Roku Updates OS, Adds Three Upgraded Media Streamers
Roku is adding a new versions of its operating systems for set-top media adapters (OS 9.0) and for its integrated Roku TVs (OS 8.2) that will offer a variety of features to make the Roku experience even easier to use.
At the same time, the company is unveiling three refreshed and upgraded versions of Roku media adapters, including the new Roku Premiere ($39.99 suggested retail), Premiere-Plus ($49.99) and Roku Ultra ($99.99). More on these later.
Among the feature highlights in the new OS 9.0 for Roku set-top media adapters is compatibility with Google Assistant input devices (like Google Home speakers) enabling easy voice-controlled program searches. In fact, Google Assistant compatibility will be found across Roku’s platforms, the company said.
The company also revealed the soon-to-arrive firmware update for the Roku TV OS 8.2. This is for TVs with built-in Roku smart TV functionality. The new OS will bring new features including seamless compatibility and interoperability with upcoming Roku TV Wireless Speakers; and auto sound leveling to keep volume levels consistent when switching between programs and commercials.
Roku OS 8.2 is also bringing apps for premium music services Spotify and Pandora Premium, both of which offer a wide range of music selections that are ideal for listening to through Roku’s new Roku TV wireless speakers.
“As we broaden the Roku ecosystem allowing consumers to add new devices to their Home Entertainment Networks, we are in a unique position that is unlike any other TV streaming platform,” stated Ilya Asnis, senior vice president of Roku OS at Roku. “Our single operating system running across Roku TVs and Roku TV Wireless Speakers give us the ability to innovate how consumers experience audio and entertainment in their homes.”
Spotify allows users and subscribers to manage and share over 35 million songs for free, or upgrade to Spotify Premium to access exclusive features including offline mode, improved sound quality, Spotify Connect and ad-free listening.
Roku customers will be able to launch and navigate the channel using a Roku remote or via Spotify Connect on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
Similarly, with the addition of Pandora Premium listeners will be able to search and play any song, album or featured playlist, and will have the option to create their own playlists to access personalized soundtracks that best serve their mood.
The premium upgrade will be available via the Pandora channel in the Roku Channel Store, the company said.
With the 8.2 OS update for Roku TVs and new Roku wireless speakers, users also will be able to access and control iHeart Radio and Tune-In by voice, launch live radio stations from across the country, access podcasts and many other music and audio-centric entertainment sources.
Furthermore, with the addition of Google Assistant support across the Roku device ecosystem, users will will be able to pause and search for content and launch streaming channels, Roku said.
This will also extend to turning on and off the device, cranking the volume, muting, switching inputs and changing channels when an over-the-air antenna is connected to the Roku TV.
Additionally, the update offers owners of Roku TVs with Roku wireless speakers a speech clarity function that helps to make dialog clearer and more distinct from background sounds by boosting just the spoken parts of the sound track. This can be especially helpful to people who frequently have difficulty understanding what characters are saying in certain movies and television programs.
Roku said its previously announced Roku wireless speakers will soon be available in a bundle for $199.99, and right now for a limited time, purchasers can pre-order a speaker package for $179.99. The speakers give Roku TVs a much fuller sound than built-in speakers, along with greater channel separation than many soundbars.
Roku said the ability to control Roku TVs and Roku media adapters using Google Assistant devices (like Google Home) will be available in a few weeks.
Roku TV owners will find the Roku 8.2 OS update rolling out through firmware updates now through November.
The company said the new Roku 9.0 OS firmware update for streaming media adapters will arrive early November and should be completed in the first quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile, Roku’s new streaming players bring both access to popular 4K Ultra HD and HLG and HDR10 high dynamic range. None of the Roku players yet support Dolby Vision.
The company also announced updates to its ultimate streaming 4K Ultra HD/HDR player, the Roku Ultra ($99.99), which now ships with premium JBL headphones to make use of the “private listening” feature through the jack built into the unit’s remote.
Both Roku Premiere devices feature: HD, 4K and 4K HDR support; a quad-core processor, low-profile design, included high-speed HDMI cable, easy-to-use remote, 802.11b/g/n and Dolby and DTS Digital Surround pass through over HDMI.
The Roku Premiere-Plus includes everything Roku Premiere offers plus: voice remote with TV power and volume buttons.
The improved Roku Ultra offers an enhanced voice remote with TV power and volume buttons and new premium JBL headphones (valued at $39.95) for private listening. Additionally, a lost remote finder feature can be set to play new tones including SportsCenter’s “DaDaDa” ESPN theme or HBO’s Game of Thrones theme song in November.
The Roku Ultra include both Ethernet 10/100 and 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless connectivity options, a USB port for local media playback, Dolby and DTS Digital Surround pass through over HDMI and a Night listening mode.
The Roku Premiere is available for pre-order at Roku.com beginning today and, along with the Roku Ultra. Both devices will be available at all major retailers beginning in early October. The Roku Premiere+ will be available exclusively at Walmart and Walmart.com in early October.
By Greg Tarr
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