Roku, announcing a flurry of product upgrades all at once, has unveiled a voice-enabled, rechargeable remote control, a budget 4K player and a premium iteration of its integrated sound bar.
The streaming company also unveiled an upgraded operating system that now includes WiFi optimization.
We’ll start with the hardware:
Roku Streambar Pro
Roku confused a lot of us last year, debuting the $129.99 Smart Streambar just months after bowing its first integrated sound device, the $179.99 Smart Sound Bar. Was the former replacing the latter? What’s the difference between the two? Roku was cagey at the time, but its new upgrade clarifies the product line. It’s not only bigger, it features Virtual Surround, meaning users can get surround sound without paying for the extra speakers and subwoofer accessories. The device, which includes a premium integrated Roku player, also features the Roku Voice Remote (the older version that’s not rechargeable).
Both the Roku Streambar Pro and the Express 4K+ will be available in mid-May. The Voice Remote Pro is available now directly from Roku.com.
Roku Voice Remote Pro
This standalone accessory works with all Roku TV models and audio devices, as well as select streaming players. The principal upgrade is the rechargeable battery, which gets its juice from a mini-USB connection and can hold a charge for up to two months.
The always-on midfield microphone not only lets users shout volume, playback and other commands while otherwise occupying their hands with all manner of sticky and greasy foods, rather than push a voice control button, it also lets them find their lost controller by merely stating, “Hey Roku, where’s my remote?
There’s a push-to-talk feature for the privacy-minded, as well as a headphone jack.
The accessory is a particularly useful upgrade for owners of low-priced, Roku-enabled smart TVs, which don’t always come with the best remotes.
Roku Express 4K+
The realm of inexpensive OTT players is pretty crowded with options, but not so much if you want 4K/HDR.
Roku’s new low-priced options support HD, 4K, HDR, HDR 10 and HDR 10+. Equipped with a quad-core processor and dual-band WiFi capabilities, the Express 4K+ also includes a voice remote. There’s also this nifty feature: a micro-USB Ethernet port that lets the WiFi challenged wire the goods straight into the device.
Roku is also selling the $35.99 “Roku Express 4K” (sans the “plus”), which features a basic infrared remote, as a Walmart exclusive.
Roku, meanwhile, has already begun rolling out Roku OS 10, which expands integration of Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit to lower-priced HD-only devices. The new OS also includes a nifty feature called Instant Resume, which helps users get back to the content they were watching within supported channels.
With Instant Resume, when a user reloads a channel after taking a break, reload times will be much quicker, and they’ll be taken back to the place in the show where they left off much faster. Apps supporting the feature include AT&T TV, FilmRise, Fox Business Network, Fox News, Fubo Sports Network, HappyKids TV, Plex.tv, Starz and The Roku Channel.
Another new feature lets users modify their live channel guide, creating favorites lists and burying channels they never watch.
Perhaps the most nifty feature, however, is the new automatic WiFi network detection aspect, which automatically chooses the most efficient frequency band in the home.
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