Roku announced five new media streaming devices on Monday, which all include some performance and video upgrades, while some will directly compete with the new Apple TV 4K for a place next to your TV.
Two of the new Roku devices unveiled Monday can stream video in 4K HDR — the same resolution as the new Apple TV 4K — and they both cost significantly less than Apple’s offering. The new Apple TV 4K will be a tough sell for those that aren’t entrenched in the Apple and iTunes ecosystem.
Take a look at all the new devices from Roku:
The most basic of Roku's new devices, the $US30 Roku Express and $US40 Express+, are five times more powerful than their predecessors, according to Roku. That performance upgrade should make for a faster and smoother experience while browsing for content and loading apps.
The Express comes with an HDMI port, and the Express+ comes with HDMI and composite A/V ports, which makes it compatible with older TVs that don't have HDMI ports.
The Express only supports up to the N standard of WiFi, which is an older standard since the faster AC WiFi became available. Still, N WiFi should be perfectly sufficient for 1080p resolution video streaming. The Express+ supports the faster AC WiFi standard.
The new mid-range $US50 Roku Streaming Stick and $US70 Streaming Stick+ connect directly to your TV's HDMI ports. The new versions now come with remotes with built-in microphones so you can search for content using your voice. The new remotes also come with volume and power buttons, which the older remotes did not feature.
The Streaming Stick lineup also got an overall speed performance boost. The Streaming Stick supports up to 1080p resolution video streaming, while the new Streaming Stick+ can stream content in 4K HDR resolution up to 60 frames per second (fps). The new Streaming Stick+ also comes with up to four times the WiFi range than last year's Streaming Stick.
One note on HDR: The Roku Streaming Stick+ only supports HDR10, not Dolby Vision, so if you have a 4K TV with HDR, make sure it supports that format. Most TVs support HDR10, but the Apple TV 4K supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, which is a better but less-supported standard.
The $US99.99 Roku Ultra, a standalone device that connects to your TV with an HDMI cable, also looks competitive compared to the $US179 Apple TV 4K. The Roku Ultra can also stream content in 4K HDR content (again, HDR10 only, no Dolby Vision) up to 60 fps, and includes an ethernet port for more reliable streaming performance. It also comes with a microSD card slot that will allow for faster app load times, Roku says.
Like the Apple TV 4K, the Roku Ultra's remote will come with voice recognition for searching content using your voice, as well as a headphone port for more private listening and a remote finder feature that will locate the remote should you lose it.
Roku also announced its new operating system called Roku OS 8, which will roll out to all Roku devices by the end of the year. Notably, Roku OS 8 adds support for browsing through free over-the-air (OTA) channels when someone plugs an antenna into their TVs. You'll also be able to listen to OTA channels through your headphones with the compatible Roku remotes or with the Roku mobile app when you plug your headphones into your mobile device.
Roku's new $US70 Streaming Stick+ streams in the same 4K HDR at 60fps video resolution as the $US179 Apple TV 4K, but for under half the price. The Roku Ultra costs $US80 less than the Apple TV 4K, which would make anyone wonder why they'd buy the Apple TV 4K over the Ultra or Streaming Stick+.
However, anyone entrenched in the Apple ecosystem will find value in the Apple TV 4K over the Rokus, as they can only play their iTunes content from an Apple TV, and they get free 4K resolution upgrades for movies and TV shows they bought on iTunes.
Roku's new devices are available for pre-order starting Monday from Roku, Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and other retailers. The new devices are expected to be available in stores around October 8. For those interested in the Streaming Stick+, that particular device will be exclusive sold at Walmart when the devices go on sale around October 8.