Roku Introduces New Ultra Player, 2-in-1 “Stream Bar”, and New Operating System Supporting AirPlay 2 – TechCrunch


Streaming media maker Roku is updating its lineup ahead of the holiday season with the addition of two new products: a redesigned version of its premium Roku Ultra that, for the first time, adds support from Dolby Vision as well as Bluetooth. The company is also introducing a combined player and soundbar device, called the Roku Streambar. And the Roku OS software update will bring a handful of new features to customers, including support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.

On the hardware front, Roku is continuing its strategy of refreshing devices and plugging other holes in the market with the launch of the two new players.

With the redesign of the Roku Ultra, the company promises up to 50% more wireless range and the addition of Bluetooth support. The extended range will allow customers to use their Ultra even further away from the Internet router without compromising their quality and streaming experience. Meanwhile, the addition of Bluetooth means you’ll be able to pair your smartphone with the device in order to stream music or other audio files through the Roku Ultra to the TV.

Image credits: Roku

The updated Roku Ultra adds Dolby Vision support as well as Dolby Atmos sound, to cater for customers who have Dolby Vision TVs. And Roku ensures the future of the device with the addition of the AV1 codec, which delivers higher quality video at a lower bit rate.

Image credits: Roku

The device will come with an HDMI cable as well as the Roku Voice remote with TV power and volume buttons, personal shortcut buttons, headphones for private listening, and the lost remote search functionality. The price remains the same, at $ 99.99.

The second new device is the Roku Streambar. This 2-in-1 device combines 4K HDR streaming and premium audio in one product. On the reader side, the egg carton-sized device is the equivalent of the Roku Streaming Stick + and works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The soundbar connects to the TV via an HDMI cable, and if the TV offers ARC support, that’s all you’ll need to get started. Otherwise, you can use the optical cable included in the box.

The soundbar has four premium speakers, two of which face forward to bring out dialogue and the center channel, and two to the side, angled to help fill the room with sound. The device will also support Roku features, such as the ability to silence loud advertisements, increase the volume of voices, or optimize the sound for nighttime listening.

The device also supports Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Alexa, and Google Assistant, as well as a voice remote that controls TV, audio, and streaming.

Image credits: Roku

While the soundbar is widely touted as an entry-level device for newcomers to Roku, or as an all-in-one solution to use with a new TV, it still allows the customer to expand their setup. home theater over time. Customers can choose to add surround sound later with Roku’s wireless speakers and bass with Roku’s wireless subwoofer, Roku explains.

Image credits: Roku

Over the next few weeks, these and other devices will be able to download the Roku OS 9.4 update, which brings a number of new features, including support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. With AirPlay 2, customers with Apple devices will be able to stream content directly to their Roku player, whether it’s personal content from their own library or other streaming apps.

The addition will be especially useful for times a streaming service launches without Roku support. Over the past few months, Roku has become bogged down in negotiations with media companies now that it operates its own subscription channel platform through its own hub, The Roku Channel. During its negotiations with NBCU, for example, a dispute led NBCU to threaten to remove its TV Everywhere apps from Roku before both parties made it right. Today, HBO Max, another major new streaming app, is still not available on Roku. Customers are of course the ones who really lose in these kinds of battles, so AirPlay 2 support will be a decent workaround for times when apps aren’t available.

Roku OS 9.4 will also bring HomeKit support to select 4K devices so customers can control their Roku through the Home app and Siri on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, or HomePod.

Image credits: Roku

The update will also bring a new “Live TV” tile to the home screen, with a live guide to the more than 115 free live channels from The Roku Channel. Sometimes users will also see helpful tips on using voice commands on their TV and receive updated theme packs with optional sounds. These will feature themes like Jungle, Western, Nautical, Kids and more, which can be swapped out in place of the standard background and design. The update will bring further performance improvements, more free channels to The Roku Channel, and surround level control for multi-channel audio, among others.

Roku will also soon offer a free app dedicated to The Roku Channel for iOS and Android smartphones.

The Roku OS 9.4 update will roll out this month and reach all supported players, including the new Ultra and Streambar, in the coming weeks. Roku TVs will receive the update in the coming months.

New players, meanwhile, are available for pre-order today on Roku’s website and will ship in October. They will also arrive at major retailers and online next month.

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