September 30, 2020
Roku is debuting a new Ultra with, for the first time, Dolby Vision, which plays back HDR (high-dynamic range) content. This new $100 Ultra also features a speedier quad-core processor, more RAM and around 50 percent better Wi-Fi range, although the company has not released full specs on the device. The form factor is now somewhat rounder, to house its revamped wireless antennas, and still features an Ethernet port, an HDMI cable and earbuds. Also new, the Roku Channel is available as a standalone Android and iOS app.
Engadget reports that, “Roku says the Ultra also supports the AV1 codec for 4K streaming at lower bitrates.” The reviewer notes that, “it’s been tough to recommend the Ultra without Dolby Vision,” especially since the Apple TV 4K and Amazon’s Fire Stick 4K both offer it. With Dolby Vision, the HDR is adjusted dynamically scene-by-scene and also supports 12-bit color. In comparison, HDR10 “relies on a static HDR profile for content, which could make some scenes seem darker than they should” and only supports 10-bit color.
Roku is also offering one new device, the $130 Streambar, “a cheaper alternative to the Roku Soundbar that also includes a built-in streaming player.” Both new devices can be preordered on the website and are expected to ship in October.
Elsewhere, Engadget states that users now “can download the new, standalone version of the free Roku Channel app for Android and iOS, which lets anyone stream free video content on their mobile devices.” The Roku Channel is also accessible with a web video player, but “this is the first time those without Roku devices will be able to access the channel via a dedicated mobile app.”
In addition to some free live TV options from ABC News and others, the user can also get “a limited selection of live content through the channel as well,” from such sources as HappyKids.tv, The Martial Arts Channel, iFood.tv, The LEGO Channel, Sony Canal Novelas and “other Spanish-language entertainment providers.” Users can also subscribe to paid TV channels through the Roku Channel, which means “you’ll get one bill each month that includes each paid streaming service you subscribe to.”
In another article, Engadget reports that Roku’s next operating system update, 9.4, will “support Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit on select 4K players and TVs,” enabling users to cast content from iOS or Mac devices. Roku also stated that, “most of the company’s 4K devices will support AirPlay 2, except for the aging Roku 4.” Roku OS 9.4 will sport a live TV channel guide, highlighting free TV streams, and “will also integrate over-the-air content for antenna-equipped Roku TVs.” Also new are surround level controls.
The new OS will debut on the Roku players later this month and over the next few months for Roku TVs.
Roku’s New $129 Soundbar Offers Dolby Audio and 4K Streaming, Engadget, 9/28/20
Roku Introduces a New Ultra Player, a 2-in-1 ‘Streambar’ and a New OS With Support for AirPlay 2, TechCrunch, 9/28/20