps most important for advanced users of any 4K/UHD-capable Roku device, the Roku 4K Spotlight Channel makes it easier than ever to find 4K/UHD content with HDR10 and Dolby Vision on devices that support those formats. (Roku streamers support HDR10 only, while some Roku TVs also support Dolby Vision.) A new navigation menu helps users quickly select the type of content they wish to view, with more content categories to easily browse by genre. There’s also an option to choose from multiple streaming channels if a title is available from more than one provider.

Other new features for all Roku devices include TV Everywhere (TVE) Single Sign-On, which lets subscribers to Dish, Cox, AT&T, and many other providers log in only once to access 30 TVE channels. Also, advanced voice features include natural-language understanding that let users search for content, cast and crew, and launch streaming channels in a more conversational manner.

Roku OS 8 will begin rolling out to Roku streamers in early October and Roku TV models starting in November. The update will reach all Roku devices by the end of the year.