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Roku Devices Get Smaller, Faster to Battle the Competition

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How's this for timing? Just one day after Roku's stock took a hit from the announcement of Facebook Portal TV and Comcast's free set-top box for internet-only customers, Roku has some product news of its own. The leading set-top box maker is refreshing its hardware for fall, and the changes are at the top and bottom of the lineup.

News 2Roku's most affordable player, the Express (pictured here), is now 10% smaller than its previous version. The company has decreased the amount of power it needs to run, so with most TVs it will be able to draw enough power from a USB port. That means no power cable to the wall and less clutter. It streams HD video, sells for $29.99, and comes with an HDMI cable, a simple remote, and a sticker to hold it in place on a TV.

At the top of the lineup, the Roku Ultra ($99.99) now has an enhanced quad-core processor and more memory. The result is that channels load faster. Testing the top 100 streaming channels, Roku found they loaded 17% faster with the upgraded Ultra. It offers 4K video and HDR support, comes with premium JBL headphones and an enhanced remote, and includes a lost remote finder feature.

Roku's enhanced remote now features a mute button and two programmable shortcut buttons which can perform any task, such as calling up music or performing a favorite search. Users will speak a command using the voice interface, then hold down one of the programmable buttons to commit it to memory.

Roku's full lineup includes the Express ($29.99), Premiere ($39.99), Streaming Stick+ ($59.99), and Ultra ($99). Walmart will have exclusive versions of the Express and Ultra, while Best Buy will have an exclusive version of the Streaming Stick+. The new Express and Ultra are available for pre-order today; the Express will ship later this month and the Ultra will be available in October.

Roku also announced a new version of its operating system, OS 9.2, which will begin rolling out later this month. The company has created curated Roku Zones which will show up in some genre and topic searches, leading people to relevant suggestions. Users will also see a channel highlighting 4K content. Roku TVs gain a sleep timer, which can be set by voice command, and all users will get the option to search by movie quote. Roku says it has created a database with thousands of quotes. Alexa and Google Assistant will be able to control multiple Roku devices in one home, and a new Tips & Tricks channel will help people get more out of their devices. Finally, shortcuts added to the Roku home screen will help people add channels or power off their TVs, or (on Roku TVs only) add a sleep timer.

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