Roku has introduced new Roku 3 and Roku 2 streaming media players as well as revamped its entire lineup of models with new search and discovery features.
Among the highlights: voice-search capability for the Roku 3, and Roku Feed, which tracks when content—initially just movies—will be available through various streaming services. This "Movies Coming Soon" feature will also let you know how much the movies cost on all available services and can alert you to price drops when they occur.
Although Roku has continued to add new content to its service, this is the first real update to its players since 2013.
Revamped Roku 3 and Roku 2
Compared to the older, top-rated Roku 3 streaming media player, the new Roku 3 offers faster performance.
The new model, priced at $100, adds a built-in microphone for voice searches to the remote control and retains the earlier model's built-in headphone jack for private listening and motion control for casual gaming. Roku has been offering a $10 price cut on the previous-generation Roku 3, but only the new Roku 3 has voice search capabilities.
While the new Roku 2, priced at $70, has the same fast operation as the Roku 3, it no longer has the headphone feature on the remote, and it lacks a built-in microphone. The main difference between the two players is the remote, so if you don't care about the headphone jack or voice search you can save $30.
Other Roku models—including the Roku Streaming Stick and the Roku 1—aren't being replaced. But they are being refreshed with software updates, including improved speed and enhanced search capabilities.
Get more guidance on streaming media: Check out our streaming video player buying guide and Ratings.
New search features for all
With the new enhanced search, you can look for movies, TV shows, actors, and directors across 17 streaming channels. Roku says more channels will be added to search throughout the year.
And unlike some other players, Roku says, it doesn't prioritize content from one service over another, so you'll see the lowest price available listed first regardless of where it appears.
You can also search by streaming service name, such as Sling TV or HBO Go, within the Roku Channel Store.
Roku says these updates should be completed and available to Roku players by the end of this month.
Other Roku news
The company also says that two new TV brands—Haier and Insignia—will offer Roku TVs this year, joining TCL and Hisense. These sets, previously announced at CES back in January, have Roku capability built-in as the sets' smart TV service.
While Roku didn't announce any 4K UHD capability in any of the new players, it is planning to update its iOs and Android mobile apps, enabling you to control its players with your phone or tablet.
We believe you can also use the microphones in these portable devices for voice search on models other than the Roku 3, but we'll know for sure as soon as the new Roku players arrive in our streaming media lab for testing. Stay tuned for our First Looks at these new players.
—James K. Willcox
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