At a press event earlier this week, Tom’s Guide learned that Roku will be rolling out software updates beginning June 24th. And the key improvement appears to be support for a faster-loading Netflix channel. The firmware and Netflix updates are earmarked for the Roku 3 and Streaming Stick, with vague references to potential support of other models down the line. While we’re obviously not opposed to a speed increase, I’d say the Roku 3 already provides the fastest Netflix STB experience and is my go-to streamer. For reference, my Roku 3 currently runs version 5.4 build 3340, with the demo-ed model sitting at 5.5 319 – we’ll keep our ears to the ground regarding any additional changes.
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Roku Mania has returned to Woot with three refurb streamer models up for grabs. Of course, we’d suggest the no-comprise Roku 3 – that clocks in at a record low $62. Per Woot’s standard operating procedure, all orders ship for 5 bucks… regardless of how many Roku’s you stick in your cart. Roku remains our go-to streamer, ahead of our Fire TV, Apple TV, and Xbox One, featuring the widest array of apps along with a quick, clean user interface. (Thanks Adam!)
Amazon and Roku are officially on board as distribution partners for the National Football League’s soon-to-be-launched digital network NFL Now. That’s good news if you’re a football fan because it means there will be a lot more ways to watch NFL Now when it debuts in August that don’t include maxing out your mobile data plan.
When NFL Now was first announced, the League highlighted Verizon as a partner (and later Microsoft and Yahoo), and the ability for consumers to download the Verizon NFL Mobile app for video viewing over the company’s LTE network. Verizon plans to stream NFL Now content using multicast technology. However, while multicast streaming should mitigate bandwidth concerns on Verizon’s side, it presumably won’t lessen the impact on subscribers’ data plans. A few hours of mobile TV watching could easily take you right over your data cap.
Yesterday’s news, today! While we patiently await smartphone search from our Rokus, two notable updates worth sharing slipped my radar late last year. First, the originally anemic “USB Media Browser” has steadily improved as it evolved from a private app into a Roku-branded initiative… now featuring DLNA support, in addition to the new “Media Player” label. Next, the formerly free Plex channel has implemented a one-time $4.99 fee. Fortunately, those of us who’d previously installed the channel have been grandfathered and Plex provides new users a free 30 day trial – so folks can see for themselves how useful it is in handling our digital media libraries ahead of a purchase.
As the once humble library continues its digital metamorphosis, a few outposts have begun lending actual Roku streaming boxes. And, starting this week, residents of Sandusky, Ohio will have 12 units to pick from. Given the small number of boxes versus anticipated interest, library patrons will be able to borrow a single Roku just once for up to two weeks. Units will be pre-loaded by staff with a variety of channels, from multiple genres, including IndieFlix, Vevo, and Smithsonian. All in all, not a bad preview service funded by a local foundation. Related, later this year, OverDrive will be launching a Roku channel that enables library partners to offer their patrons audio books and streaming videos.
Roku’s new streaming stick is now shipping in the US online from Roku, Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart. A few other outlets have now reported the news, but I happened to hear the information first hand from Ed Lee, Roku’s vice president of content acquisition, at a Light Reading conference today in Denver. As a reminder, the new streaming stick rings in at $50, or $15 more than Google’s Chromecast device. However, the content options are superior, with apps that include WatchESPN and Amazon Instant Video. The Roku stick also comes with its own non-smartphone remote control and is powered via microUSB. Thanks to a major update to Roku’s mobile apps this week, you can also enjoy universal search capabilities.
Availability of the new Roku streaming stick in stores is still expected in early April.
Roku’s mobile apps see significant updates this week, featuring a flatter, more minimalistic appearance and the introduction of universal content search. Sound familiar? The handy universal search isn’t new to Roku, but it is new to the app – which is ultimately a more efficient location. And, beyond video availability, it also looks like we’ll be treated to metadata in the form of actor filmographies to explore. Of course, the compelling existing features of beaming photos to the big screen and direct channel launch remain. Yet we still pine for Miracast. The 3.0 iOS app update is available in iTunes for iPhone and iPad, with the refreshed Android app having hit Google Play.