Roku is bringing two updates to its hardware lineup for the year with the new Roku Streambar, a compact quad-speaker and player combo that can wirelessly connect with Roku’s existing speakers, and a brand new Roku Ultra, the company’s most powerful streaming hardware device that now supports Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision.
Additionally, Roku announced Roku OS 9.4 that brings Apple AirPlay 2 support to nearly every Roku4K player on the market.
Here is everything you need to know about Roku’s 2020 announcements.
Roku is expanding its lineup of audio products that are also streaming players with its latest 2-in-1 Streambar. At 14 inches wide by 2.4 inches tall, it’s significantly smaller than Roku’s Smart Soundbar but has the same 4KHDR and Dolby audio streaming capability. While it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos or Dolby Vision — you’ll have to own the new Roku Ultra to get that — it should be powerful enough for many general consumers just looking for a fast and easy way to get better sound out of their TV while also gaining access to the popular Roku streaming experience.
The Streambar features four speakers: Two forward-facing, and two side-facing. The two forward-facing drivers are focused on delivering high-quality dialogue, and Roku says they will enhance both volume and clarity. The side speakers are angled outwards and are designed to fill a room with sound. The result is unlikely to be quite surround sound but should make the little bar sound a lot larger than it is.
In addition to the single HDMI Arc and Optical port, the Streambar is also compatible with Bluetooth and Spotify Connect, and Roku claims that “intricate depth” is noticeable in music.
The Streambar is compatible with the Roku Wireless Subwoofer and Roku Wireless Speakers, and all can be connected to create a full surround sound experience.
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Roku also outfitted the Streambar with their signal processing that is designed to quiet loud commercials, boost the volume of voices, and optimize sound for night listening. Each of these options can be accessed by different, easily accessible volume modes.
The Roku Streambar will be available in mid-October for $130.
Roku Ultra (2020)
The Roku Ultra is getting what has thus far been missing from all the company’s players other than Roku TVs: Support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Now the Roku Ultra can deliver the sought-after picture quality of Dolby Vision content to any TV that supports the format. Additionally, the Roku Ultra can provide Dolby Atmos audio to Dolby Atmos capable soundbars, speakers, or A/V receivers for an immersive sound experience. Roku also added future-proofing support for the AV1 codec, a video codec that is becoming popular with streaming services as a way to improve streaming picture quality.
Roku also updated the processor with more memory, allowing channels to launch quicker and videos to start faster. They also improved the Wi-Fi reception on the Roku Ultra to have 50% more wireless range (it still also has an Ethernet port). The USB port has been upgraded to USB 3.0, and Roku also added Bluetooth support.
In short, the Roku Ultra (2020) will support more formats, have more and better connection options, and will have a faster operating system.
The Roku Ultra (2020) will be available mid-October for $100.
Roku OS 9.4
Roku OS 9.4 adds a few performance enhancements and customization options. Namely, all 4KRoku players (except the Roku 4) will get Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support.
If you have a Roku audio product, the update will allow multichannel speaker configuration, which means you can adjust the volume of the rear surround speakers relative to the volume of the soundbar to your own personal preference.
Roku is also adding a Live TV channel guide that will allow access directly from the home screen. The update also brings performance enhancements that include faster initial setup and faster response time in navigation/launching content, and a set of updated Theme Packs to customize home screens and screen savers (with new tones when using the various buttons on a Roku remote, too).
The update will first hit Roku devices, including the Roku Ultra (2020) and the Streambar, in the coming weeks before rolling out to Roku TVs in the next few months.
New Roku Streaming Stick+ adds a mute button, cuts price to just $50
Roku recently announced changes to its streaming player lineup, including a new version of the $100 Roku Ultra and the $30 Roku Express. But the company was apparently planning another change: Its popular Roku Streaming Stick+ just got a mute button on the remote and a $10 price drop. It's now just $50, bringing the 4K HDR streamer down to the same price as Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K. The new model will be available starting October 20.
The Roku lineup now makes a bit more sense. Previously, the Streaming Stick+ and the Walmart-exclusive Streaming Stick+ HE were the same price, even though the HE offered a remote with a headphone jack for private listening and a set of earbuds. With the $10 price cut on the regular Streaming Stick+, people who don't need the private listening feature now have a more affordable option.
TCL’s 6-series Roku TVs are now on sale, with more new sets to follow in 2020
Back at CES 2019, TCL showed off its new TV models, including its first 8K TVs. Last month, the company announced the availability of the rest of the 2019 models. Now the brand new 6-series models are officially on sale, but you'll have to wait a bit longer for the 5-series and 8-series TVs. Here's all you need to know about the latest TCL TVs.
TCL 6-Series Roku TV
The 2019 4K 6-Series is now on sale and starts at under $600 for the 55-inch and $800 for the 65-inch models. It shares many of the same features as its 8-Series sibling, including a QLED display, AiPQ Engine processing, Dolby Vision and HDR10, Dolby Atmos, and a bezel-less design. Though it lacks the 8-Series' Quantum Contrast mini-LEDs, it still features a large number of local-dimming zones -- 100 of them in the 55-inch model and more in the 65-inch model. The 6-Series feature Roku Voice and compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
TCL 8-Series Roku TV
TCL's new top-of-the-line TV is the 8-Series, which comes in two 4K sizes: The $1,999 65-inch 65Q825, and the $2,999 75-inch 75Q825. They'll both go on sale later this fall. The 8K models will start at 75 inches and go up from there, but you won't be able to get your hands on one until early in 2020, and the prices remain undisclosed.
But regardless of whether you buy a 4K or 8K 8-Series, the features are the same. With a "bezel-less" design that has a tiny frame width on three sides, the 8-Series supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It also uses QLED technology -- not the first TCL TV to do so, but it is the first QLED TCL model to be sold in North America. TCL claims these QLED displays will deliver 100% of the color volume in the DCI-P3 Hollywood reference color space. Of course, QLED displays are hardly new -- Samsung and Vizio use the same Quantum Dot technology in many of their TVs too. But not all QLED displays look alike, because of differences in contrast and image processing -- two areas where the 8-Series stands apart.
The next-gen TiVo Edge DVR will provide 4K, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos … eventually
It's probably not a coincidence that mere days before IFA 2019 in Berlin, some leaked photos of what is clearly TiVo's next-gen DVR have emerged, courtesy of Zatz Not Funny. It's called the TiVo Edge, and if the leaked photos are accurate, it will be a much more conventionally shaped set-top box than the company's current generation of DVRs -- the TiVo Bolt and Bolt OTA -- which sport a controversial wave-like design. There will be three versions according to the leaked report: One for standard cable, one for CableCARD, and an OTA (over the air) model.
The six-tuner, 2TB DVR will preserve all of the Bolt's features including 4K, Alexa compatibility, skip mode, and TiVO's own voice-driven Vox remote options. What's new is the Edge's support for Dolby's two major home theater technologies, Dolby Vision (Dolby's proprietary HDR format) and Dolby Atmos (the company's immersive surround sound format). But before TiVo subscribers get too excited by these additions, it's worth noting that the Bolt DVRs already have HDR10 and HLG capabilities, but none of the onboard streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Plex have been updated by their respective publishers to take advantage of the Bolt's HDR chops. TiVo puts the onus on the streaming companies for their lack of HDR support. "It is up to the app providers, not TiVo, to take advantage of this capability," Digital Trends was told by a TiVo spokesperson in November 2018.