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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    • TwistedKestrel
    • 3 years ago

    I would bet these are all using Amlogic S905 variants, going by their capabilities. VP9, HDR, & SPDIF narrows it down a bit.

    • krazyredboy
    • 3 years ago

    Ah Dr. Roku, I see you even have the machine that goes “PING!”

    • The Egg
    • 3 years ago

    While I’m excited for the refresh, Roku’s marketing department must have been breathing in paint fumes. 5 different devices plus a streaming stick? Way to confuse the hell out of the already-confused masses. Those who were apprehensive are going to be further confused by the arbitrary differences and go to a competitor like AppleTV, or just scrap the idea altogether.

    Rather than fragmenting the lineup into 5+1, they should have been consolidating to ONE BOX.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      One box is a bit light, but I think there’s a place for 3 boxes – the Express, Premiere+, and Ultra gives choices without the $10-20 increments.

        • TwistedKestrel
        • 3 years ago

        I agree – 3 would be about right. Who knows though, maybe the cost to them to deliver six different SKUs was minimal. I bet the stripper Walmart version pays itself off very quickly, if it hasn’t already. The other three are undoubtedly all using the same PCB, and the enclosures are all similar.

        I personally would have swapped the USB and micro SD between the top two models though. USB would be useful to a lot more people than the SD will be.

        • The Egg
        • 3 years ago

        Gotta disagree. Having only 1 or 2 offerings gives a huge bonus for brand recognition and customer familiarity (meaning increased confidence). Apple seems to be one of the few device manufacturers to understand this.

        The Roku Stick makes the lower-end “Express” boxes redundant. The regular Premiere can be safely dropped, and the differences between the Premiere+ and Ultra are negligible. Their lineup should have consisted of the new Roku Stick, and the ultra, called simply “Roku” at $99.

          • Peldor
          • 3 years ago

          Apple sells 3 different notebooks in multiple configurations and price points, 5 different iPads, and 5 different iPhones.

          I guess the vast bulk of Apple’s current hardware business is run badly and the Apple TV group should be put in charge?

    • Peldor
    • 3 years ago

    It’s not mentioned here, but the Roku Streaming Stick will still be part of the lineup at $50. The big advantage: you get a point-anywhere remote for half the price of the new Premiere+.

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