Roku today announced five new streaming players hat offer better performance, improved wireless reception, new features and greater value than ever before, in an attempt to fend off competitive threats from Apple and Amazon.
Starting at $29.99 MSRP, the new more powerful Roku Express makes HD streaming easy while those who want Roku's ultimate player can get the new lower-priced $99.99 MSRP Roku Ultra. That's a 23 percent decrease from the Roku Ultra released last year, a device that had been selling for $130 until a recent clearance sale. In addition, today the company also unveiled the newest version of its operating system, Roku OS 8.
Roku Express and Roku Express+
These devices are best fitted for those who are looking to stream to the TV for the first time or extend their Roku OS experience to other TVs in the home. The second-generation Roku Express and Roku Express+ are five times more powerful than their predecessors and start at $29.99 MSRP.
The Roku Express+ offers the same streaming experience, with options to connect via HDMI or composite A/V ports (red/yellow/white jacks). $39.99 MSRP, exclusively at Walmart.
Roku Streaming Stick and Roku Streaming Stick+
Small and portable for those who are on the move or want their streaming player hidden behind their TV. Features quad-core processor and 802.11 AC dual-band MIMO wireless. Now comes with a voice remote that includes TV power and volume buttons that can control compatible TV models and the Roku Streaming Stick together. $49.99 MSRP.
Roku Streaming Stick+ boasts wireless performance with its advanced wireless receiver that is built into the power cord. This new model offers up to four times the wireless range than the 2016 Roku Streaming Stick to minimize buffering. It combines 4K Ultra HD and HDR picture quality with the portability of the popular stick form factor. Great for HD, 4K and 4K HDR up to 60 frames per second (fps) streaming. $69.99 MSRP.
Roku's most powerful and feature-packed player offers the company's best wireless performance and can stream HD, 4K and 4K HDR with up to 60 fps. The Roku Ultra features an ethernet port for wired connectivity and a micro SD slot to help speed up streaming channel load times. With a new remote, users can power up and change volume on the TV, plus use voice to find favorite shows. There's also a headphone jack for private listening and a remote finder button that helps locate lost remotes. New lower $99.99 MSRP.
The Roku platform provides streamers with access to 500,000 movies and TV episodes plus more than 5,000 channels. The Roku Channel, which launched some weeks ago, features hundreds of Hollywood hits and more with no fees, subscriptions or logins required.
The new line of streaming players will be available for pre-order beginning today from Roku, Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and other retailers; and is expected to be in stores around Oct. 8. Roku Express+ is available exclusively at Walmart beginning Oct. 8.
Less than week ago, Roku completed an initial public offering of stock that raised $219 million for the company. In vote of confidence, Roku's stock has already nearly doubled from its IPO price of $14.
However, Roku still only has a market value of $2.5 billion, which is much less than Apple's ($800 billion market value) and Amazon's ($462 billion).
But the price cut on the Roku Ultra could make it tougher for Apple to win over video streaming fans with its just released player featuring 4K. The new Apple TV player costs almost $180, up from almost $150 for an earlier model without 4K.
On the other hand, the Roku Ultra is still more expensive than the next generation of Amazon's Fire TV streaming player. Amazon last week announced that the latest Fire TV model with 4K video will sell for $70, down from $100 previously.
Nvidia is also trying to make its own splash with a Shield streaming player that it rolled out two years ago. The next generation of the Shield player comes equipped with Google's digital assistant to find and navigate through video with voice commands while also providing on-screen answers to many questions. It also sells for almost $180.
New Roku OS 8
Roku also today announced Roku OS 8, delivering enhanced features to Roku TVs. With a focus on bridging the gap between free, local broadcast TV received via HDTV antennas and streaming, the company unveiled several new Roku TV features today, including a Smart Guide that shows over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV and streaming options to help users search for, find and discover entertainment. Other new features included in the update allow for easier search and voice control, such as enhanced voice commands allowing a user to launch streaming channels, switch inputs or control their Roku TV; TV Everywhere (TVE) single sign-on to eliminate having to enter login credentials multiple times; an updated 4K Spotlight Channel and more.
- Smart Guide: An electronic program guide for Roku TVs that integrates information for local broadcast TV via an antenna with streaming options allowing users to search for, find and discover entertainment. The guide provides program information for local antenna broadcast TV channels from seven days in the past to up to 14 days in the future. Smart Guide also integrates the More Ways to Watch feature so users can see additional streaming options, such as: watch a movie or show from the beginning, see more episodes or browse similar entertainment. Over time, Smart Guide will even identify favorite broadcast channels available over-the-air by placing most viewed channels at the top of the program guide.
- Roku Search for Over-the-Air Content: Local antenna broadcast TV options are now included in Roku Search results for Roku TV customers who use a TV antenna to receive free local broadcast TV. Roku search already spans across 500+ streaming channels and now, when a TV antenna is connected, will include results for local broadcast TV along with streaming options sorted by what is free or lowest cost for the viewer. Users can also search for antenna TV content via the Roku mobile app.
- Voice Control: Roku TVs now feature voice controls to make it easy to switch inputs, tune to a local antenna broadcast channel, launch a streaming channel and more. Voice controls for Roku TVs can be used via enhanced remotes with the microphone button or through the free Roku mobile app for iOS and Android mobile devices.
- Private Listening for Over-the-Air Content: Roku TV users with an antenna connected to their TV can now use private listening to hear audio for local antenna broadcast content either using their mobile device via the Roku mobile app or through the headphone jack on the remote control on select Roku TV models. This feature is also available for streaming.
- Fast TV Start: Allows a Roku TV to start quickly and launch a streaming or antenna TV channel in seconds simply using a voice command. For example, a user can say "launch Hulu" and the TV will turn on and open the Hulu streaming channel.
- Enhanced Voice Features: Voice search now includes natural language understanding and can search for movies, shows, actors and directors, or even launch streaming channels. For example, a user can say things like, "show me movies with Tom Hanks," "launch Hulu," or even more detailed searches such as "show me comedies with Will Ferrell."
- TV Everywhere Single Sign-On: TVE single sign-on, available for pay TV customers, eliminates the need to log in to TVE channels repeatedly. Customers who subscribe to Dish, Cox, AT&T and hundreds of other providers will enjoy the convenience of single sign-on when using 30 TVE channels. More providers are expected to be added to the feature over time.
- 4K Spotlight Channel Update: The redesigned Roku 4K Spotlight Channel makes it easier than ever to find 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision content available on the Roku platform for players and TVs that support these standards. The 4K Spotlight Channel now features a new navigation menu to help users select the type of content they wish to view, inclusion of more content categories to easily browse by genre, and the option to choose from multiple streaming channels if a movie or show is available from more than one provider.
Roku OS 8 will begin rolling out to Roku players in early October, and Roku TV models beginning in November. The software update is expected to rollout to all Roku devices by the end of the year.