Roku has taken the wraps off the all-new Roku Express 4K, which is designed to bring crisp Ultra HD picture quality and HDR colour to an affordable price tag. The new set-top box – that plugs directly into the HDMI port on your telly to unlock access to dozens of streaming services and games – will go head-to-head with some of the most popular telly gadgets on the market, including Amazon’s Fire TV range and the Chromecast with Google TV, which debuted within the last six months.
Roku Express 4K is optimised for some of the highest picture standards available right now, including 4K resolution, which offers four times the number of pixels as 1080p “full” High Definition, HDR, HDR10 and HDR10+ colour standards. HD is also supported for those with older TVs, or those who are limited by their streaming plan (Netflix only offers 4K picture quality for those paying for its priciest £13.99 a month subscription tier, for example).
Roku will charge £39.99 for the Express 4K when it goes on-sale in May 2021. For comparison, Amazon charges £49.99 for its Fire TV Stick 4K, which offers streaming in the same 4K Ultra HD picture quality with support for HDR, HDR 10, HDR10+. Unlike the Roku, Amazon also throws in support for Dolby Vision too.
The Chromecast with Google TV costs £59.99 and supports the same Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HDR10+ standards.
All of these streaming gadgets have advantages and disadvantages. The Fire TV range is ideal for those who are deeply invested in Amazon’s ever-growing ecosystem of devices, like the Amazon Echo and Echo Show, as it leverages talkative Alexa voice assistant and allows you to tie-in existing Echo hardware to create a surround sound system for your telly. Likewise, Chromecast with Google TV includes features that make it more convenient for those who rely on Google and Android every day.
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And Roku? Well, its major biggest selling point over rivals is its vast expanse of streaming services and games. While no single streaming set-top box has access to every service around… Roku is as close to a one-stop-shop as you’ll find. From Apple TV+, YouTube, Prime Video, NOW TV, Shudder, Disney+, StarzPlay, and more – there are now more than 20,000 streaming apps in its library. Not only that, but it caters to both Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants.
The Express 4K launches with Roku’s latest operating system, Roku OS 10. The updated software is also rolling out to a number of existing devices, including Roku-branded smart TVs, the Roku Streambar, and more. Roku OS 10 includes support for Apple’s AirPlay 2 standard, which lets you effortlessly stream, control and share photos, videos and games direct from your iPhone, iPad or Mac.
There’s also automatic Wi-Fi detection, which notifies Roku users of the optimal wireless network band to connect to in their homes so they can enjoy the best possible streaming experience.
Roku devices running Roku OS 10 will recommend the optimal wireless network during connection setup and when there is a better network connection available in your home, the Roku device will proactively display a prompt recommending that the user connect to that network for an improved experience. If your Wi-Fi router includes support for both 2.4GHz and 5Ghz wireless networks, this can be a great way to judge which one will provide the best experience when streaming video.
Roku Express 4K also supports HomeKit, which allows users to easily and securely control Roku devices using Siri or the Home app on their Apple devices.
“We are dedicated to providing users the simplest way to stream entertainment to their TV at an affordable price,” said Mark Ely, Vice President of Retail Product Strategy at Roku. “The new Roku Express 4K offers tremendous value as 4K streaming has become a benchmark in technology and entertainment. We believe consumers are going to be impressed with the quality they can get from Roku at this price point.”
Ilya Asnis, senior vice president of Roku OS, added: “The Roku OS adds more value and continues to make streaming easier with each free update. With Roku OS 10, we simplify the setup by taking the guesswork out of the more complex network and gaming features by automating them. We are also adding tremendous value by expanding Apple AirPlay and HomeKit support to our full current lineup.”