Archives For Roku

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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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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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. Continue Reading…

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. Continue Reading…

The fine folks at Sideclick have provided two Roku accessories to share with our audience.

As a refresher, Sideclick clips onto your streamer’s remote to provide additional control — think televisions, soundbars, and the like. Beyond Roku, they also offer interchangeable sleds for Fire TV, Apple TV, and the couple dozen Nexus Players out there. It may be a tough sell at its price point, in relation to a streamer’s cost, and it will obviously impact your ergonomics. However, bolting on a simple, effective learning remote, will absolutely be priceless for a significant percent of us … and I’ve been enjoying Sideclick’s capabilities in our bedroom the last few months (especially since Roku’s HDMI-CEC functionality doesn’t actually work in all cases).

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Is Roku Prepping DVR?

Dave Zatz —  November 3, 2016

roku-pause-live-tv

Roku’s announced a seriously impressive update… assuming you’re running recent, supported hardware. And, surely, the highlight of OS 7.5 is the ability to pause live OTA television on Roku Televisions. While Roku’s CEO declared the “DVR is dead” way back in 2011, the company seemingly recognizes the ongoing draw of linear programming in 2016 – but intends to “get rid of the five commercial block.” As such, pairing a Roku TV with 16GB USB thumb drive will enable a 90 minute buffer to pause television while hitting the head or intending to crash through a 60 block with 40 minutes of ad-free programming. Hopefully it’ll also allow us to scrub through the buffer to catch a bit of missed dialog or replay some dramatic event. But I’m left to wonder if they’ve invested the engineering resources to go this far might full-fledged DVR functionality also be on the roadmap? CES is just around the corner…

Other Roku OS 7.5 goodies: HDMI-CEC volume control (!) and “private listening” via smartphone. Continue Reading…

AirTV Delayed During FCC Review

Dave Zatz —  October 15, 2016

airtv-guide2

It seems Echostar failed to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as the AirTV over-the-air network tuner, designed to pipe live OTA television into Sling TV, has been delayed… while they seek FCC approval to waive an archaic analog tuner requirement.

Pursuant to Section 1.3 of the Commission’s rules,1 EchoStar Technologies L.L.C. (“EchoStar”) respectfully requests the Media Bureau (“Bureau”) to waive the “all channels” requirement in Section 15.117(b) of the Commission’s rules to permit the importation, marketing, and sale of an Internet-enabled, set-top box (the “AirTV”) that does not include an analog over-the-air tuner.

Designed and manufactured by EchoStar for use with applications running on smartphones, tablets, and streaming devices such as Android TV, Roku, and Apple TV, the AirTV will offer consumers access to digital HD television content broadcast over-the-air from almost any broadband-enabled multimedia platform using groundbreaking place-shifting technology from Sling Media. The ability to combine over-the-air television content on devices with over-the-top functionality makes the devices a perfect, economical choice for households that have “cut the cord” but still wish to enjoy the combination of over-the-air content and pay-per-view or subscription over-the-top services without the confusion of swapping TV inputs and using multiple remote controls. All of this functionality is packaged in an attractive energy efficient form factor that can be used with a TV, monitor, or mobile device.

2016 Roku Buying Advice

Dave Zatz —  September 26, 2016

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.