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.
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.
The Roku Premiere (4620) and Roku Premiere+ (4630) look to slide into the Roku 2 and Roku 3 product slots. However, unlike their 2015 iterations, these 2016 tiers inherit the 2015 Roku 4’s hotplate appearance and may both feature 4K capabilities. Two confirmed differences between the Roku Premiere and Premiere Plus are the inclusion of Ethernet and microSD within the Plus model. I’d also assume the Plus model ships with that better remote, as we see now when comparing the Roku 2 v 3. However, I cannot yet confirm this.
HDR is apparently confirmed the Premiere+ and Ultra (below) models… which is a much-needed improvement over the 2015 Roku 4. Further, I’m hopeful they’ve figured out how to design these in such a way to overcome heat issues and do away with the (loud) fan — similar to the Amazon Fire TV which runs 4K in a tight, fanless enclosure. In any event, Roku appears posed to continue offering 4K for significantly less than the 1080p Apple TV.
The Roku Ultra (4640) replaces the Roku 4 in the lineup. Beyond reproducing the Premiere Plus’ enclosure and features, the Ultra ratchets up its capabilities further with a remote control finder button and optical out… as seen with the prior model. However, this flagship Roku appears to be a lock for HDR in 2016 and may be the only model to feature USB for accessing local media. The Ultra may also be the only model to ship with a motion-control gaming remote capabilities this time around.
As to pricing and timing, given the bevy of leaks and critical holiday shopping season, I’d expect the 2016 Roku lineup will be announced within the next few weeks with comparable price points to prior generations, running perhaps somewhere in the $40-130 range.