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Roku Freshens Hardware Line, Updates OS to Support Antennas

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With its IPO out of the way, Roku took to the pressing matter of refreshing its line of set-top boxes (STB). It's been a year since Roku did away with the numbering system and dubbed its hardware the Roku Express, Express+, Premiere, Premiere+, and Ultra. While the names have stuck, the Premiere and Premiere+ have been removed from the lineup.

The Express again lists for $29.99, making it the lowest-priced STB around, while the Express+ (which includes both HDMI and composite connectors) list for $39.99 and is a Walmart exclusive. Roku says both models are five times more powerful than their predecessors.

The Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ have taken the Premieres' place in the lineup, listing for $49 and $69. Both offer a quad-core processor and 802.11 AC dual-band MIMO for wireless connectivity, and both now come with a voice-controlled remote that can power up compatible TVs and change the volume. The Streaming Stick+ is a new product. It offers a greater wireless range and can stream 4K and HDR video at 60fps, a first for a Roku stick.

With the Premiere models gone, the Ultra is next box in the lineup, and Roku has lowered its price from $129 to $99. As before, the Ultra includes an Ethernet port and can stream 4K, HDR, and 60fps content. It comes with the same redesigned remote that the Stick models offer. The Ultra includes a remote finder button for tracking down a lost remote, a feature introduced with the previous model.

Roku's new hardware is available for pre-order starting today and should be in stores on October 8.

Along with the new hardware, Roku is refreshing its operating system. Roku OS 8 features the Smart Guide, a program grid that combines over-the-air options (for TVs with an antenna) with streaming options. Users will be able to see local channel information for one week in the past and two weeks in the future. People using an antenna will also see local channel results when they run a search.

OS 8 lets users switch inputs or launch a channel using voice commands. Owners were previously limited to running searches with voice commands. The voice system can now understand natural language commands, as well.

Pay TV customers will be happy with the new single sign-on system that makes it easier to authenticate channel apps. Subscribers with Dish, Cox, and AT&T accounts, among others, will be able to sign in easily to over 30 TV Everywhere apps. Roku expects to add more apps to this list over time.

Roku devices will automatically receive the upgraded OS starting early this month, while Roku TVs will get it starting in November.


The Roku OS 8 Smart Guide

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