This is the season of new streaming media players, and Roku isn’t letting Amazon and Apple get all the glory. The Roku 4, announced today, brings 4K video, faster WiFi and a remote finder to the streaming media player.
While the ultra high-definition video and 802.11ac WiFi are nice additions to the Roku lineup, the new “Follow” feature really sets Roku apart from the streaming media pack.
Roku introduced a similar feature in April, called Roku Feed, which let users add movies to a list and alerted them when those movies came to streaming services. The updated feature, coming to Roku OS 7, lets users add TV shows, actors and directors to their feeds, getting alerts when any new content matches their interests.
The new feature simplifies one of the worst parts of the streaming experience: finding what to watch. While many of the big players like Amazon and Apple have universal search, they lack the universal watch list. Apps like CanIStream.It help users find when desired content is added to streaming platforms, but Roku’s solution is much more robust. With the ability to follow actors and directors, Roku adds discovery to the equation.
The new hardware may not be quite as impressive as the updated Roku Feed, but it’s still a big step for the streaming media maker. The Roku 4 can stream 4K video at 60 frames-per-second and has a faster quad-core processor to keep things zipping along. It also faster 802.11ac WiFi antenna and adds an optical audio out port to the HDMI, Ethernet and USB jacks found on the smaller Roku 3.
The Roku 4 also comes with a new remote packing a Remote Finder feature, which lets you hit a button on the box to make your remote beep. The remote also comes with the microphone for voice control and a headphone jack for remote listening, just like previous remotes.
Roku was once with the clear winner in the streaming media player wars with its wealth of channels and easy-to-use interface, but Amazon, Apple and Google have all stepped up their games this year with some promising selections.
The updated Apple TV will open up the streaming box to apps and games, along with robust voice search powered by Siri. Amazon already has a 4K streaming box on the market, along with a growing selection of channels and games. And Google just released the first update to its Chromecast, which relies on a user’s phone to power the viewing experience.
The Roku 4 is available for pre-order now for $129.99 and is expected to ship on Oct. 21. The updated Roku Feed will debut on the Roku 4, but will roll out to current generation Roku owners by November.