New Roku Ultra and Roku Streambar compact soundbar announced by Roku

Roku has just announced a pair of new streaming media players for 2020. First is a new version of their flagship Roku Ultra for $99.99 which finally adds support for Dolby Vision HDR. Roku’s other hardware announcement is the all-new Roku Streambar for $129.99 which combines a compact soundbar with a built-in 4K streaming capabilities.

The new Roku Ultra for 2020 is the first, and now only, Roku streaming media player to offer support for Dolby Vision. There are Roku televisions with Dolby Vision, but none of Roku’s boxes or sticks have offered it until now. Roku has also added support for the AV1 codec, which some streaming platforms, particularly YouTube, are expected to prefer over HEVC H.265 in the future. Roku also says the new Ultra now has WiFi that has “up to 50% more range,” but it’s still just 802.11ac, so they haven’t added WiFi 6 support.

For the first time, Roku has removed the microSD card slot from the Roku Ultra. It had been available on previous Ultra models ever since the line was introduced in 2016 and was on their top-end models even earlier. The Roku Ultra still has a USB 3.0 port, but that is now the only way to access external media. Among the other features that remain are a 10/100 Ethernet port, a remote finder, Dolby Atmos support, HDR10, and HLG support. Roku has not added HDR10+ support this year.

Roku’s remote hasn’t changed this year. It still features voice capabilities, power/volume/mute buttons for TV control, 2 programable shortcut buttons, and a headphone jack for private listening. Roku still includes headphones in the box, but they are no longer premium JBL headphones. The new Roku Ultra is available to pre-order now for $99.99 and will ship on October 15th.

Roku’s other new hardware is the Roku Streambar mini-soundbar that comes in at just 14-inches wide. It packs in 4K HDR10 streaming capabilities, but there’s no support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+. Roku hasn’t given any specifics about the streaming hardware inside, but it’ll probably similar to their Roku Streaming Stick+.

What we do know about what’s inside is that it has four 1.9″ drivers, two of which point forward to act as the center channel and two of which point to the sides to simulate surround sound. Clearly, the lack of upward-firing speakers tells us there is no support for Dolby Atmos, but it does support some form of Dolby audio. Around back is a single HDMI-ARC output port for connecting it to a TV’s HDMI-ARC port, as well as an optical S/PDIF input which, I assume, is for using it as a “dumb” soundbar if needed. There is also a single USB 2.0 port.

Roku is touting the soundbar’s various “smart” audio modes. They say it can level audio to quiet loud commercials and it also has a night mode for increasing the volume of dialogue. The Roku Streambar is compatible with Roku’s $179.99 Wireless Subwoofer and Roku’s $199.99 Wireless Speakers. The Roku Streambar is available to pre-order for $129.99 and will ship on October 15th.

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5 comments
  1. Hebert says:

    AV1 support!

    In your face Amazon, Google & possibly Apple! (which are board members of Alliance of Open Media)

    Ordering NOW!

  2. Charlie says:

    Any idea if there is more ram or if the processor is significantly faster than last year’s. I have two of those and at this point can’t imagine upgrading. Of course, if I were going to buy I would get this one, but yearly updates always seem a little excessive. The 2019 Ultra is a very solid streamer. Definitely the best of the many Roku’s I’ve owned over the years.

  3. Charlie_ says:

    Interesting. I wonder if it’s powerful enough to play 4K content off of an external hard drive.

    • Charlie says:

      I would doubt it, though it’s been years since I connected anything to any Roku USB port. In the early days, I think it was about viewing your pictures on the “big screen.” The microSD card slot is going away I see. That was there so if you added a card apps would load faster.

      • Charlie_ says:

        The old one could play HD MKV off of an external hard drive but the navigation experience was really poor.

        And with the TVs, they didn’t have DTS codec so any files with DTS wouldn’t have any audio. I was talking to a Roku engineer who said they were pushing for the ability to purchase additional codecs but I guess it never went through. Probably too advanced for their userbase.

        But I’m really surprised that Roku hasn’t made a more powerful “Roku Media Player” app in the style of Kodi or Plex. Something where you could plug in a USB hard drive or stick and have it scrap everything into a modern experience.

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