Announcing a flurry of product upgrades, all at once, Roku today unveiled a new voice-enabled, rechargeable remote control, a low-priced 4K/HDR player and a new premium iteration of its integrated sound bar
The streaming company also unveiled an upgraded operating system that now includes WiFi optimization, as well as a nifty new feature that helps users pick up where they left off while watching shows.
We’ll start with the hardware:
Roku Voice Remote Pro
This standalone accessory works with all Roku TV models, audio devices, and select streaming players. The principal upgrade over the legacy "non-pro" Roku Voice Remote is the rechargeable battery, which gets its juice from USB connection and can hold a charge for up to two months.
The 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, 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 OTT box supports HD, 4K, HDR, HDR 10 and HDR 10+. (Support for the latter is initiated with the concurrent upgrade to Roku OS 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 microUSB Ethernet port that lets the WiFi challenged hardwire the good stuff straight into the device.
Roku is also selling the $35.99 “Roku Express 4K” (sans the “plus”), which features a basic IR remote, as a Walmart exclusive.
Roku Streambar Pro
Roku confused a lot of us last year, when it debuted 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.
The new premium product is bigger and features Virtual Surround, a new feature supported by the Roku OS 10 upgrade that enables Streambar Pro owners--as well as users of the legacy Smart Soundbar-- to experience surround sound without springing 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).
The Express 4K+ will be available in mid-May, while the Streambar Pro is targeted to the end of May. The Voice Remote Pro is available now directly from Roku.com.
Roku, meanwhile, has already begun rolling out Roku OS 10, which expands integrated Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support 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 users reloads a channel after taking a break, reload times will bet much quicker, and they’ll be taken back to the place in the show where they left off much faster," Roku said. 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 capability, which automatically chooses the most efficient frequency band in the home.
The rollout of the new OS should be automatically completed in the "coming weeks," Roku said.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!
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