Roku is ready to rock your streaming world with a complete refresh of its popular networked video player lineup. The company has eliminated its number-based naming scheme that gave us Roku 1, 2, 3, and 4. The new models start with the Roku Express ($30) and the Express+ ($40); these two are 1080p devices, with the plus variant offering composite analog video output, in addition to HDMI.
The compact, minimalist Roku Express will stream 1080p over HDMI and sells for only 30 bucks.
The Roku Premiere ($80) and Roku Premiere+($100) models up the resolution ante to 4K UHD and 60 fps output, with the Premier+ model also offering HDR compatibility, a Bluetooth remote, an Ethernet connection, and a MicroSD card slot, for the extra 20 bucks. The new flagship player is the Roku Ultra ($130) that builds upon the Premier+’s capabilities by adding Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital+ decoding, optical digital output, a USB port for local media playback, and a lost remote-finder feature.
The Roku Ultra is the company’s new flagship media player, and it supports 4K UHD with HDR.
The HDR implementation in the Premiere+ and Ultra models utilizes HDR10, the format used for Ultra HD Blu-ray. With Vudu’s recent announcement that it will support HDR10 in addition to Dolby Vision, all the major streaming services that offer HDR (including Amazon and Netflix) offer HDR10 content.
You may ask, “Why would I want a stream HDR content from a Roku if my TV already has the same app built-in?” The answer is: sound. Specifically, with many HDR-capable TVs, it is not possible to enjoy Dolby Atmos soundtracks concurrently with HDR video, even if the streaming service offers it, as is the case with Vudu. However, by directly connecting an HDR-capable Roku to a Dolby Atmos soundbar, pre-pro, or AVR with HDMI, you can enjoy streaming entertainment that offers state-of-the-art sound and visuals.
Roku is taking orders for these new players effective immediately. The company expects to ship the new products on October 9. The Roku Express+ will be a Walmart exclusive, the remainder of the products will be available from Best Buy, Amazon, Roku.com, and other retailers.