New Roku Audio Products & Expanded Voice Control On The Way

While Roku freely admits their primary business is advertising, given several significant job openings around the world, the company continues to see audio as viable hardware category with a continued emphasis on platform voice control. The TCL-branded Roku soundbar announced at CES 2018 has reportedly been killed and Roku has taken matters into their own … Read more

Roku Stops Charging For Themes

Roku has announced they’ll no longer charge for themes. Over the years, many have been free, including a small but random sampling to get started and some to commemorate the periodic holiday. While others have been sponsorships, such as my preferred Subaru National Parks presentation. But a few were Roku Store purchases. And I so wish … Read more

Roku Brings 4K To All

Roku’s naming conventions continue to be clear as mud. However, they’re sensibly streamlining their line-up … and, for the upcoming holiday shopping season, intend to bring 4K streaming to the masses with the inexpensive Roku Premiere, running all of $40 – seriously undercutting the Apple and Amazon competition. However, for an additional ten bucks, I’d … Read more

The 2018 TCL Roku Televisions Have Arrived

One of the best bang-for-your-buck televisions last year was the TCL P Series, combining exceptional visuals (given the price point) and a top flight app platform in Roku. Unfortunately, the company cancelled plans for multiple sizes, simply shipping a single 55″ set that was occasionally unavailable due to demand (and perhaps production bottlenecks). TCL has … Read more

Best Buy Drops Roku In Favor Of Fire TV Insignia Televisions

While Best Buy often functions as an uncompensated showroom for online sales, given massive Alexa and Fire TV displays, the big box store is clearly a valued Amazon retailer. As such, the two companies have announced a significant partnership expansion that sees Best Buy replacing Roku on Insignia house-brand sets with the Fire TV experience. Also, interestingly, Best Buy will not only sell these televisions in-store but optionally through Amazon.com for the first time.

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Roku Preps “Smart” Soundbar & Multiroom Audio

As rumored, a newly public Roku will be expanding their portfolio to include audio. And, first up is a Roku-powered “smart” soundbar produced by long-time partner TCL.

This product will take advantage of the Roku OS to deliver a superb entertainment experience. It will offer premium sound, while taking advantage of Roku Connect to connect to other AV devices, and new voice controls accessible through the Roku Entertainment Assistant. Although the TCL Roku Smart Soundbar will be compatible with any TV, it will be even better when combined with TCL Roku TVs by extending hands free voice and audio capabilities to the TV for more control and entertainment functionality.

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Choosing Roku Over Fire TV

Image Credit Devindra Hardawar, Engadget

My streaming hardware preference has waxed and waned over the years. And, whereas I’d given the Fire TV a slight edge the last year, the balance has now slightly tipped to Roku. Of course, outside Apple TV and Nvidia Shield, a solid, high quality experience can be had under $100 — no doubt about it, both the Amazon and Roku platforms are great.

I’ve preferred the Fire TV voice remote for a variety of reasons, including the feel, layout, and infinitely more versatile Alexa voice control. And, amongst the new stick/dongle-esque streamers, Amazon provides a superior physical design … that doesn’t require a HDMI adapter for certain television mounting situations. Further Amazon has provided a generally richer interface and app experiences. However, where they started to lose me is an updated interface infested with advertising that not only distracts but also interferes with navigation.

On the flip side, Roku’s interface and a large number of apps are ridiculously simplistic. But what they lack in visual complexity, they more than makes up for in clear, efficient interaction… which is ultimately of more importance. Where they really hit it out the park in 2017 are models with new remotes that also control television power and volume. Instead of crippled, unpredictable HDMI-CEC interaction, Roku supposedly uses EDID over HDMI to identify your television and load up the relevant IR codes. And in my small-scale test, it performed remarkably.

Read moreChoosing Roku Over Fire TV