Roku finally reveals its new 1080p and 4K HDR set-top streaming media boxes
Stephan Jukic – September 26, 2016
After a fair bit of pretty accurate (as it turns out) speculation and rumor about their impending arrival, Roku’s 2016 set-top streaming media players have now been officially announced and come with plenty of new features which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watches this aspect of the home entertainment technology industry.
The California company has gone the full nine yards for 2016 and replaced its entire older line of Roku boxes with new versions and also included a number of new hardware features and other more advanced changes. Only Roku’s streaming video stick (which comes from early 2016 anyhow) hasn’t been replaced with a new model.
In our previous news piece on the rumored specs and models of new Roku devices, we’d covered five possible set-top boxes to soon come from Roku. As it turns out there are four new main models here for 2016 and one special edition for Walmart retail. Of these, three offer 4K UHD, one is a Full HD box and two of them offer both 4K content and HDR support for their 4K media streams. Let’s look at the details.
First among the bunch is the Roku Express box. This device is the only Full HD offering among the new editions and it replaces the old Roku 1, which was also a Full HD content box only. The Express however delivers its technology in a 75% smaller form factor and inside this far more compact space offers up twice the processing power of its Roku 1 predecessor. Additionally, this is probably one of the cheapest set-top boxes we’ve ever seen despite its quality and strong basic specs. The new Roku Express is retailing for just $30 and a version called the Express Plus with included composite cables will also be available or $10 more but sold only through Walmart for some reason.
Next up, there are the two mid-range 4K UHD set-top boxes. These are the Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere Plus. They are the replacements to the older Roku 2 and Roku 3 boxes from last year, which lacked 4K content support. Both of these new models on the other hand do come with 4K UHD streaming at a smooth 60 frames per second, meaning the inclusion of HDMI 2.0a as well. The Premiere supports only 4K SDR media for now but the Roku Premiere Plus ups this with the inclusion of high dynamic range support and an enhanced remote control which offers Roku’s private listening technology for watching movies with headphones attached to the remote device. The Premiere Plus box is also differentiated from the Roku Premiere with the inclusion of an Ethernet port and a microSD slot.
The Roku Premiere is going to be retailing for $80 and the HDR-capable Premiere Plus will sell for $100.
Finally, we come down to Roku’s 2016 flagship set-top streaming box, the Roku Ultra, which will retail for $130. This device is the successor to the Roku 4 4K streaming box from last year (the only model among the older Rokus with 4K content support) and it even has a strong physical resemblance to its predecessor. However, unlike the Roku 4, the Roku Ultra supports both 4K media and HDR video and with this new cutting-edge video feature the Ultra also comes with a more advanced remote control, a USB port for accessing external local device media (external hard drives, smartphones, etc) and the sort of neat feature known as “Find my Remote”, which as its name clearly indicates, let’s you find the Roku Ultra’s remote if you lose it.
The smart user interface of the new Roku devices is in many ways the same as the rather superb platform we’d noted in the 2015 Roku 4 set-top box but in the top three 4K devices for this year, the smart interface also features an improved search system for navigating the dozens of apps and 3,500 channels that these premium streaming media boxes offer. Additionally, the three top boxes come with a cool “night listening” technology which compresses audio on loud noises like shouting and explosions so they match the sound made by regular talking in content, you know, for not waking up the others in your house if you’re doing some late night movie browsing.
The new boxes will start shipping in October and will be sold through the company website as well as select retail partners.
Story by 4k.com