September 28, 2016
Roku updated its line-up of streaming media boxes, discontinuing the Roku 1, 2, 3 and 4 devices but hanging on to its $50 Roku Streaming Stick. New products for the “low-end” HD market now include the compact $30 Roku Express that has an HDMI port to connect to HDTVs and an infrared remote, and the $40 Roku Express Plus, sold exclusively at Walmart, offering a composite cable port to connect to TV sets without an HDMI port. Roku also emphasizes 4K/Ultra HD with three new players, two of which are HDR-capable.
The Wall Street Journal lists the new 4K players, all of which are 40 percent smaller, and offer “15 different 4K-capable channels, including Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and Vudu.” The lowest priced model is $80, “a substantial drop from the $130 Roku 4.” The Roku Premiere can play 4K at up to 60 fps, and ships with an infrared remote; the $100 Roku Premiere Plus adds “HDR video support plus an Ethernet port and a point-anywhere radio-frequency remote with a headphone jack.”
Roku’s most expensive model, and its new “flagship streaming box,” is the $129 Roku Ultra, which comes with a digital audio out port, both a USB port and a MicroSD card slot, a radio-frequency remote with built-in microphone for voice control, and a button to locate a lost remote. It also features game control buttons on the back.
The extensive new line-up is “good for business,” reports WSJ, “because it means more retail shelf space” at big box shops like Best Buy and Target and, says Roku, offers more choices for consumers. The company points out that, although Apple TV and Chromecast “have outsold it at times … Roku consistently ranks highest in streaming hours.”
Why buy a Roku device if you already have a smart TV with built-in streaming apps? “The best reason would be if you aren’t getting what you want on your fancy new 4K TV,” says WSJ, which notes that “the chances are great that [Roku] will get new channel apps sooner than your smart TV will.” Roku has also amassed “all available 4K content into a showcase channel,” a convenience for consumers who can struggle to find 4K content.
Looking to the future, Roku, realizing its “days of selling boxes could be limited,” is also “focusing more on providing an operating system for TVs,” including those from Haier Electronics Group, Hisense Electric, TCL, Sharp and Best Buy’s Insignia, with a Hitachi-branded Roku TV to debut soon.