With the holiday season coming, Roku has announced a new slate of upgrades for the company’s streaming devices and the software that runs on them.
The move comes ahead of an event next week where Amazon is expected to unveil its own new streaming Fire TV devices during its typical deluge of hardware announcements. It also comes just a day after a new research report details how 69 percent of Roku channels are tracking consumer viewing habits.
Roku hits all the notes you’d expect from one of its yearly refreshes: The devices are sleeker, faster, and better. The new $30 Express, Roku’s entry-level streaming player, is 10 percent smaller than the previous model. It can also draw power directly from your TV, so it can be used without plugging into an outlet.
Roku’s premium model, the 4K-capable Roku Ultra ($100), has been refreshed with enhanced internal specs that Roku says improves channel launch times. (The company isn’t going into details on the technical specs, but a rep did say that there was “a bunch more” memory in the Ultra.) The Enhanced Voice Remote that comes with the Ultra has also been tweaked. It now has a Mute button, as well as two programmable shortcut buttons that can be customized to do things like launch specific channels, toggle closed captions, or play music through a third-party app.
There are also five other player upgrades coming, including the Best Buy-exclusive Streaming Stick+ HE that comes packaged with Roku’s Enhanced Voice Remote, and a Walmart-exclusive Roku Ultra LT, which is a cheaper version of the Roku Ultra ($80 versus $100) that ditches the remote finder and a few other features.
Talk to the TV
The most noteworthy bits in today’s announcement are the improvements to the Roku user experience across all of the company’s players. RokuOS 9.2, which rolls out later this month, adds enhanced voice features and shortcuts intended to make it easier to find content. With Roku’s voice remotes, users can search for movies by genre, topical keywords like “superheroes” or “Halloween,” or even movie quotes (now you can shout out some badass one-liners to decide what to watch). Shortcut tiles on the Roku home screen enable you to easily access top channels and set sleep timers on Roku TVs. You can even use an on-screen tile to turn off your regular TV, in case you don’t have a Roku voice remote that comes with the higher-priced models. In addition, the new OS now allows users to control multiple Roku devices via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.