Roku Unveils Express 4K+, Streambar Pro, Remote Pro, OS 10
Roku introduced Tuesday a next-generation Roku Express 4K+ streaming adapter, an upgraded Roku Streambar Pro and announced the rollout of a Roku OS 10 firmware update for all new and most legacy Roku devices.
At the same time, Roku said it is adding a new $29.99 accessory Roku remote, called the Roku Voice Remote Pro, bringing step-up features including private listening, mid-field mic (user defeatable), voice activated lost remote finder and a rechargeable battery.
The Roku Express 4K+ ($39.99 suggested retail), is a compact HDMI-connected add-on streaming media player with access to 4K Ultra HD streaming with HDR support. The Roku Express 4K+ features Roku OS 10, which comes pre-installed.
Roku Express 4K+ adds a quad-core processor for a smoother streaming experience, dual-band wireless networking for more stable connectivity, and additional storage to make channel start-ups snappier. It will stream 4K content when available along with high dynamic range (HDR) using the HDR10 or HDR10+ profiles when played on a connected supporting 4K/HDR television.
The Roku Streambar Pro will be available on Roku.com at the end of May and at major retailers in June for a $179.99 suggested retail price. The company said like the Roku Streambar introduced last year, this year’s Pro version is an evolution of the Roku Smart Soundbar.
It features 2-in-1 4K streaming and cinematic sound and adds a step-up Roku Voice Remote with personal shortcut buttons and private listening, a set of Roku headphones and the new Virtual Surround experience. The latter feature will come via the included Roku OS 10 rolling out across the Roku universe now.
The company said that both the Roku Streambar Pro and the existing Roku Smart Soundbar will be able to play even more rich and immersive sound with the coming virtual surround sound enhancement. The immersive sound setting is designed to create more spacious sound that gives the listener the sensation that sounds are moving around them in the room, according to Roku.
The new Roku OS 10 that brings this capability to supported devices (note that it will not work on first compact Roku Streambar product) will continue to support the company’s famously huge library of popular streaming apps and services, live TV options and customizable home screens.
Roku continually upgrades its user experiences in both new and legacy Roku streaming adapters and Roku TVs through regular OS firmware updates.
Other features in the Roku Express 4K+ include the following:
● Dual-Band Wi-Fi and microUSB Ethernet compatibility for wired internet connectivity.
● Voice remote with TV controls to power on the TV, adjust the volume, mute or use Roku Voice through the built-in mic to launch channels, search for content and control the streaming experience.
● Simplified setup with included high-speed HDMI cable.
● Voice control ecosystem compatibility with Alexa or Google Assistant enabled devices. In addition, using Apple AirPlay 2 users can stream, control and share content directly from iPhone, iPad or Mac devices. Roku Express 4K+ also supports HomeKit to control Roku devices using Siri or the Home app on Apple devices.
The new Roku Voice Remote Pro is a $29.99 accessory device users can add-on to their Roku streaming devices and Roku TVs to add premium features, including battery recharging for the first time. The Remote Pro was designed to offer hands-free voice control for easy actions such as saying, “Hey Roku, find my remote.” The Roku Voice Remote is compatible with all Roku TV models, audio devices, and select streaming players.
Other Remote Pro features include: battery recharging via a standard (not supplied) MicroUSB charger connection to bring months of use time per single charge. A lost remote finder that responds to voice command. Alternatively, the remote chime can be triggered using the Roku mobile device app that is available for iOS and Android.
The remote also adds simple TV control buttons for volume up, down, mute, and personal shortcut saving for favorite voice commands for one-touch control (press and hold after giving a voice command to save).
For those looking for the Roku private listening feature, users can connect earphones (sold separately) to the remote to listen to TV audio without disturbing others in the room. The Roku Voice Remote Pro also includes a built-in mid-field mic to pick up spoken voice commands using the activation phrase “Hey Roku” and commanding it to turn the TV on, adjust the volume, and control playback. For those adverse to having live mics always on, the Remote Pro has a hardware switch to turn off the hands-free feature and use push-to-talk controls instead.
Roku is also offering a scaled down version of the Roku Express 4K+, called the Roku Express 4K, exclusively through Walmart in the U.S. That version sells for $35 and features a basic Roku remote.
Roku also announced it is offering a 30-day free trial of AMC+ on The Roku Channel through July 2, 2021. Here, Roku device owners can manage subscriptions using one login, one bill, and one place to stream them all. During activation, a 30-day free trial offer from AMC+ will become visible to accept with additional instructions.
Roku OS 10
The company also announced the arrival of the Roku OS 10 firmware update that is rolling out now to Roku streamers and Roku TV users across the country. The firmware update brings a slew of improvements including snappier access to apps and content, improved networking and input configurations, and additional ways to customize the user experience and performance.
“The Roku OS adds new choices, more value and continues to make streaming easier and easier with each free update,” stated Ilya Asnis, Roku OS senior VP. “With Roku OS 10, we are enabling people to get to the content they love faster through features like Instant Resume and the Live TV Channel Guide customization options, and taking the guesswork out of the more complex wireless network and gaming features by automating them. We are also adding tremendous value by expanding Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support to more devices. We hope the customers enjoy the update and look forward to their feedback.”
Among new Roku OS 10 features are the following:
• Apple AirPlay 2 & HomeKit – In addition to select 4K Roku devices, Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit will now also be available on HD Roku streaming devices, such as the Roku Express, and select HD Roku TV models. This will enable easily streaming, controlling and sharing favorite content directly from an iPhone, iPad or Mac through the Roku device and onto a big screen. Compatible Roku devices will also support HomeKit to control Roku devices using Siri or the Home app on Apple devices.
• Instant Resume is a new feature to help users more quickly get back to content they were watching within supported channels. Roku said that now when users relaunch a channel, load times will be much quicker with viewers being taken back to the point where they left off. Instant resume will be supported on more than 15 streaming channels including AT&T TV, FilmRise, FOX Business Network, FOX News Channel, Fubo Sports Network, HappyKids TV, Plex.tv, STARZ, The Roku Channel, with more to come.
• Live TV channel guide customization for U.S. users, will bring viewers more options with which to tailor their experience including the ability to hide individual channels from view and the ability to add channels to a favorites list for a custom guide view. Users can quickly switch between guide views to see favorite channels, recently visited channels, or all channels.
• Automatic Wi-Fi network detection will notify users of best available network connections at setup and when a more optimal wireless network band is available to connect to for the best possible streaming experience. This notification will appear proactively with prompts to connect to the better option for an improved experience.
• Automatic Game Console Configuration will now help gamers who are Roku TV users automatically detect select game consoles and configure supported features to optimize the TV’s performance to the title being played. When a supported game console is connected to an HDMI port on a Roku TV, the input tile on the user’s Roku home screen will automatically change to the game console icon for easy identification so users can jump right into the action.
Additionally, the Roku TV will detect the capabilities of the game console and automatically enable settings like Game Mode to provide the lowest latency picture for a more responsive display and optimal gaming experience. Advanced features will be enabled to enhance usability and picture quality for auto-recognized game consoles. Depending on the Roku TV model being used, settings that get automatically configured may include HDR gaming, Auto Low-Latency Mode, Variable Refresh Rate, High Frame Rate, and THX Certified Game Mode, Roku said.
• Voice entry for select on-screen keyboards can now be used in the U.S. for greater convenience and speed in entering information into the app or setting. Keyboards that support Roku Voice will display a microphone icon to let users quickly identify when voice entry is an available option.
• HDR10+ content support will now be found on select Roku 4K streaming devices when connected to HDR10+ supporting TVs using dynamic metadata to continuously adjust brightness and color enhancements as graded on a scene-by-scene basis throughout an HDR10+ title. Roku devices will automatically detect HDR10+ TV compatibility during setup or users can configure the display type within the settings menu. This support will be available on the Roku Ultra (2020), Roku Express 4K, and Roku Express 4K+ media streamers.
• Virtual Surround now will be available on Roku Smart Soundbars and Roku Streambar Pro devices offering richer immersive sound experiences by activating the “Virtual Surround” setting. The enhancement will create a surround sound effect that in some content will make sounds seem to move around the room for greater immersive engagement. The new setting can be found by pressing the “*” button on the Roku remote and selecting the Sound settings menu, or by accessing the Audio menu within Settings on their device.
• Improvements to visual search results for Roku Voice will now appear to users who initiate a voice search while within a streaming channel. Users will now experience a more visual and convenient way to browse Roku Search results without disrupting enjoyment of a program. Results will be displayed in a partial overlay with content from the active channel in the first row, followed by rows of other matches from elsewhere on the platform, providing a complete list of results to choose from in order of the best matches.
The Roku OS 10 has started auto updating in select Roku players and will roll out to all supported streaming players, including the all-new Roku Express 4K+ and Roku Streambar Pro models and all Roku TV models in the coming weeks, Roku said.
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By Greg Tarr
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