Roku 3 Released! – Here’s What You Need To Know
Roku just took the wraps off its aptly named Roku 3 which couples new hardware with a much-needed UI refresh. Based on the $99 price tag and how Roku is positioning the new model on their site, they definitely want consumers to know that this is their top-of-the-line box. Here’s a quick rundown of the specs and what’s new:
- Faster Processor -
Roku usually doesn’t go into specifics on what type of processors are used in their devices and we don’t have much to go on until someone get’s a box and actually tears it open. All we know is that it is faster and original impressions by those who have used it say it is definitely noticeable.Edit: Dan Rayburn at StreamingMediaBlog.com indicates the chip inside the new Roku 3 is of the A9 variety, which is a big improvement over what was in the previous generation’s hardware. You can read more of Dan’s write up here.
- Dual Band Wireless, Ethernet and USB- dual band wireless is new to Roku
and it also includes the newest 802.11 “a” standard in addition to the already common b/g/n standards. (Thanks to everyone on Reddit for pointing out that the “a” wireless standard has been around for years. I was mistakenly thinking of the newly announced “ac” standard, which is not on this box.) Ethernet and USB ports are also available on the device
- HDMI Only | 1080p- All previous Roku boxes had the option of HDMI or traditional RCA (those yellow, red, and white cables) as output. However this model drops the RCA, leaving HDMI as the only video output option. However, this shouldn’t be too big of a deal considering that HDMI is the de facto standard on TV’s these days.
- 7.1 Audio Support – A welcome addition as previous generation boxes only supported 5.1. I don’t believe there are any channels that support 7.1 yet but it’s nice to know that they including as an option for the future.
- WiFi Direct Remote with Headphone Jack – it appears that Bluetooth has been replaced by WiFi Direct as the new wireless standard in the Roku remote control. This may have something to do with the fact that the remote now includes a headphone jack so that you can enjoy your favorite show without bothering your significant other.
While the new hardware is exciting, the biggest news is that the Roku platform now has a new user interface. What’s also good news is that Roku 2, LT and HD (model 2500) customers will also receive the updated UI via a software update in April. Universal search received an upgrade as well and seems more user-friendly. Roku put out a video of the new UI in action:
So if you are a current Roku owner, should you upgrade? If you own an original model then I would say yes because you won’t be receiving the updated UI anyways. For current Roku 2 or HD (model 2500) owners, it’s really your call at this point. While you will be getting the new UI in a few months, we aren’t sure how many future channels will be supported by those generations of devices. An official YouTube channel has been glaringly absent from the Roku platform for some time but one is rumored to be released later this year. My fear is that it and other future channels may require the updated processing power of the Roku 3, similar to how the Vudu and Vevo channels aren’t compatible with original Roku models.
If you are new to Roku and were looking to get a box anyways then this is definitely a compelling option. The updated processor and improved UI make it a worthy competitor to the similarly priced Apple TV.