Roku Introduces a New Streaming Player Lineup

Posted on September 27, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 22 Comments

Roku Introduces a New Streaming Player Lineup

Roku announced a new streaming player lineup this morning and replaced all of its previous products with new models. Among the notable changes are a $30 Chromecast competitor and a $100 4K/UHD/HDR streamer.

“Today marks the biggest streaming player launch in Roku history,” an announcement on the Roku blog reads. “We’re introducing the Roku Express, Roku Express+, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra. With this lineup, plus our recently updated Roku Streaming Stick, there’s a player for everyone. In addition, we’ve reached another first – now there are 100+ streaming channels in our search feature allowing you to find more of the content you want to stream.”

If you’re familiar with the Roku lineup, you know that the firm previously offered the Roku Streaming Stick alongside Roku 2, 3, and 4 devices, the latter of which supports 4K video at 60 fps. The new lineup sports new branding, some new form factors, and some new capabilities. And lower prices in some notable cases as well.

This is great news since the Roku family of products has long been the best way to stream content in the living room, with the best performance, the best user experience, and the best selection. (That said, you’re kind of stuck using two or more streamers if you need access to certain content, like Apple’s, which are only available on its own devices.)

Here’s the new lineup.

Roku Express. This cute little device sports an all-new form factor and low-low pricing of just $30, matching Chromecast. It can stream at 1080p.

express

Roku Express+. This one is just like the Roku Express, but it supports older TVs with composite or A/V (red/white/yellow) connectors. It costs $40.

Roku Premiere. This device looks more like the old Roku 4, with its squat shape, and it provides 4K video streaming at 60 fps. The cost? A very reasonable $80.

premiere-plus

Roku Premiere+. At $99, the Roku Premiere+ provides everything in the Premier but adds support for HDR for more vibrant picture quality. Also the remote features a headphone jack for nighttime viewing.

Roku Ultra. The “fully loaded” Roku Ultra builds off the Roku Premiere+ (and uses the same case), adding support for Dolby Digital Plus decode, voice search and lost remote finder. The cost is $130.

ultra

The Roku Express, Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra are available for pre-order now and will arrive on October 9, Roku says. Roku Express+ will be available exclusively at Walmart.

I recently purchased a Roku 4 to take advantage of my 4K UHD television, but I’ve just scheduled a return so I can pre-order the Roku Premiere+ for its HDR capabilities. (My set features HDR.) I’m very curious to see how it performs, but my experiences with the Roku 4 so far have of course been excellent.

 

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  1. 1 | Reply
    Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 2 months ago

    I just wanted to mention this about HDR:

    After talking to a bunch of people that work for TV manufacturers, I've finally gotten the low-down on the whole HDR stuff, and am pretty disappointed by what it's trying to achieve.  HDR on TV's as it stands now, is post-processed HDR.  It's EXACTLY the same as what you do when you compress a wide-gamut down to a narrow gamut in digital photography, such as taking multiple exposures (or RAW photos) and using tone-mapping to see "hidden" artifacts that you wouldn't see from a certain exposure across another.  In essence, it gives you less-realistic lighting because it discounts the exposure limitations of the eye, which is what film cameras with variable lense settings already do - this is your aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.  Now, you could use the higher colour gamut and bandwidth to reduce banding and flattening of bloom in lights (the 16.7 million colours should be enough to do that given the higher-bandwidth of UHD Blu-ray, and that the human eye can only see about 10 million distinct colours), but HDR seeks to eliminate that altogether by giving us fake lighting.  What you're getting is a compressed light spectrum that isn't representative of the lighting conditions that the film was actually shot in because it brightens dark objects and darkens brighter objects to fit in the limited human eye spectrum.  It's fake, and flattens the image.

    HDR in video games, as shown off by Valve in the Lost Coast add-on for HL2 is pre-processed HDR.  It's probably more accurate to call it "dynamic exposure" than HDR, but whatever.  This is how the human eye sees light.  It's far more realistic.  Interactive entertainment needs this type of HDR because it shows you more realistic lighting, and lots of games today don't use it, even though console hardware today is far more powerful than the Radeon 9600 that was needed to play Half-Life 2.  The post-processed HDR that you have in TV's is just a wide-gamut colour space, so in games that use it, it just shows you more subtle gradients - that's it.  There is no dynamic exposure at all - unless they support it in the graphics engine separately.  But that feature doesn't require special hardware support, as Valve had shown years ago.

    I think this is just another feature along with motion compensation (i.e. your 120hz+ interpolated video settings in a TV that makes every movie look like a BBC soap opera from the 80's) that just doesn't do any good for video quality.

    I've asked some real photographers about this, and the general concensus is that real photographers don't use HDR processing unless they're looking to turn their photos into (as one put it) "psychedelic eyesores".

  2. 0 | Reply
    jbuccola Alpha Member #1511 - 2 months ago

    We have several Rokus, including the 4 - which was terribly prone to overheating. When it ran hot, it slowed way down. The fix was rather simple - we placed it underneath the media center where cooler air could flow freely. Remote still works great as it's RF. Still, the experience left a bit to be desired as this isn't an issue on the previous Roku devices we've owned. Glancing at Amazon reviews, I'm not the only one who had this issue.

  3. 0 | Reply
    xapache Alpha Member #1506 - 2 months ago

    Anyone stream content from a home server?  I have hundreds of my DVD's and Blu-Rays that I converted and put on my server.  Kodi is fine but isn't wife user friendly.

    1. 0 | Reply
      TroyTruax Alpha Member #1821 - 2 months ago

      I use the Plex app to stream from a Drobo set up as a Plex server. The Plex user interface passes the wife test.

       

    2. 0 | Reply
      h8zgray Alpha Member #324 - 2 months ago

      Agree with TroyTruax, do the same thing, using Plex media server on my Desktop. Works really well in terms of transcoding streams, remote access, as well as easy tagging of content. Plus it also passes the wife and kid test.

  4. 0 | Reply
    ErichK Alpha Member #2471 - 2 months ago

    Man ... either one of these or a Chrome Cast would be a great gift for me to give my mom for Christmas, but I'm kind of undecided on which one.

  5. 0 | Reply
    bennett_cg Alpha Member #1347 - 2 months ago

    This is why Microsoft should stay away from the set-top device world.

    1. 1 | Reply
      kenosando Alpha Member #1382 - 2 months ago

      But, a MS streaming device could offer more than Roku - gaming. Also, Roku is undoubtedly the best of the best in terms of services it supports - both Amazon and Google Play for movies and TV is a big win, considering you won't find Google Play on Fire TV (without h4x) and Amazon Video won't work over Chromecast. MS wouldn't be able to offer the same quality channels Roku does, but a MS streaming device that supported Xbox Arcade/360 titles streaming from either your home console or MS servers would be a much-welcomed device in my home.

    2. 0 | Reply
      mebby Alpha Member #219 - 2 months ago

      A MS "Roku-like" device would be interesting to me. My worry would be they would limit the features and not evolve it over time.

  6. 0 | Reply
    bassoprofundo Alpha Member #408 - 2 months ago

    Meant to include a line in there saying how "I wish they'd put some work into enhancing the UI" after my first line in the above comment.  Can we not edit our comments in the new system?

    Also, I tried to reply to my own comment to say this.  I clicked reply on my own comment, it gave me a reply box, and I entered the text.  When I submitted it, though, it put it as a reply to KPRROK's comment.  Bug?

  7. 0 | Reply
    bassoprofundo Alpha Member #408 - 2 months ago

    Price drops are always welcome, but I don't see any much reason for anyone in 1080p land to upgrade if you already have a refreshed Roku2 or above.  I love the FireTV UI, and switching back to the Roku feels about the same as picking up an iPhone again after being on Windows Phone.  It's functional enough, I guess, but ugh... so chunky and uninteresting.

  8. 0 | Reply
    Ali Alpha Member #1829 - 2 months ago

    I read somewhere else that Roku Ultra adds support for a USB stick and it can play almost all popular video and sound formats.  In my book,this is the one to get!

  9. 0 | Reply
    KPRROK Alpha Member #302 - 2 months ago

    Interesting.  I actually really liked their old lineup, but the added features/lower prices here are welcome.  Once I get a new TV with 4k and HDR, I'll definitely consider one of these.