Roku announces an improved Roku Express
It is also competing with Google TV with new software features.
With a few adjustments, Roku’s hardware range will remain largely the same for the fall. Today, the firm announced an improved Roku Express with dual-band Wi-Fi for more strong, dependable streaming performance. The device, which is still priced at $29.99, is currently available for presale and will be available in shops on October 16th.
The Express is Roku’s entry-level streaming device, thus it only supports 1080p content; if you want to watch 4K / Ultra HD content, you’ll need to upgrade to the Roku Express 4K Plus, which already features dual-band connectivity. The basic Express comes with Roku’s most basic control, so if you want to use the private listening option with attached headphones, you’ll need to use the company’s mobile app. The updated Express arrives ahead of the rumored Google Chromecast HD, which is slated to be unveiled at next month’s hardware presentation.
Roku is also introducing the Roku Wireless Bass, a low-cost subwoofer priced at $129.99. When compared to the Roku Wireless Subwoofer, this saves you $50. The Wireless Bass can be used in conjunction with a Roku Streambar, Roku Wireless Speakers, or Roku TV Wireless Soundbar. And because everything is contained within the company’s environment, it is simple to set up.
A slimmer profile provides for more variable placement possibilities than the bulkier Wireless Subwoofer, but Roku claims the Wireless Bass still produces “rumbling lows” and “deep depth” – all with wireless simplicity. It will be available later this fall and will begin shipping through Roku, Amazon, and Best Buy on November 7th. The Wireless Bass will also be sold in conjunction with the Roku Streambar for a total price of $249.99.
Roku Express Wireless Bass subwoofer
NEW ROKU OS 11.5 SOFTWARE FEATURES
Along with the new Roku Express devices, Roku is announcing some substantial new software improvements that will be available “in the coming months.” Several of them are intended to increase discoverability and assist you in finding something to watch. The Roku homescreen will get a new feature called “The Buzz,” which the company defines as follows:
Users can quickly browse a collection of frequently updated posts featuring entertainment-centric, short-form content from popular streaming services and entertainment brands such as AMC Plus, Apple TV Plus, BET Plus, Crackle, Hallmark Movies Now, IGN, Plex, Popcornflix, Showtime, Starz, The CW, Tubi, Vevo, and Wondrium, with more to come. The Buzz posts may contain video clips, photos, trailers, interviews, and other content to assist users in discovering movies and series that fit their interests. Users can interact with The Buzz content by like posts, saving content for later viewing, following profiles to see future posts, or immediately streaming the movie or show featured in the post.
The Buzz is one of those things that you’ll have to try for yourself to discover if the new portal is worthwhile. However, I believe everyone will love two other upcoming features: continue watching and a platform-wide save list. Continue watching is just what you’d expect, and it will make it easier to return to content from approved applications including HBO Max, Netflix, Paramount Plus, and the company’s own Roku Channel, “with additional channels on the way.” You won’t find it on the homescreen; instead, go to the “things to watch” area, where you’ll find the continue viewing row.
Then there’s the new save list, which allows you to “store movies and episodes from across the Roku platform” for later access. In the “what to watch” area, you can also find your save list. When this functionality is available, there will be a “save” button on the movie and TV show details pages. Roku claims that this is “an enhancement of the previously launched save list within The Roku Channel and the Roku mobile app,” but it appears to be a move to compete with features like Google TV’s watchlist and Apple TV’s Up Next. The big question is whether other services, such as Netflix, will opt out of Roku’s version, as they have in the past. I’ve reached out to the company for comment. These elements lose a lot of lusters if a major player decides not to play.
Upcoming Roku software upgrades will also include Bluetooth private listening support to the latest Roku Ultra, Roku Streambar, and Roku Streambar Pro models. You may connect any Bluetooth headphones or earbuds to these devices and listen to music discreetly without disturbing others. Private listening is currently available on Roku’s premium remotes and via the mobile app, but it’s wonderful to see it made available to actual streamers.
Roku is also improving voice search, redesigning search results to be more visually appealing, and adding categories to its live TV guide for easier branding. The channel store is also being renamed “The Roku Store,” indicating that the business is gaining more control over its massively successful platform.
Roku has not yet provided a particular release date for the OS 11.5 upgrade and other new features, just stating that they will be available in the coming months.
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