Updated Roku range starts cheaper and gets HDR-ready

Streaming media player specialist Roku has refreshed much of its line-up of compact set-top boxes. Roku is positioning its new "Express" model as an affordable competitor for Google's Chromecast and Amazon's Fire TV Stick, while the upmarket Premiere and Ultra models are ready for UHD and HDR content.

The entry-level Roku Express is capable of 1080p streaming over HDMI. The Express' remote offers dedicated buttons for Netflix, Google Play, Hulu, and Sling TV. The device comes with an HDMI cable and an adhesive strip for sticking it to a television. This sticky strip will come in handy, as the device weighs a scant 1.3 ounces, or 37 grams. The Express+ model costs an extra $10, and that money buys support for composite A/V output for use with older TV sets.

Moving up the product ladder, the Roku Premiere adds 4K streaming support at up to 60 FPS. The Premiere also gets 802.11ac Wi-Fi support and an unspecified quad-core processor. Roku's marketing materials also mention a "Night Listening mode" that enhances "volume consistency." The $20-more-expensive Premiere+ model offers HDR support, an Ethernet jack, a microSD slot, and an enhanced RF remote with a headphone jack, letting the user watch action movies late at night without upsetting their sleeping partner. The Roku Premiere is considerably larger than the Express models and tips the scales at 221 grams (7.8 ounces).

The range-topping Roku Ultra takes everything from the Premiere+ and piles on Dolby Digital Plus audio decoding, optical audio output, a USB port for local media playback, and a remote with a pair of gaming buttons and a little noisemaker that beeps when a button on the set-top box is pressed.

All three of these devices should begin shipping on October 9. The $30 Roku Express will be available exclusively through Wal-Mart. Customers can pre-order the $40 Roku Express+, $80 Premiere, $100 Premiere+, and $130 Ultra now through the Roku's website.

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