I had one of the first Roku streaming devices when they first came on the scene but, over time, had moved to Apple TV. Last fall, I bought one of Roku’s current streaming devices, and was impressed by how much the platform has evolved; it’s fantastic! Never one to rest on their laurels, Roku has just announced Roku OS 10 as well as their latest hardware, the Roku Voice Remote Pro, Roku Express 4K+, and Roku Streambar Pro.
I had a chance to speak with members of the Roku team last week, and learned more about the updates they are sharing today; let’s dig in.
The first part of the briefing with Roku was spent looking at some of their numbers from the past year. As they reported, Roku was the #1 streaming platform in America at the end of Q4 2020. That quarter saw viewers stream almost 59 million hours of content via their Roku devices; it’s no wonder, with all of us in lockdown looking for ways to stay entertained! In addition, Roku TV, of which Judie is a huge fan, is the number one smart television OS in North America. One in three smart TVs sold in the US, and one in four sold in Canada, run Roku OS.
They also shared data that reveals an estimated 63 million people connected to the Roku Channel in Q5 2020. That channel currently has over forty thousand television shows and movies available for free. In addition, the Roku Channel recently acquired content distribution rights to Quibi and the This Old House business.
In other words, they are killing it. And they aren’t slowing down any time soon.
Roku OS 10
The first big announcement from Roku is the release of Roku OS 10. The update has started rolling out to various Roku devices including streaming players, audio products, and Roku TV models. The new OS is faster, and it offers new features including the availability of Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit on a wider range of Roku devices including HD Roku streaming devices, such as the Roku Express. It will also be available on select HD Roku TV models. As they explain:
With AirPlay 2, Roku customers can effortlessly stream, control and share their favorite content directly from their iPhone, iPad or Mac to compatible Roku devices, bringing the experience to the big screen. Compatible Roku devices also support HomeKit, which allows users to easily and securely control Roku devices using Siri or the Home app on their Apple devices.
Roku OS 10 also includes Instant Resume. This new feature not only makes it faster to return to a channel that was previously watched, but it also brings users back to the place they left off. That means an end to having to search for a channel you were watching yesterday, restart the content you were halfway through, and then fast forward to the spot where you left off. Instant resume will be supported on more than a dozen streaming channels. This does, of course, include the Roku Channel, and they plan to include more channels over time. It’s little conveniences like this that have helped Roku continue to build momentum.
Other new features include more control over the customization of the Live TV Channel Guide and Automatic Wi-Fi Network Detection to help users maintain the smoothest streaming experience possible. Roku OS 10 also supports HDR10+, Virtual Sound, and improved visual search results for Roku Voice search.
All of this adds up to a new Roku OS that is more powerful and more convenient than ever before. Roku OS 10 has already begun rolling out, and it will hit all of the supported streaming players within the next few weeks.
In addition to updating its software and the streaming experience it provides, Roku has announced a number of new hardware offerings.
Roku Voice Remote Pro
The $29.99 Roku Voice Remote Pro features a more environmentally-friendly rechargeable battery, a feature that helps locate lost remotes, and new hands-free voice controls to make navigating the platform easier than ever. The full feature list delivered by this inexpensive “smart” remote include:
- Rechargeable battery: Keep the remote powered for months on a single charge. It works with any standard MicroUSB charger
- Lost remote finder: Say “Hey Roku, where’s my remote?” or use the free Roku mobile app (available for iOS and Android) and listen for a little chime to locate everyone’s favorite TV companion.
- TV controls: Power the TV, adjust volume, and mute.
- Personal shortcuts: Save favorite voice commands for one-touch control (press and hold after giving a voice command to save).
- Private listening: Don’t wake the house, just plug headphones (sold separately) into the headphone jack and the TV will mute automatically.
- Hands-free: Forget about reaching for the remote. Just say “Hey Roku” and a command to turn the TV on, adjust the volume, control playback, and more without lifting a finger.
- Push-to-talk: Prefer not to have always-on listening devices in the home? Leverage the hardware switch to turn off the hands-free voice feature and use push-to-talk voice controls.
I’m definitely picking one of these up for our living room television. The rechargeable battery and ability to plug in headphones and enjoy a movie without disturbing Raina make it an inexpensive way to get an even better Roku experience.
Roku Express 4K+
The $39.99 Roku Express 4K+ is a new streaming device that makes it easier and less expensive than ever to stream 4K content with vivid HDR color. As they explain,
Enjoy a smooth streaming experience with a more powerful quad-core processor, dual-band wireless performance and additional storage for quicker channel start times. The Roku OS features a massive selection of free and live TV, a customizable home screen, and regular free software updates with new features.
The full feature list includes:
- Brilliant picture quality: Optimized with stunning detail and clarity with sharp resolution and vivid color in HD, 4K, HDR, HDR10, and HDR10+.
- Smooth streaming: Dual-Band Wi-Fi and micro USB Ethernet compatibility for wired internet connectivity.
- Voice remote with TV controls: Use one remote to power on the TV, adjust the volume, mute, and use Roku Voice to launch channels, search for content and control the streaming experience.
- Setup is a cinch: Everything is included in the box including a Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable. Just plug it in and connect to the internet.
- Ecosystem Compatibility: Control Roku Express 4K+ by using voice with Alexa or Google Assistant-enabled devices. With AirPlay 2, effortlessly share content directly from iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Roku Express 4K+ also supports HomeKit, which allows users to easily and securely control Roku devices using Siri or the Home app on their Apple devices.
Roku Streambar Pro
Finally, there is a new Roku Streambar Pro. Arriving in mid-May, this new soundbar features 2-in-1 4K streaming and cinematic sound. It also includes a Roku Voice Remote with its convenient customizable shortcut buttons and private listening. The $179.99 soundbar also includes Roku headphones and the new Virtual Surround feature that is part of Roku OS 10.
For years Carly and Judie have been Roku fans. Judie has two 4K TCL Roku televisions in her home, and she plans on upgrading her remotes with the new Roku Voice Remote Pro Roku.
I’m consistently impressed with Roku’s ability to bring multiple streaming services onto one agnostic platform. The beauty of Roku is twofold: one, you get a platform that can aggregate all your streaming subscriptions to one place, making it easier to jump from Netflix to Amazon to HBO and every minor service. Two, Roku has no agenda where they prioritize one service over another, so you have an easy time navigating without fear it’s going to steer you to one over another. – Carly Z
I was slow to join them in Roku-ville but, now that I’m in, I can see exactly why they are both such fans. I am too and these new updates promise a better experience than ever. Check out everything Roku is up to here.