Weeks after Amazon introduced an updated Fire TV lineup that included, for the first time, its own televisions, Roku today announces its own competitive products in a race to capture consumers’ attention ahead of the holiday shopping season. Its updates include a new Roku Streaming Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick 4K +, the latter of which comes with Roku’s new hands-free voice remote. The company is also updating the Roku Ultra LT, a Walmart-exclusive version of its premium player. And it announced the latest software update, Roku OS 10.5, which adds updated voice features, a new live TV channel for homescreens, and other minor changes.

New 4K Streaming Stick builds on Roku’s four-year-old product, the Streaming Stick +, because it offers the same kind of stick form factor designed to be hidden behind the TV. This version, however, has a faster processor that allows the device to boot up to 30% faster and load channels faster, Roku claims. Wi-Fi is also improved, offering faster speeds and smart algorithms that help ensure that users are using the correct band for the best performance in their homes, where network congestion is an increasingly common problem. , especially with the pandemic-induced remote working lifestyle. The new Stick adds support for Dolby Vision and HDR 10+, giving it the nickname “4K”.

This version comes with Roku’s standard voice remote for the same price of $ 49.99. In comparison, the new from Amazon Fire TV Stick Max with a faster processor and faster Wi-Fi costs $ 54.99. However, Amazon is touting the addition of Wi-Fi 6 and support for its game streaming service, Luna, as reasons to upgrade.

Roku’s new Streaming Stick 4K + instead adds the Roku Voice Remote Pro to the package. Here is Roku’s new remote, launched in spring, which offers recharging capability, a lost remote viewfinder, and hands-free voice support through its mid-field microphone, so you can just say things like “hey Roku, turn on the TV” or “fire up Netflix” , instead of pressing the buttons. Purchased separately, this remote costs $ 29.99. The set sells for $ 69.99, which translates to a $ 10 discount off buying the stick and remote on their own.

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Both versions of the Streaming Stick will be sold online and in stores from October.

The Roku Ultra LT ($ 79.99), designed exclusively for Walmart, also got a refresh with a faster processor, more storage, a new Wi-Fi radio with up to 50% longer range, Dolby Vision support, Bluetooth audio streaming and a built-in Ethernet port.

Additionally, Roku notes that TCL will become the first device partner to use the benchmark designs it showcased at CES for wireless soundbars, with its upcoming Roku TV wireless soundbar. This device connects via Wi-Fi to the TV and works with the Roku remote, and will arrive at major retailers in October where it will sell for $ 179.99.

The other big news is the release of Roku OS 10.5 software. The update doesn’t make any dramatic changes this time around, but instead focuses on voice and mobile improvements.

The most notable change for consumers is the ability to add a new live TV channel to your homescreen, making it easier for you to launch The Roku Channel’s 200 free live TV channels, at the Instead of having to visit Roku’s free streaming hub first, then go to the Live TV section. This could make the Roku look more like a traditional TV for cable cutters ditching their TV guide for the first time.

Other tweaks include extended support for launching channels using voice commands, with most now supported; new voice search and podcast playback with a more visual “music and podcast” line and Spotify as a launch partner; the ability to control sound settings in the mobile application; a voice help guide added in the settings; and additional sound configuration options for Roku speakers and soundbars (for example, using speaker pairs and soundbar in a left / center / right system) or in a sound system full 5.1 surround).

Also new is a handy feature for entering emails and passwords into setup screens using voice commands. Roku says he sends the voice data out of the device to his speech-to-text partner, and the audio is anonymized. Roku does not get the password or store it because it goes directly to the channel partner. While there are always privacy concerns with voice data, the addition is a big plus from an accessibility standpoint.

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One of the more quiet, but potentially useful, changes coming to OS 10.5 is an advanced A / V sync feature that lets you use the smartphone’s camera to help Roku further fine-tune the audio delay while playing. using a wireless headset to listen. TV. This functionality is offered through the mobile application.

The Roku mobile app in the US also gets another feature with the OS 10.5 update with the addition of a new Home tab to browse movie and show collections of all genres, and a “Save List, which allows you to bookmark shows or movies that you might hear about, like when chatting with friends, and want to remind you to watch later when you’re home in front of the television.

The software update will roll out to Roku devices in the coming weeks. These are usually Roku players first and then expand to TVs.

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