Roku introduced Monday the latest iteration of its flagship Roku streaming media player, the Roku Ultra, now with Dolby Vision. It also unveiled its first, compact Roku Streambar.

Also announced was a new Roku 0S 9.4 version, which will debut in the two new units before rolling out shortly thereafter to Roku devices and Roku TVs in the field.

Roku said the new OS will be pushed to Roku streaming players in coming weeks. Roku TV models will follow with updates delivered in phases over the coming months.

The OS 9.4 is bringing faster initial setup to speed up the process of installing favorite channels along with faster video start times. It will also offer updated Theme Packs to customize the home screen and screen saver with a variety of fun visual themes along joined by corresponding audio tones for the first time.

The 2020 version of the Roku Ultra, which is available today at a $99.99 suggested retail price, is billed as Roku’s best and most powerful streaming player to date. It includes support for Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) along with HDR10 for the first time in a Roku external streaming player. Dolby Vision will be added to the prior support for Dolby Atmos 3D sound enhancement when playing supported content.

Roku said the new Ultra “offers the best performance of any Roku player for less than $100, and was specifically designed for avid streamers.”

The Roku Utra also offers the company’s best wireless range performance to date, with up to 50% more range coverage along with Bluetooth support.

The Roku Ultra will ship with a Roku voice remote featuring TV power and volume controls, lost remote finder, personal shortcut buttons, and headphones for private listening. A high-speed premium HDMI cable is also included.

The Roku Ultra also offers extensive voice-control capabilities through compatibility with both Alexa and Google Assistant devices, in addition to Roku’s own voice search platform.

For streamers looking to add expansive sound to the Roku streaming equation, the compact Roku Streambar (measuring 14 inches long and 2.4 inches tall), is billed as “the easiest way for consumers to upgrade and de-clutter their home entertainment systems.”

Said to be about the size of an egg carton, the Roku Streambar will be available for a $129.99 suggested retail and has the connectivity features for compatibility with the company’s wireless speakers and Roku wireless subwoofer. Like the Roku Soundbar, already in the market, the Streambar includes a built-in Roku streaming player.

It also offers four built-in speakers, two of which are positioned off to the side of the unit to provide a wide sound stage and enveloping surround sound effects. Roku said the experience is further enhanced with new DSP technology.

Although compact, the Roku Streambar is designed to work with HDMI-ready TVs of almost any screen size to “fill the room with sound.”

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Incorporated DSP technology helps to expand the sound stage while keeping dialog front and center, with clarity. Through a setting, the system will also auto balance the volume of over-poweringly loud commercials. The Streambar can be controlled via spoken commands using Alexa and Google Play devices, and later this year, Roku said it will add support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit capabilities. The same capability will also be rolled out to select 4K Roku devices.

With Apple AirPlay 2, users will be able to stream videos, music and more to the big screen, while HomeKit will allow easily and securely controlling a Roku device using the Apple Home app and Siri.

Roku assured, setting up the Streambar is designed to be simple, and Roku supplies all of the necessary accessories in the box, including a Roku voice remote that also controls the connected TV, sound, and streaming.

“We are focused on delivering a variety of innovative, top-performing products at an incredible value to our customers so they can get to the content they care about quickly,” said Mark Ely, Vice President, Retail Product Strategy at Roku. “Our new streaming player lineup now includes reimagined streaming devices in the Roku Ultra and Roku Streambar – we continue to offer a great device no matter the use case our customers are looking for whether they are new to streaming or looking to add great sound and streaming to their home entertainment center.”

Meanwhile, the new Roku OS 9.4 promises a faster experience finding and accessing favorite programming along with other enhancements. With the update, The Roku Channel is adding more ways to access all-in-one entertainment via a new dedicated mobile app for iOS and Android smartphones available in the coming weeks.

The new OS 9.4 is said to give users more choice and new ways to navigate and control content-rich experiences on and off Roku devices.

Other benefits include the following:

• Forthcoming Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support (coming later this year). Roku customers can stream, control, and share favorite content directly from their iPhone, iPad, or Mac to a supported Roku device. HomeKit allows customers to control Roku devices using the Home app and Siri on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, or HomePod.
• Live TV Channel Guide on Roku TVs offering Roku TV owners easy access to The Roku Channel’s Live TV Channel Guide directly from the Roku home screen. Users will be able to select a “Live TV” tile on the Roku home screen to access more than 115 free live streaming channels from The Roku Channel. A choice of two program guide views will be offered, including recently watched channels. Roku TV users with a connected antenna will get one-click access to a combined program guide featuring the free live streaming channels as well as over-the-air broadcast channels, including the ability to hide the streaming channel from the guide.
• Helpful hints for using voice control will appear on screen to support using effective phrases for voice commands for Roku devices.
• Surround level control for multi-channel audio when using Roku audio products in a multi-channel speaker configuration. This includes raising and lowering volume of rear surround speakers relative to the volume the soundbar for a customized balance.

Furthermore, Roku said The Roku Channel free mobile app for iOS and Android smartphones will offer mobile access to free and premium entertainment through the Roku Channel as well as live TV and news.

The Roku Channel is also being updated with more free and linear channels in the U.S. with new channels including Cinedigm’s Bloody Disgusting TV, The Craftistry from Studio71, Circle, HappyKids.tv, Hi-YAH! – The Martial Arts Channel, iFood.tv, The LEGO Channel, Maverick Black Cinema, MOVIESPHERE, Skills + Thrills, VENN, WeatherSpy, as well as a variety of Spanish-language entertainment including Sony Canal Novelas, Sony Canal Comedias, and Sony Canal Compentencias from Sony Pictures Television and Tastemade en Español, starting September 29.

In other announcements, people who purchase a Roku device from September 25th – November 6th will be able to redeem by November 8th, 2020 a 3-month trial of Pandora Premium on-demand music service with ad-free listening (a $29.97 value).

In another offer, eligible customers who purchase and activate a Roku device from October 23, 2020 to January 31, 2021 will receive a promotional code for three months Apple TV+ free. The offer is available to new Apple TV+ subscribers only and must be redeemed by Feb. 2, 2021. The service will run $4.99/month after the trial period. One subscription per Family Sharing group.

People who purchase and activate a Roku device now through Oct. 4, 2020 will also be able to redeem free trials to Showtime, Starz an Epix via The Roku Channel. This is a $25.97 value.

More information on the offers visit Roku.com/Offers.

The Roku Ultra and Roku Streambar are available for pre-order at Roku.com starting today and are expected to ship in October. General availability at Roku.com and major retailers. The Roku Streambar will also be available in Canada, Mexico and the U.K. Also continuing to be available on shelf in the U.S. are the Roku Express, the Roku Express+, the Roku Premiere, the Roku Streaming Stick+, the Roku Streaming Stick+ HE and the Roku Ultra LT.

Key features of both devices are listed below:

Roku Ultra

• Power & performance: Loaded with a quad-core processor and channels that launch in a snap.
• Our best wireless: Enjoy smoother streaming in rooms further from the router now with up to 50% more range.
• Dolby Vision®: Enjoy favorite films or streaming series with spectacular color, contrast, brightness, and detail. Dolby Vision can deliver colors never-before seen on a screen paired with ultra-vivid picture quality which results in a refined, lifelike image.
• Dolby Atmos®: Immersive entertainment with sound that moves all around with breathtaking realism. Sound recorded in stereo is limited to left and right channels. Sound mixed in Dolby Atmos allows a deeper connection to shows and movies.
• Private listening: Use the included headphones to pump up the volume on your shows without disturbing the house.
• Personal shortcuts: Simply give a voice command, then press and hold a personal shortcut button for one-touch access anytime.

Roku Streambar

• Built-in Roku streaming platform with easy to use and snappy performance.
• Four internal speakers and support for Dolby Audio.
• Advanced audio engineering within the Roku OS producing sound well beyond the size of the Streambar with speech clarity and deep music.
• Simple sound settings for volume to make it easy to adjust the proper levels for the environment and time of day. This can automatically lower loud commercials, boost the volume of voices, and optimize the sound for night listening.
• The ability to expand the surround sound experience with the addition of a Roku wireless Subwoofer and Roku wireless rear-channel speakers.
• Support for Spotify Connect to easily launch streaming music playlists, through a smartphone and listen through the Roku Streambar’s speakers.
• Bluetooth support to easily stream music from mobile devices.

By Greg Tarr

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