[STREAM] The New Roku Family
One of the oldest streaming media player families is getting a major face-lift. Roku, Inc., has completely revised all of its Roku streaming boxes (the company’s “streaming stick” player remains the same). The changes are radical, not merely cosmetic, and ensure Roku’s continued place as the most popular and cost-effective dedicated streaming solution. Here's the scoop…
Meet the Newest Roku Streaming Devices
The entry-level Roku Express replaces the Roku 1 with a 75% smaller form factor, better suited for crowded home entertainment centers. (The Express looks more like a candy bar than a hockey puck.) Although smaller, it packs twice the processor power of the Roku 1. The Express streams HD video, but does not handle 4K (Ultra HD) video. On the other hand, it costs just $29.95, which undercuts the price of the competing Chromecast by $5.
I was impressed to see that even with a sub-$30 price tag, the Express model includes a high-speed HDMI cable, USB cable, and a remote control with two AAA batteries. An Express+ model with composite cables (for older TVs without HDMI ports) costs $10 more.
The Roku 2 and 3 models are replaced by Premiere and Premier+, respectively. The $80 Roku Premiere supports 4K video at 60 frames per second; the faster frame rate smooths out 4K motion, which can be jerky at 30 fps. The Premiere comes with a fast quad-core processor and Roku’s standard infrared remote control.
The $100 Roku Premiere+ adds support for “high dynamic range” (HDR) content. HDR enhances contrast and expands color range, so images have more depth and look more “real.” A headphone jack for private listening is in the Premiere+ remote control. The Premiere-Plus box has an Ethernet port and a MicroSD card slot. Adding a microSD card to your Roku player makes channels and games to load faster, but cannot be used to store photos, videos or music.You can use the Ethernet port to connect your Roku directly to your Internet router, instead of via wifi.
At the top of the line is the $130 Roku Ultra, replacing the Roku 4. Like the Premiere-Plus, Ultra supports 4K and HDR. Its remote control has more advanced capabilities, including “find my lost remote;” press a button on the Ultra box and listen for the loud beep coming from the remote under the sofa cushion. The remote also has A/B gaming buttons. In addition to the ports on the Premiere-Plus, the Ultra box sports a USB slot for plugging in a thumb drive with your own movies or photos.
The Premiere, Premiere-Plus, and Ultra models come with “night listening” mode, which equalizes the volume levels of audio so you can hear dialogue clearly but won’t have your eardrums damaged when an explosion occurs on the sound track. All models include voice search via a smartphone app and improved search functionality, a virtual necessity now that Roku offers an overwhelming 3,500 channels.
Which Roku Will Rock You?
Two research firms put Roku in the lead among streaming media players. Parks Associates said that Roku claimed 30% of U.S. purchases during the year that ended March 31. ComScore recently reported that Roku has a 49% household market share, with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and “others” making up the rest.
For most folks, I don't see that the Premiere, Premiere+ or Ultra Roku models offer enough extra functionality to justify their higher price tags. Even without 4K, at the $29 price point, the Roku Express makes the most sense to me, especially if you have multiple TV sets. It's worth noting that the 4K (Ultra HD) and HDR features won't do you any good unless you have a 4K or HDR compatible TV set. And even if you do, there's not a lot of 4K or HDR content available yet. But it's the future, and if you want to make sure you're ready, then you'll want the Premiere, Premiere+ or Ultra Roku model.
The new hardware can be ordered now, but will not start shipping until October 7, 2016. Everything will be available on Roku’s site and in retail stores, except for the Express+ which will only be available at Walmart.
Do you have a Roku? Do you plan to purchase one of these new Roku models? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Sep 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [STREAM] The New Roku Family (Posted: 30 Sep 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved