Roku is launching a set of new media streamers, including the company’s cheapest 4K HDR-capable devices to date. The company is also introducing software updates that will bring support for new features including Google Assistant and Pandora Premium.
All three devices should be available in October, but you can pre-order the Premiere and Ultra starting today.
The Roku Premiere and Premiere+ have the same basic features, but the Plus model comes with a voice remote control that also has power and volume buttons for controlling a TV.
Previously, the $70 Roku Streaming Stick+ was Roku’s most affordable 4K-ready product… and it was priced about the same as a Google Chromecast Ultra or Amazon Fire TV. Now Roku’s new Premiere series streamers are the most affordable of the bunch (although the Amazon Fire TV is currently on sale for $40 for a limited time… but only for customers who have an Amazon prime membership).
The Premiere and Premiere+ measure about 3.3″ x 1.4″ x 0.7″ and weigh 1.3 ounces, features 802.11b/g/n WiFi, HDMI 2.0a ports, support for up to 4K/60 fps and 4K HDR content, and support for Dolby and DTS Digital Surround sound passed through HDMI.
Roku says the streamers consumer less than 3 watts of power while streaming 4K content.
The Roku Ultra is a larger box that measures 4.9″ x 4.9″ x 0.85″ and which has more ports and more powerful hardware. It still uses less than 4.5 watts on average while streaming.
For the most part, Roku hasn’t changed the hardware from the previous version of this box. But the company is throwing in a pair of JBL headphones with every purchase from now on.
The Roku Ultra features 802.11ac WiFi, a 10/100 Ethernet port, a microSD card slot (for storing additional channels) and a USB port (for playing local videos).
Roku includes a voice remote with TV power and volume buttons and a headphone jack with the Roku Ultra… and now you also get a pair of headphones for private listening when you buy a Roku Ultra.
There’s support for DTS digital surround passthrough over the HDMI 2.0a port.
Roku OS updates
In addition to new hardware, Roku is unveiling new software for its devices. The company says soon you’ll be able to use a Google Assistant-powered device to control some Roku streamers with commands for launching channels, searching, or pausing videos by voice. If you have a Roku TV you’ll even be able to turn it on or off or switch inputs by voice.
Pandora Premium support is also coming to Roku.
The company’s next software update for Roku TV and Roku TV wireless speakers is Roku OS 8.2, which is rolling out now. It enables automatic volume leveling when used with Roku TV wireless speakers, support for using voice controls with iHeartRadio, Pandora, and TuneIn, and a “Speech Clarity” feature that boosts dialog.
Roku OS 9 is coming to media streamers, TVs, and speakers starting in November and it adds support for browsing free content by voice “with requests like “show me free dramas,” and support for automatic volume leveling on select devices when they’re not paired with Roku wireless speakers.
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