Roku Premiere and Premiere+ to debut this fall
Roku announced two cheaper 4K HDR streaming players today, the Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere+.
The Roku Premiere will be priced at $40, and have Dolby and DTS Digital Surround pass through over HDMI.
The Premiere Plus will be $10 more and come with a better remote control. It has a microphone for voice searches and commands, and power and volume buttons for the TV.
A new software update set to roll out in November will add voice control through Google Assistant. You will need to have a Google Home or Google Home mini for that to work. Roku announced the news roughly a week after Amazon revealed plans to release a number of new devices this year.
The Roku Premiere went on pre-sale today. The Roku Premiere Plus will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart and Walmart.com in early October. The company also announced updates to the Roku Ultra, which will now include premium JBL headphones and remain at the same price of $99.
The new 2018 Roku Premiere line is smaller than its predecessor from a year ago. The Premiere model has a quad-core processor, but only supports 802.11 (b/g/n) wireless signals. That may disappoint streaming enthusiasts with high end WiFi routers that want 802.11 ac support.
That said, the two 2018 Premiere models are the lowest priced 4K HDR video streaming players that Roku has released to date. And it’s about $30 less than Amazon’s entry level 4K streamer, the Fire TV 3.
Roku Software Upgrades: Voice control of OTA channels
Roku and Roku TV owners will soon be able to use voice commands through Google Assistant to turn their TV on and off. You’ll be able to pause, search for content and launch channels with the new voice control functions.
The biggest change will be the ability to use your voice to change over-the-air channels. That voice command is similar to what Amazon announced for the Fire TV Recast, a new OTA DVR that will accept more granular voice commands like scheduling and deleting recordings.
To tap into the new voice commands on Roku, you will have to invest in a Google Home mini or another Google Assistant device for those voice features to work. Here’s a further breakdown of software upgrades coming to existing Roku streaming players, Roku TV Wireless Speakers and Roku TVs.
Roku OS 8.2 is rolling out to Roku TVs now and is expected to be completed in November.
Roku OS 9 will begin for Roku streaming players in early November, and Roku TVs early next year. It is expected to be completed in early 2019.
ROKU OS 8.2 FOR ROKU TVS AND ROKU TV WIRELESS SPEAKERS
- Spotify: The Spotify app for Roku is getting a reboot. Roku customers will be able to launch and navigate the channel using a Roku remote or via Spotify Connect on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
- Access and control iHeartRadio, Pandora and TuneIn by voice: Launch live radio stations from across the country, podcasts, custom artist stations and more with iHeartRadio. Tap into playlists, stations and more with Pandora. Listen to live radio stations, play-by-play sports, and news with TuneIn. Use simple voice commands using Roku voice remotes, Roku Touch or the Roku mobile app. Subscriptions not required and premium features available with upgraded services.
- Automatic Volume Leveling: Roku says it will no longer feel jarring when a commercial comes on or when streaming channels are changed. Night mode lowers the volume level for louder scenes, and boosts it for quieter ones. The volume mode setting will be accessible by pressing the star button during video playback when Roku TV Wireless Speakers are connected to a Roku TV.
- Speech Clarity: This feature looks for voice frequencies and boosts them to address intelligibility. Speech Clarity will be available via the star menu when Roku TV Wireless Speakers are connected to a Roku TV.
For the Roku OS9 update, users will get “Genre Voice Search”. So you’ll be able to say, “Show me free comedies” and get a menu of what you can watch for free. This is likely an upgrade that will be made part of The Roku Channel, which already aggregates free content from across multiple platforms like ABC, THE CW, FOX, Freeform, Pluto TV, Sony Crackle and Tubi.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble