NEW YORK—Television junkies often need a guide to tell them which programs to watch. The way it’s going, you’re also going to need a guide to tell you from which devices to stream.
And now Roku has just unveiled its newest box, the premium-priced $129.99 Roku 4.
Major selling point: 4K video streaming at up to 60 frames-per-second. Roku claims this as a competitive advantage over rivals who promise 4K streaming of up to 30 FPS, and over the new Apple TV box which lacks 4K streaming support altogether.
Roku has been a leader in the streaming space, with 3 billion hours collectively streamed last year, and 2.5 billion hours in the first six months of this year.
I can certainly vouch for the smooth playback and stunning visuals on the 4K footage Roku showed me via the Roku 4 on a 50-inch Samsung UHD television, not that I got to watch for very long.
Roku is also aiming to help you simplify the process of finding 4K streams, with a curated 4K Spotlight channel that is only visible if you have the Roku 4.
And Roku is devoting a section of the Roku Channel Store to 4K UHD content.
The company says it gives viewers access to more 4K programming than any of its rivals, with content offerings from Netflix, M-Go, Amazon Instant Video, Toon Goggles, Vudu and YouTube.
Of course, many viewers don’t yet have a 4K television, though that could start to change with prices for the TVs continuing to fall. For the uninitiated, 4K televisions boast four times the picture resolution or sharpness of high definition sets.
Roku insists the new streaming player is useful even for folks who haven’t bought a 4K TV yet. And if you do purchase a 4K movie on a Roku 4 that is connected to an HDTV, it will stream that flick in 1080p.
Among other new features on the latest box is a remote control finder that will help you locate a remote that is perhaps hidden under a couch cushion—pressing a button on the Roku 4, sounds an alert.
As with the Roku 3, the Roku 4 features voice search and a headphone jack on the remote.
On Tuesday, Roku also announced an update to its software that will come not only to Roku 4 but to existing models in the Roku lineup, including the $49.99 Roku Streaming Stick and the Roku branded televisions built by Haier, TCL, Sharp, Insignia and Hisense. (There isn’t yet a 4K Roku TV.)
The software enhances the Roku Feed feature introduced in March that initially let you “follow” a box office movie, and learn when and where it would be available for streaming and at what price. The new update lets you “follow” movies, TV shows, actors, and directors and receive notifications on the pricing and availability of such content.
Also new is a feature targeted at business travelers and college students who bring their Roku devices on the road or to campus. Dubbed Hotel and Dorm Connect, the idea is that after connecting Roku to the television in such places, you won’t have to sign in to the Wi-Fi networks each time you want to stream. Instead, you merely log in with the required credentials just once, and Roku stores those credentials for the next time you’re going to watch.
Roku’s mobile app for Android and iOS also gets a refresh.
Meanwhile, at least for the moment, Roku has been spared by Amazon. Last week, Amazon said it would stop selling Apple TV and Google Chromecast at the end of this month, now that those media streaming devices directly compete with the newly revamped Fire TV.
Roku is taking preorders on the Roku 4 starting today. The streaming player ships later this month.
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