Roku refreshes streaming player line-up with new budget and 4K boxes
Roku has refreshed its line-up of video streaming players, with the aim of catering for all types of viewers. Most notably, it is offering a new entry-level device at US$30 (undercutting Google's $35 Chromecast) and has introduced new higher end models that can stream in 4K UHD.
For those unfamiliar with Roku, its devices plug into your TV and provide access to a variety of streaming services. Most of the big outlets are there, such as Netflix, Google Play and YouTube, plus there are a host of smaller , more niche channels that focus on everything from religion to recipes.
Roku last updated its offering in April, with a new version of its Streaming Stick. That device essentially comprises a $49.99 dongle that plugs discreetly into a TV's HDMI port to stream in 1080p resolution, and it's super portable. The Streaming Stick remains, but now forms part of a more coherent and comprehensive line-up.
At the most basic end of the line-up are the Roku Express and Roku Express+ (seen above), which are now the firm's smallest and most affordable set-top-box players. They are priced at $29.99 and $39.99 respectively, and both stream in 1080p resolution. The only difference between the two is that the Roku Express is designed for TVs with HDMI ports, while the more expensive Express+ is for use with older TVs via an RCA (red, white and yellow) connector.
Slotting in at a price-point above the Streaming Stick are the Premiere and Premiere+, both of which can stream in 4K at up to 60 frames per second (fps). Both are compatible with HD and 4K UHD TVs, although obviously to view 4K content you'll need a 4K TV, and they're also both able to upscale content. Roku says they'll upscale from 720p to 1080p on HDTVs and from 720p or 1080p to 4K on UHD TVs, although it should be noted that upscaled content is not a substitute for content produced in the actual target resolution.
What the $99.99 Premiere+ has that the $79.99 Premiere doesn't is high dynamic range (HDR) support – in short, for whiter whites, blacker blacks and more vibrant colors – a fancier remote control with a headphone jack for private listening, a MicroSD card slot for storing extra channels and an Ethernet port for a faster and more stable wired connection.
At the top of the pile is the Roku Ultra, which will set you back $129.99. It offers everything that the Premiere+ does and, despite the slightly ambiguous nomenclature, streaming quality is still the same at 4K up to 60 fps. In addition, though, it is Dolby Digital / Dolby Digital Plus compatible for home theater systems, has an optical digital audio out port, and a USB slot for playing your own content.
The Roku Ultra remote has more features again, with voice search and gaming buttons added to the headphone jack of the Premiere+. There's also a button on the box that triggers a noise on the remote for when it inevitably gets lost down the back of the couch.
The Roku Express, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra are available for US pre-order now and are due to be in stores from October 9th. The Roku Express+, however, will apparently be available exclusively at Walmart. The new devices have also been launched in Mexico and Canada today.