Media streaming pioneer Roku has unveiled its 4th-gen media streaming player, featuring 4K resolution, 802.11ac WiFi, a larger footprint, and a $130 price.
Over the years, we’ve watched Roku evolve from being one of the first companies to offer Internet radios with its SoundBridge, to challenging Apple’s early dominance in the streaming media player market with its “Netflix box,” to pioneering HDMI-stick media players with its Streaming Stick, to becoming the “smart” in smart TVs. All these media player incarnations have run on Roku’s internally developed, Linux-based “Roku OS.”
Roku 4 with its remote control and headphones
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The Roku 4 marks a handful of milestones for Roku. It’s the company’s first media streaming player to feature a quad-core processor, the first to support 4K video, the first to provide an optical audio output port, and the first to offer dual-band 802.11ac WiFi. It’s also the first Roku player to shatter the company’s traditional $99 price ceiling.
The Roku 4 is usable with both 4K UHD TVs and regular HD TVs. Its HDMI output, which for better or worse complies with HDCP 2.2 copy protection specs, can deliver video at up to 4K resolution at 60fps. The device can upscale 720p to 1080p HD for rendering on 1080p HD or 4K UHD TVs, and can upscale 1080p HD to 4K UHD for viewing on 4K UHD TVs. The player’s Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround-sound audio is pumped out through both the HDMI port and optical digital audio.
Roku 4 front, rear, and side details
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The Roku 4 provides a microSD card slot that’s useful for storing more games and channels than what fits within its internal flash. A USB port enables access to personal video, music, and photos located on external media.
As usual, the Roku 4 offers access to an enormous variety of multimedia content — currently said to exceed 2,500 sources — including both video and audio-only channels. The device also features Roku’s extremely well designed user interface and remote control, which in our experience makes Roku’s players the most user-friendly media-streaming gadgets available (and now, they even support YouTube). One of Roku’s less-touted features is its support for screen mirroring from Android and Windows, which is available on all but one of Roku’s current player models.
Roku 4’s homescreen showing 4K content “shortcut”
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Channels that currently offer 4K content include Netflix, M-Go, Amazon Instant Video, ToonGoogles, Vudu, and YouTube, and there’s also a “curated 4K Spotlight channel,” says the company. To go along with the Roku 4’s 4K UHD orientation, Roku says it has equipped the device with a “sleek” new 1080p homescreen and user interface that’s optimized for 4K.
The Roku 4’s remote control includes a mic for voice search, as well as a headphone jack for private listening. It also contains a “Remote Finder” that helps you find your misplaced remote by pressing a button on the top of Roku 4 player.
Wood’s blog post says the company will start rolling out a “Roku OS 7” firmware update in mid-October. Earlier this year, the company notified owners of older devices that, due to RAM, flash, and processor performance constraints, their beloved “classic” players would soon be left behind as new features are added through firmware updates; and to soften the blow, the company offered a 20 percent discount on the purchase of a “current” device.
The Roku 4 is now available for pre-order from Roku’s website for $129.99, with delivery scheduled for later this month. Further details may be found at the Roku 4 product page.