Archives For Roku

2016 Roku Buying Advice

Dave Zatz —  September 26, 2016 — 19 Comments

After busting out several dozen new Rokus today, I wanted to chime in with some initial purchasing advice.

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2015 Roku 3 (~$80)
If you’re not yet on the 4K bandwagon, but want a great balance of streamer performance with a tricked out remote capable of voice recognition and headphones, I actually suggest you look for a deal on last year’s Roku 3 model.

2016 Roku Streaming Stick ($50)
If a more compact form with snappier quad-core performance interest you and you don’t mind giving up the advanced remote control, the Roku Streaming Stick provide a great balance of pricing and performance. Although a new Amazon Fire TV Stick is expected any day now…

Roku Express ($30)
This will no doubt be one of the top selling stocking stuffers of 2016 and I’d absolutely recommend the Roku Express for family members new to the fold… or to gift yourself in tertiary rooms in the home. It’s dirt cheap and the interface is simplistic enough for most.

The 4K Conundrum
On the 4K front, the situation is a bit tricker and I’d suggest waiting for some real world reviews. Barring that, if you don’t have an HDR-capable set, you may as well save a few bucks with the Premiere ($80). The Premiere+ at $20 more gets you HDR, the RF headphone remote, and Ethernet, whereas the $50 more Ultra builds upon that with voice remote, optical out, and a remote finder. Even fully loaded at $130, the Roku Ultra will surely clock in less ($$$) than the 4K Apple TV that must be in the pipeline.

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If you needed a bit more confirmation of Roku’s all-new 2016 lineup, the streaming pioneer just published a support note confirming three of the five incoming models: the Premiere, Premiere+, and Ultra. They’ve also confirmed HDR will be available on a subset of devices and kindly explains why compatible 4K television set owners should care.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) improves picture quality by expanding the range of both color and contrast of any image.  In more simple terms, in any scene, details that are typically lost in the brightest and darkest areas in a scene will have more details. Wide Color Gamut goes further to expand the number of shades for each color to provide richer color depth, resulting in colors that are more true-to-life.

As to the flavor of HDR, Roku indicates they’re going with the Sony- and Samsung-backed HDR10 over Dolby Vision.

The new Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra models support HDR-10 standard. Your existing High Speed HDMI®cable that is working will continue to work However, you will need to connect the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra into the HDMI 2.0a port for HDCP 2.2.

Unfortunately, Roku appears to contradict themselves… So, while it seems 100% likely that the Premiere+ (Roku 3-equiv) and Ultra (Roku 4-eqiv) will render HDR video, it’s not clear if the Premiere (Roku 2-quiv) will. In any event, with the publication of this support note, we must be getting real close to an official reveal.

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As revealed just a few weeks back, Roku’s finally moving on from their repetitive numerical naming conventions with all-new models… possibly corresponding to a significant software refresh (which seems to suffer from early compatibility issues). While not all details have yet been revealed, we know HDR is on the docket and a treasure trove of product photography recently landed in my mailbox to whet our appetites until the official announcement drops.

Roku Express

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Replacing the existing entry-level Roku 1 in the streaming company’s lineup are the diminutive Roku Express (3700) and Express Plus (3710)… that visually represents half a streamer. As to what’s new and the differentiation between models, I’m not entirely certain. However, it’s reasonable to assume the 2016 Roku 1 would feature a more capable processor and, if the distinction between the Premiere and Premiere Plus models (below) is any indication, perhaps the Roku Express Plus model features additional ports or that desirable headphone+voice control remote. I’m hopeful that at least one model will retain RCA composite outputs to support older televisions.

Continue Reading…

Via Cord Cutters News

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By correlating the recent Roku FCC leak against information obtained from two Canadian channels (1, 2), we now have a pretty good idea what Roku intends to do this fall with five new models… including potentially moving away from a tired, repetitive numerical naming convention and the introduction of HDR capabilities.

Roku Express

Replacing the Roku 1 in the streaming company’s lineup is the Roku Express (3700) and Express Plus (3710). As to what’s new and the differentiation between models, I’m not entirely certain. However, it’s reasonable to assume the 2016 Roku 1 would feature a more capable processor and if the distinction between the Premiere and Premiere Plus models (below) is any indication, perhaps the Roku Express Plus model features additional ports or that desirable headphone+voice control remote. I’m hopeful that at least one model will retain RCA composite outputs to support older televisions.

Continue Reading…

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One of the primary drawbacks of most streamers is a lack of live over-the-air television integration. Sure, you can switch inputs away from your television’s tuner. But wouldn’t a unified interface and guide be cool? Bonus if it comes with universal search. Roku and Terk once went down this path but failed to deliver and Amazon may be working on something. Into the current vacuum, enter: Channel Master’s new Digital TV Hub.This small, single tuner box’s secret is HDMI pass-thru, similar to Xbox One and original Google TV implementations … but with hopefully more interest and appreciation.

Continue Reading…

We generally think of Roku in terms of streaming boxes and sticks. Yet, the company pitches themselves as a software platform and the reason hardware remains so affordable, for both consumers and television licensees, is because the company makes the bulk of its revenue elsewhere.

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From a Business Insider interview of Roku CEO Anthony Wood:

I don’t think people understand how we make money, that it’s a platform we distribute, we license, and then we monetize our installed base. […] When you sign up for Hulu on Roku, through Roku billing, we get a revenue share for the life of that customer. When you watch an ad-supported channel on Roku, some of that ad inventory is controlled by Roku. […] Advertising is our biggest business.

By comparison, it seems reasonable that Amazon’s intent with the Fire TV is to support their ecosystem of paid services, including Prime and video rentals. However, Roku doesn’t see their one-time suitor as much of a threat when it comes to television-based app delivery.

In the licensing business, we’re by far ahead, and there’s a couple of reasons. One is our neutral positioning. 30% of all TVs sold in the US are sold through Walmart. […] they hate Amazon. Walmart is never going to carry an Amazon TV, ever. […] In licensing, really the only competitor is Google. Apple doesn’t license […] So they’re our biggest competitor for TVs.

(via Cord Cutter News)

As Netflix is wont to do, they’ve rolled out a new interface to select users on select platforms. So, while I’ve received this update on my Roku 3, you may not see it on the exact same hardware and it hasn’t been pushed to my Apple TV, Fire TV, or TiVo.

Upon initial launch, I’m presented with five “Now Playing” vertical tiles, comprised of both in-progress television series and two Netflix Originals I’ve never touched – plus some visual indication there may be additional options below. With this revision, Netflix seems to have merged the traditional “Continue Watching” row with my former content discovery pane up top.

However, the results are mixed. As, without interaction after 2-3 seconds, the first vertical tile expands horizontally and automatically begins playing background video at full volume — either introductory material, as seen in Louie above, or, for an episode in progress like Archer, the show itself. Further, a superimposed 20-second timer counts down to full playback of the given episode which ultimately expands to fill the screen as the GUI chrome fades away. Scrolling right or left cycles thru these tiles, resulting in similar auto-play behavior. I don’t mind the opening jingles so much, but playback of existing content is potentially disruptive and that countdown clock is anxiety-provoking. Navigating up and down reveals mostly familiar Netflix interface elements. Continue Reading…