- The new Roku Streaming Stick 4K has been announced.
- It includes a faster processor and better Wi-Fi performance compared to the older Streaming Stick Plus.
- The company is also rolling out a new OS update with many new features.
There’s no doubt that streaming media on mobile devices, smart TVs, and set-top boxes continues to become more and more popular, Roku, who helped to start this entertainment trend over 10 years ago, is now refreshing its popular streaming stick hardware for the fall and holiday shopping season. Today, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K was announced, and it contains some pretty powerful hardware inside its small case.
Read more: Roku was nearly a part of Netflix
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K includes a new processor that is 30% faster than the one inside the older Roku Streaming Stick Plus. That should allow for better overall performance and faster loading of Roku apps. In addition, the Wi-Fi hardware inside has been improved so it can connect to your wireless router over a longer range and still be up to two times faster for connecting speeds. The new streaming stick also not only supports up to 4K resolutions for TVs but throws in support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus.
It also comes with a standard Roku voice remote, so you can use it to voice commands like searching for new movies or TV shows, or launching a Roku app. It can also be voice-controlled by linking it to devices that support Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It support’s Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit for controlling the stick via Siri. It goes on sale in the US for $49.99 sometime in mid-October.
Roku is also introducing the Streaming Stick 4K Plus. This is the same hardware as the Streaming Stick 4K, except that the standard voice remote is being replaced with the more advanced Roku Voice Remote Pro. It includes features like an embedded rechargeable battery (charged via a USB cable), a lost remote finder, two programmable buttons, and more. The Streaming Stick 4K Plus will cost $69.99, which means you are saving $10 off the Voice Remote Pro, which normally costs $29.99 on its own. It also goes on sale in the US in mid-October.
One other minor new addition to the Roku hardware lineup is the Roku Ultra LT. This is the Walmart exclusive version of the 2020 edition of the Roku Ultra set-top box. The LT version includes most of the hardware features of the current Roku Ultra, including a faster processor, additional storage, an Ethernet port for wired networks, Bluetooth-supported audio streaming, and more. The LT model will lack the USB port for local playback, and it also won’t have Dolby Atmos Decode support. Also, the included remote won’t have a remote finder feature or programmable personal shortcuts. It will go on sale sometime in the coming weeks at Walmart stores, and via Walmart.com, for $79.99.
Finally, from October 1, 2021, to January 14, 2022, anyone who buys any new Roku device will be able to snap up a 30-day free trial of HBO Max. The trial is for new subscribers only and the offer must be redeemed by January 22, 2022.
Roku OS 10.5: Lots of changes under the hood
Along with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, the company will be rolling out a new update to its streaming OS in the coming weeks and months. Roku OS 10.5 won’t have any major changes to its familiar user interface, but there will be some notable additions. One thing users can do on the Roku home screen is to install a new tile showing the live TV options available on the company’s own Roku Channel. This tile will take users directly to the over 250 channels of entertainment, news, and sports that are set up similar to Pluto TV’s channel lineup.
Read more: Best Roku channels
Many of Roku OS 10.5’s improvements come on the audio side. For example, the Roku mobile app will be updated so that users can control audio features on a connected Roku device or smart TV, including night mode, automatic volume leveling, and speech clarity. That way, users can make adjustments without having to go directly to the settings section of their Roku device.
Also, people who use wireless headphones for Roku’s private listening feature can make adjustments via their smartphone when connected to the Roku mobile app. By using a smartphone camera, those users can measure the distance between themselves and the TV. This allows the new advanced A/V sync feature to fix any audio delays between the TV and the wireless headphones.
Owners of one of Roku’s smart soundbars will be able to take advantage of the new 10.5 OS update. The soundbar can now become a center speaker for a 3.1 or a 5.1 wireless speaker set up for a better home theater audio experience. Speaking of which, one of Roku’s TV partners, TCL, will release a Roku TV Wireless Soundbar in October. It can connect to any Roku TV and will offer great sound and automatic A/V syncing as well. It will cost $179.99. We should have more info on this soundbar from TCL itself closer to its release.
Roku is also adding some new voice command features. It will soon support searching and launching shows via voice from apps like Netflix and Spotify. In related news, the OS update will allow users to voice search and play music, podcasts, and video podcasts. They will be able to find those results via a “music and podcast” row. Also, voice commands can be used to complete device setup, along with adding things like emails, passwords, and PIN info without having to navigate through virtual keyboards with your remote. Roku is also adding a Voice Help section in its settings menu for people who have questions about these features.
Finally, the Roku mobile app will be updated to include its own Home tab for fast access to the latest content available on the OS. Users can also access the app to place any movies and TV shows they want on the Save List so they can watch them at another time.
Roku Channel growth and more
During our presentation of the new Roku Streaming Stick 4K and the software updates, we also got briefed on Roku’s current business from Mark Ely, the company’s Vice President for Retail Product Strategy. Roku is still the biggest streaming TV platform in the US, with 55.1 million active users. It also has over 15 TV hardware partners that install the Roku OS in their televisions. Recently, Amazon launched sales of its own branded smart TVs with its Fire TV OS installed. However, Ely told us Roku does not currently have any plans of launching its own branded televisions.
Unfortunately, Ely didn’t give us an update on Roku’s current spat with Google over YouTube TV. The popular live TV service was removed from Roku for new users in late April 2021 after channel renewal talks broke down.