Roku has been one of the leaders in the media streaming game longer than anyone else, and over the years, we've seen a lot of changes and revisions to its hardware offerings. The company announced four new gadgets today as part of its latest hardware refresh, and alongside this, we also have new details on the latest Roku OS 8 software update.
Starting off with the hardware side of things, Roku actually cleaned things up a bit to create for a product lineup that doesn't feel overly crowded or confusing.
The two cheapest streaming solutions are still the Roku Express and Roku Express+. The main goal with these two gadgets is to get the Roku experience in people's homes as cheaply as possible, with the Express costing $29 and the Express+ selling for $39. Both can stream content in up to 1080p Full HD at 60 FPS, have quad-core processors, and support Dolby Audio. The Express works with any TVs that have an HDMI output, whereas the Express+ features HDMI and the older A/V cables for use on older televisions.
Roku Streaming Stick/Streaming Stick+
Roku's Streaming Stick offers most of the same features as the Express, with the exception that it comes with dual-band Wi-Fi, has a more compact design that can be easily hidden, and costs more at $49. You'll still be limited to 1080p streaming with the regular Streaming Stick, but ponying over a few more dollars will get you the Roku Streaming Stick+. For just $69, the Streaming Stick+ allows you to stream both 4K Ultra HD and HDR content – making it one of the cheapest streaming solutions for going beyond the 1080p threshold. Definitely a good Chromecast Ultra competitor.
Lastly, the Roku Ultra is the only new streaming hardware that takes the form of a traditional box rather than a sick or dongle. The Roku Ultra will set you back $99, but for that price, you're getting 4K Ultra HDR and HDR video content, dual-band Wi-Fi, voice remote with TV power/volume controls and headphone jack, microSD and USB ports, and a remote finder. Both the Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ also have the voice remote with power and volume controls for your TV, but only the Ultra offers the headphone jack for private listening.
Roku OS 8
In addition to all of this new hardware, Roku also introduced its latest Roku OS 8 software update. The overall look of the UI hasn't changed must since last year, but Roku OS 8 has a lot of new goodies that integrate nicely with live TV channels.
A new Smart Guide connects to your antenna to display info for local channels with ties to your other streaming apps, Roku's universal search now pulls results from local channels as well, the private listening mode for the Roku Ultra will extend to over-the-air channels, and users will also have access to a single-sign-on system for customers that pay for other TV services.
Roku OS 8 will start rolling out later this month and throughout November to older Roku hardware (including boxes, sticks, and televisions), but the company did say that not all devices will receive the new software. Roku wasn't exactly specific as to which models will be upgraded and which ones won't, but our guess is that hardware older than 2 or 3 years will probably remain on the software they're currently running.
Just last week leading up to Roku's latest hardware and software announcements, the company officially launched its IPO. Shares started at $14, but the stock is already trading at more than $24 with a current high of $26.28. Roku is one of the oldest names when it comes to media streaming, and although the company has faced stiff competition from the likes of Apple and Amazon over the years, it seems pretty clear that the Roku we know won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
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