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.

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New Roku Remote Will Control Your Television

As Roku typically does, they’ll introduce a variety of hardware updates later this fall. And, as ZNF typically does, we’ll break that news to you first. A trusted source indicates several 2017 models will be bundled with a revised Roku remote that expands television control — including a new handy dandy power button and brining … Read more

Roku Spam Buttons Now Less Intrusive

As disseminated by Cord Cutters News, the new Roku 7.6 OS update resolves at least one “spam button” annoyance. When you accidentally sit on your Roku remote or your toddler grabs it, you won’t necessarily be dumped into a paid partner’s streaming app. Instead, while video is playing, you’ll be offered up a confirmation screen (as shown above, which doesn’t seem to time out) before making the leap. Sadly, Roku still doesn’t provide the ability to remap their growing list of rotating affiliates… to regain valuable real estate from a variety of shuttered services, like Rdio and Target Ticket (as shown below). While Roku remains a compelling player in this space many of their recent product decisions are driven by advertising and, by comparison, the similarly priced Fire TV offers a superior, clutter-free remote (that obviously pitches Amazon services via the on-screen interface).

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Roku Trademarks “Tada!” for…?

As regulars are well-aware, I love me a good mystery. And Roku just applied with the USPTO to trademark “Tada!” These sorts of filings are generally difficult to decipher, as the descriptions are often broad and vague, providing the company latitude down the road. So Tada! could refer to just about anything from a new marketing slogan, to an improved universal search utilizing recently licensed TiVo patents, another in-house recommendation show, a publishing platform for content distributors, or a full-on streaming video service to take on the likes of Sling TV or PlayStation Vue.

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Comcast Comes To Roku (but it’s not the app you wanted)

As announced last year, Comcast has made good on their promise to deliver Xfinity television to the Roku platform. However, the initial experience may not provide what many cable customers had hoped for. First, the Xfinity Roku channel is not capable of simply replacing every cable box as “at least one Comcast-provided TV box, a CableCARD and have a compatible IP gateway in your home” are required. Yet, despite those hardware requirements, the Roku Xfinity app does not (yet?) actually link into one’s collection of local DVR recordings. But where the in-home-only streaming starts to come apart is in pricing…

During this “beta” period, access is on the house. However, once deployed, Comcast indicates successive Rokus will be hit with “additional outlet” fees — to the tune of $7.45/mo. Comcast justifies this approach by referencing their TiVo/CableCARD pricing model. However, a single CableCARD-powered TiVo feeds multiple TiVo Minis … without requiring additional fees. But this approach is probably the best we’re going to get under the new administration, unless or until a sufficient number of consumers speak with their wallets and move to a more cord cutting-friendly service like Sling TV or DirecTV NOW. However, on the plus side, the service is streamed over Comcast’s private, managed network, so data usage doesn’t count against one’s broadband cap. Plus, supported Rokus are certainly more compact, energy efficient, and economical than the typical cable box rental.

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TiVo & Roku Introduce Screen Readers To Satisfy FCC

As I indicated back in November when the TiVo 20.6.3 software update starting rolling out, “the cool stuff” wasn’t quite ready and this revision was mostly “unremarkable” bug fixes. However, one item I was unaware of until recently is the launch of a significantly enhanced screen reader (as displayed in the SD settings above) to meet a December 20th FCC deadline. I’m no expert in this area, but TiVo’s accessibility feature seems quite comprehensive in providing the visually impaired audible cues inui menuing, during playback, and while perusing the guide.

Video content information, setup options and configuration changes are now optimized to interacts with Screen Reader. Your TiVo is programmed to read menus, program descriptions, channel numbers and similar selected options in a way that is optimized to interpret acronyms and similar formatting. The entire guide is not audible, so not all visible text will be read.  Only one program at a time, when a show is highlighted/selected, is audible. Program information displayed on the screen, but not necessarily from the Guide, is also audible.

The TiVo Screen Reader is toggled by holding down the TiVo Bolt, Roamio, Premiere, or Mini remote’s A button for two seconds, so feel free to take it for a spin. Just be aware that the screen reading doesn’t have its own volume adjustment and that PCM audio will replace Dolby Digital — you’ll have to manually flip it back if/when moving on from the Reader.

Similarly, Roku also launched an “Audio Guide” in November… that seems decidedly less well-rounded than TiVo’s implementation in my brief test. While Roku supposedly provides advanced customization, it wasn’t available on my TCL television.

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