Archives For Roku
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 recommended the Walmart-exclusive Premiere+ that bundles a voice remote with (priceless) television volume control buttons. Of course, mating a 4K streamer to a 4k television doesn’t suggest all streaming content will be in 4K. In fact, the vast majority of video will not reach that resolution. However, a decent amount of YouTube and Amazon Prime streams in 4k and on the house, whereas Netflix 4K does require a plan upgrade.
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 now reloaded with the 2018 iteration, rebranded as the 6 Series to avoid Vizio lineup confusion, and early reports from CNET and Chris Heinonen are promising. And, beyond quality, the 2018 model is available in two sizes… with immediate Amazon availability:
As my household’s primary entertainment these days consists of children’s programming and cable news, this sort of set is right up my alley. OLED just wouldn’t get frequent enough appreciation to justify the expense. However, as with the 2017 model, the 2018 VESA mounting points are too low on the television to fit well into our family room. As such, I’m waiting to see how the 2018 Vizio range and Best Buy Fire TV televisions, stack up.
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.
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.
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.
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 the volume rocker to more models, independent of remote listening. However, instead of going with IR like Sideclick, I wonder if this represents an expansion of the HDMI-CEC capabilities Roku introduced last year. Update: It’s IR. Can I get an amen?!
Beyond that bit of practical news, I can now confirm that a 4K HDR Roku Streaming Stick+ will join the lineup mid-range, with the universal remote, while maintaining an elongated stick presentation — versus taking on a more chunky dongle form like Google has and Amazon will, with an incoming Fire TV. On the lower-end, the 2017 Roku Express will see a significant performance bump … and may finally make my list of recommended streamers. At about 1/4th the cost of Apple TV, why not?