Roku is mostly leaving its hardware lineup intact for the fall, with a couple of exceptions. Today, the company is introducing an improved Roku Express that now includes dual-band Wi-Fi for more robust and reliable streaming performance. Still priced at $ 29.99, the device is available for pre-order now and will be in stores on October 16.
The Express is Roku’s introductory streaming device and accordingly sticks to 1080p quality; you have to upgrade to Roku Express 4K Plus, which already includes dual-band connectivity, if you want to watch 4K / Ultra HD content. The basic Express comes with Roku’s simplest remote, so you’ll need to use the company’s mobile app if you want to use the private listening feature with headphones plugged in. The new Express arrives before the alleged Google Chromecast HD scheduled for next month’s hardware event.
Roku also announces what it calls the Roku Wireless Bass, an affordable subwoofer that costs $ 129.99. This saves you $ 50 compared to the Roku wireless subwoofer. You can pair the Wireless Bass with a Roku Streambar, Roku Wireless Speakers, or Roku TV Wireless Soundbar. And setup is quick and painless as everything is within the business ecosystem.
A slimmer profile allows for more versatile placement options than the bulky wireless subwoofer, but even with a smaller form factor, Roku claims the Wireless Bass delivers “booming bass” and “rich depth,” all with the convenience of wireless. It will be available by the end of the fall and will begin shipping on November 7 from Roku, Amazon and Best Buy. The Wireless Bass will also be bundled with the Roku Streambar for a combined price of $ 249.99.
New features in Roku OS 11.5 software
In addition to the new devices, Roku is unveiling some significant new software features that customers can expect “in the coming months”. Many of these are designed to improve discoverability and help you find something to look at. There will be a new item on Roku’s home screen called “The Buzz”, and here’s how the company describes it:
Users can quickly browse a collection of frequently updated posts with short, entertainment-focused content from well-known 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. Posts within The Buzz may include video clips, images, trailers, interviews, and other content to help users discover movies and shows that match their interests. Users can interact with the content on The Buzz by liking posts, saving content to watch later, following profiles to view future posts, or immediately streaming the movie or show featured in the post.
The Buzz is really one of those things you’ll have to try for yourself to see if the new portal has any value. But I think everyone will appreciate two more new features on the way – keep watching and a platform-wide save list. Keeping watching is exactly what you expect and will make it easier for you to return to content from supported apps like HBO Max, Netflix, Paramount Plus, and the company’s Roku channel, “with more channels coming”. It’s not on the home screen – you need to navigate to the “what to watch” section instead, where you’ll find the line to continue watching.
And then there’s the new save list, which lets you “save movies and shows from across the Roku platform” so they’re easier to find later. Your save list can also be found in the “what to watch” section. Once this feature is available, there will be a “save” option on the movie and TV show detail pages. Roku claims this is “an expansion of the previously launched save list within The Roku Channel and the Roku mobile app,” but for me it’s clearly an offer to match similar features like the Google TV Watchlist. and Apple TV’s Up Next. The big question is whether some services like Netflix will drop the Roku version, as has happened with others. I asked the company for a comment. These features lose a lot of appeal if a great player decides not to play ball.
The upcoming Roku software updates will also expand the Bluetooth private listening of the latest Roku Ultra, Roku Streambar and Roku Streambar Pro. You will be able to pair any Bluetooth headset or headset to these devices and listen to content privately without disturbing others. Private listening is currently available on Roku’s premium remotes and via the mobile app, but it’s nice to see it ported to actual streamers.
Roku is also making improvements to voice search, revamping search results to make them more visual, and adding categories to its live TV guide for more convenient branding. The channel’s store is also being renamed “The Roku Store,” another sign that the company is taking more control over its hugely popular platform.
Roku is not yet sharing a specific release date for the OS 11.5 update and other new features, only promising that they will arrive in the coming months.