By Troy Dreier
When Apple updated its Apple TV last month, people wondered why it neglected 4K video. Roku isn’t making that oversight. The living room-streamer announces its Roku 4 model today, and 4K support is the main reason to upgrade. The Roku 4 also offers a faster processor, upgraded Wi-Fi, and a clever way to find a missing remote.
The Roku 4 is shaped differently that the company’s previous models; it’s both larger and flatter. No doubt this was dictated by the upgraded components which include a quad-core processor capable of 60fps 4K streaming, HDCP 2.2, and optical audio out. It also comes with a bigger price tag at $129.99.
In StreamingMedia.com’s demo, the Roku 4 produced a gorgeous, vivid picture. Since 4K content is still scarce, Roku makes it easy to find with a curated 4K Spotlight channel. The Roku Channel Store also includes a 4K UHD category and a 4K screen saver shows high-resolution nature scenes. The set-top box detects the TV’s resolution and upscales content to look its best on higher res screens. Even people with 1080p or 720p TVs should notice streamed SD content looking better.
The Roku 4 remote is slim, as usual, but owners won’t need to worry about losing it thanks to the new remote finder feature. Press a button on the Roku and the remote emits a sound until it’s located. That alert can be customized to match the menu theme.
Along with the set-top box, Roku will roll out a new version of its operating system, version 7. Roku’s already strong content search tools are getting stronger. The Follow feature, which notifies viewers when content they want to watch is available, now includes visual indicators that give people more information: A number shows how many updates are available, while a purple triangle lets people know which updates they haven’t opened yet (see the image below).
The Roku mobile app has been upgraded with swipe functionality that offers one-touch access to more features, such as voice search. The app now integrates with the Follow feature to let viewers know about new content. Viewers can also follow content from the app. At the moment they can only do this from their home network, but later this year Roku plans on untethering the app so that viewers can follow shows while away from home.
Roku 4 owners can display their 4k photos on their TV screens, and make screen savers using their own photos. The 4K has enough storage to hold around 16 4K images.
Travelers will appreciate the new Hotel and Dorm Connect feature, which make it easy to use Rokus on networks that require signing in through a browser. Using the feature requires using a paired mobile app to sign in; the app then passes the network credentials to the Roku box.
The Roku 4 will go on sale this month, and is available for pre-order today. OS 7 will start rolling out to networked Rokus in mid-October. Check back in a few weeks for StreamingMedia.com’s review.
The Roku OS 7 interface