Roku Announces New Streaming Players & OS Update

Roku today announced new streaming players and an upgrade to its operating system that will make it easier to browse content.

A new Roku Express and Roku Ultra with improved performance and new features are available for pre-order starting today and expected to ship in mid-October. Roku also plans to roll out its new OS 9.2 operating system in the fall.

“We’re driven by the goal of delivering an exceptional streaming experience to our customers that includes endless entertainment and intuitive ways to find it,” said Mark Ely, vice president, players and whole home product management at Roku. “Our new streaming player lineup continues to offer a device for every type of streamer. Whether you’re streaming to your TV for the first time or are a cord-cutting powerhouse who wants our ultimate streaming device — we’ve got something for everyone.”

The middle of the lineup of Roku devices, which includes the Roku Streaming Stick+, will remain the same. But there is a new generation of players for first timers and powerhouse streamers.

The New Roku Express
This year’s entry-level Roku Express is bigger than the Roku Streaming Stick, yet still small enough to fit into the palm of your hand and has a pleasing new curved form factor. The hardware is designed to use less energy so it can be fully powered by most TVs’ USB ports, eliminating the need to run a power cord to a wall socket. The Express is limited to HD quality and includes Roku’s basic remote with its channel shortcut buttons; the remote cannot control volume or turn your TV on or off and lacks voice control and a headphone jack. The Roku Express is available for pre-order today on and runs $30.

The New Roku Ultra
On the other end of the spectrum is the improved top-of-the-line Roku Ultra. Built for the cord-cutters and “power streamers,” the 4K device comes with a new remote control and boasts increased memory and a new fast channel launch feature that loads channels — even those with massive amounts of data — more quickly than in the past.

The new enhanced Roku voice remote can control TV volume and power and has a headphone jack and two programmable shortcut buttons, labeled “1” and “2.” Programming is a simple matter of pressing and holding the button while speaking a supported voice command — anything from “turn on the TV” to “launch Netflix” to “play today’s hits on Pandora.” Once programmed, a press of the button immediately executes the command, eliminating multiple button pushes. As with the current Roku Ultra, the remote also includes a remote finder feature.

The Ultra’s specs look the same as earlier models, with the exception of an enhanced quad-core processor and increased memory. Like its predecessor, it supports 4K high dynamic range (HDR) video as well as Dolby and DTS Digital Surround passthrough over HDMI. The Ultra also includes an Ethernet port for wired streaming as well as a USB port for local playback and a MicroSD port for adding memory to expedite access to channels with a lot of data. The Roku Ultra is priced at $100 and also available for pre-order today.

New Roku OS 9.2 Features
Roku’s commitment to content and simplicity is evident in its new OS 9.2 operating system. Rolling out in the coming weeks, the update will make it easier to navigate or control playback and includes a new Roku Zones menu design that makes it easier to browse content.

When you search for a specific genre or “topical subject,” the new menu displays content in categorized rows — new releases, titles that are free to watch, kids’ titles, etc. — instead of displaying titles in a list as is done with the current OS. For example, the “Comedy Movies & TV Zone” is displayed when you search for “comedy.” Search for “horror” or “Halloween” and you get the “Horror Movie Zone.” Roku Zones will also be added to the 4K Spotlight Channel, and Roku says it plans to update Zones frequently with new titles.

Searching for 4K content will also be easier with Roku OS 9.2. Say “4K movies” and the “4K Movies & TV Zone” will be displayed, allowing you to browse UHD content from a variety of channels.

The new operating system will also bring new voice control features into the fold. You’ll be able to use the Roku voice remote to set sleep timers on a Roku TV by saying “Sleep TV in 30 minutes” or “Go to sleep at 10:30 p.m.” And if you use the “Roku Media Player” channel to play access personal libraries of content, you’ll be able to use the voice remote to control playback.

For those who prefer to use Alexa or Google Assistant, you will now be able to control multiple Roku devices throughout the home from a single Alexa- or Google Assistant-enabled device.

In another move toward simplicity, a new shortcut section will be added to the home screen for faster access to popular actions. At launch, the new Roku players will have shortcuts for adding channels and powering the TV on and off as well as a “set sleep timer” tile.

Don’t worry if you’re having trouble keeping track of all the new features. With the roll out of OS 9.2, Roku is adding a “Tips & Tricks” channel with videos that show you how to use and get the most out of your Roku player.

Watch for our hands-on review of Roku’s new players and the new OS 9.2 operating system.

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