Roku has announced updates to its hardware lineup and updates to its Roku OS software. The new hardware is pretty mediocre and just includes a new Roku Express with better WiFi and a new cheaper subwoofer. The software updates are a bit more interesting as they add more ways to find and resume content, which makes Roku OS more closely resemble the OSes running on Fire TV, Google TV, and Apple TV devices.
The main new hardware from Roku this year is an update to its existing Roku Express model, which was last updated in 2019. The new model now has dual-band WiFi and more storage. Even though it can now use both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies, it has still not made the jump to 802.11ac and continues to cap out with 802.11n WiFi. Roku hasn’t provided specifics for the device’s increased storage, but I’m guessing it’s going from 256MB of storage to 512MB. Roku does say the new model is “more powerful” but it’s unclear if the processor or RAM have actually changed. As it’s Roku’s entry model device, it is still just 1080p and will still cost $29.99. You can pre-order it now and it will ship on October 16th.
The only other new hardware form Roku this year is a smaller subwoofer called the Roku Wireless Bass. At $129.99, it’s $50 less expensive than Roku’s first subwoofer, the similarly named Roku Wireless Subwoofer. Unfortunately, like the existing subwoofer, the new cheaper sub can only be used with Roku TVs and Soundbars. So, those of you with Roku streaming media players are out of luck. The new subwoofer will also be available bundled with the Roku Streambar, Roku’s tiny soundbar, for $249.999, which saves you $10 compared to buying them separately. The Roku Wireless Bass subwoofer is available to pre-order and is expected to ship on November 7th.
On the software side, Roku has announced Roku OS 11.5 as the next major update to its media player and TV operating system. The update will add a pair of new rows to the “What to Watch” section that will make getting back to your content easier. The first is a new “Continue Watching” row that, as you’d expect, lists content you were recently watching. The idea of having a single row with your recent TV shows and movies sounds great on the surface, but, just like with similar rows on Fire TVs, Google TVs, and Apple TVs, it’s only as good as the list of services it supports and that list will only include HBO Max, Netflix, Paramount+, and the Roku Channel at first. The second new row being added is a new “Save List” row which is an expansion of Roku’s existing save option. The new row serves as a universal watchlist where you’ll be able to add items to the row manually by selecting a save button on the detail page of TV shows and movies in the Roku interface.
Another new feature coming with Roku OS 11.5 is what Roku is calling “The Buzz.” It’s a new TikTok-like section of the home screen that scrolls vertically to entice you with something new to watch. The content in The Buzz will consist of video clips, images, trailers, interviews, and more. You’ll be able to Like what is shown, presumably to improve the recommendations, and will be able to Save items to the aforementioned Save List. Content that appears in this new feed will include shows and movies from AMC+, Apple TV+, BET+, Crackle, Hallmark Movies Now, IGN, Plex, Popcornflix, Showtime, Starz, The CW, Tubi, Vevo, and Wondrium.
Other changes to Roku OS will include the addition of support for Bluetooth private listening on the latest Roku Ultra, Roku Streambar, and Roku Streambar Pro. Roku is also adding categories, like Recents, Favorites, and Subscribed, and genres, like News, Sports, Music, Crime, Music, and En Espanol, to its live TV guide. Roku has also revamped its search results to be more visual and has renamed the Roku Channel Store to simply the Roku Store. As for when Roku OS 11.5 will begin rolling out, Roku just says it will be “in the coming months.”