Almost two years after its last major set-top box rollout, Roku is ready to introduce its first third generation player. Other than a new curvier design outside the Roku 3's main differences are a more powerful processor inside, the addition of dual band WiFi and a tweaked remote with audio out (headphones included) for private listening. Of course, hardware is only half the story and the new player debuts a reworked interface that will also spread to "current generation" players (read: Roku 2, new HD, LT and Streaming Stick) as an update in April. Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow through Roku.com and Amazon.com for $99, taking the place of the current top of the line XS model. We'll go more in depth about what's new this time around, including a video preview of the new UI, after the break.
Roku 3 hardware, interface
The company wouldn't share specific performance info on that new CPU but called this box "the most powerful Roku ever," claiming the Roku 3 will feature substantially faster performance when browsing or changing apps. Outwardly, as you can see from the pictures it's showing off a design that executives compared going from the brick of previous versions to a smooth pebble -- its overall footprint is largely unchanged from previous models, counter to our assumption from the measurement of its FCC label. The remote still features motion sensing for gaming, while the box itself brings the usual assortment of Ethernet, USB and microSD ports. While the hardware control of the remote has not changed (beyond the addition of two volume buttons for the headphone output) how users will interact with the Roku has been altered significantly now that the channel UI has gone from a horizontal bar to a grid of icons that spans across the vertical axis as well.
The reason for the change? The company claims user feedback indicated that while the old simpler menu worked well enough for 10-15 channels, in a world where it's offering 750+ channels and offering features like search across multiple providers, a new look is needed. We can't argue with the logic, and we'll be waiting for our hands-on impressions to see how much easier this is making it for users, and not just additional channel operators looking for a little more homescreen exposure.
As you can see from the pictures and video, the UI is largely focused on the left and right halves of the screen, with users selecting content on the left and viewing details on the right. It's also capable of displaying nine channel icons at a time now and it wraps around so you can scroll either way. There's one other software tweak worth noting, the addition of themes. The player defaults to "graphene", but if you're a heavy user and need to switch your look up there will be five separate options available at launch that change the colors and background details.
Other details we were interested in were whether the pumped up processor would enable the return of an official YouTube channel for Roku and what kind of new features may be on the way for its mobile remote apps, but so far there's nothing to report there. The press release did reveal a few new channels on the way however: Fox Now, PBS and PBS Kids. With slightly bumped specs and a refashioned menu the Roku 3 is unlikely to turn the ever-crowded set-top box market upside down. Still, viewed as a logical evolution reflecting the services offered and the possibility to do more in the future, it will be interesting to see if this company can continue to expand beyond the expectations of its initial aim as a Netflix box to offer even more types of entertainment, and adapt more easily to a changing market than its larger competition. We'll have hands-on with a unit in the coming days and will be able to let you know then how this version compares to its predecessors.
Introducing Roku 3: the Fastest, Most Powerful Roku Player to Date
Flagship Player Debuts Remote with Headphone Jack for Private Listening and New Interface
Saratoga, Calif. – March 6, 2013 – Today Roku® is making it easier and quicker than ever to access more than 750 channels of the best movies, TV shows, sports, music and games with the new Roku 3. The fastest, most powerful Roku streaming player to date, Roku 3 delivers useful innovation – including a faster processor and an enhanced remote with a headphone jack for private listening – and marks the introduction of Roku's new user interface enabling more fluid browsing and navigation.
"As Roku continues to build the largest selection of streaming entertainment, we are always exploring ways to improve the TV experience for our customers," said Anthony Wood, founder and CEO, Roku. "Roku 3 introduces thoughtful new features that customers will love. The intuitive new interface makes it easy to find movies and shows quickly while the private listening mode is perfect for late-night streamers who don't want to wake up the family."
The Roku 3 enhanced remote features a built-in headphone jack for private listening with the included in-ear headphones. Volume buttons on the remote offer a convenient way to control audio while private listening mode is in use. Additionally, the remote doubles as a motion-sensing game controller for playing games like Angry Birds Space. For even more entertainment possibilities, Roku's free app for iOS® and Android™ devices transforms a phone into the ultimate Roku command center.
Roku's new interface maintains the simplicity that Roku is known for, while providing improved access to channels. And the fully integrated Roku Channel Store and one-stop search lets customers easily pinpoint what they want to watch – and get there instantly. The new interface will automatically roll out as a free software update in April to all current-generation Roku devices – Roku LT, Roku HD (model 2500R), Roku 2 HD, Roku 2 XD, Roku 2 XS and the Roku Streaming Stick™.
Roku 3 comes fully loaded with more than 750 channels of entertainment, 1080p HD support, dual-band wireless, Ethernet and USB ports, and a microSD slot.
Recently launched channels on the Roku platform include TWC TV™, BlockBuster On Demand and iHeartRadio. Other channels launching soon include FOX NOW, PBS and PBS KIDS.
Pricing and Availability
The Roku 3 streaming player is available now in the United States through Roku.com and Amazon.com for a suggested retail price of $99.99. It will also be available in retail stores nationwide beginning in April.
About Roku, Inc.
Roku is a leading streaming platform for delivering video, music and casual games to the TV. Roku launched the first player to stream Netflix to the TV in 2008, and today streams more than 750 entertainment channels to millions of devices. Roku streaming players and the Roku Streaming Stick can be purchased from Roku and major retailers in the U.S. Roku players are also available in Canada, the U.K. and Republic of Ireland. Roku was founded by Anthony Wood, inventor of the DVR. The company is headquartered in Saratoga, Calif. For more information, visit www.roku.com.
Roku and Roku Ready are registered trademarks and the Roku Streaming Stick is a trademark of Roku, Inc. in the U.S. and in other countries.