Roku unleashes a new soundbar, streaming player, and remote control; expands AirPlay 2 support
The Streambar Pro will boast a virtual surround sound mode, while Roku’s OS update will bring AirPlay 2 to its HD streaming players.
By Ben Patterson
TechHiveApr 13, 2021 6:00 am PDT
Roku has a new soundbar, a beefed-up streaming player, and a new remote to show off, along with the latest version of its OS, which expands Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility to Roku’s HD streaming devices (previously, AirPlay 2 support was available only on the company’s more-expensive 4K devices).
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Slated to arrive late next month on Roku.com and at major retailers in June, the Streambar Pro soundbar comes with Roku’s new Virtual Surround feature, a first for the video streaming company, while the Express 4K+ will support dual-band Wi-Fi and HDR10+.
Also coming soon is the Roku Voice Remote Pro with a rechargeable battery, hands-free voice commands, and a lost remote finder, while Roku OS 10 adds support for gaming consoles as well as the ability to ensure you’re using the best Wi-Fi band.
Like the Streambar, the Streambar Pro comes with a built-in Roku 4K streaming player, a voice remote, and a pair of Roku in-ear headphones that plug into the remote control.
The Streambar Pro also boasts a first for a Roku soundbar: the aptly named Virtual Surround mode, which is designed to deliver a “rich and immersive sound experience” without physical surround speakers.
Roku’s Virtual Surround mode will also come to the Smart Soundbar but not the smaller Streambar, which is equipped with angled front drivers that already offer “that immersive experience,” a Roku rep explained.
Roku Express 4K+
Meanwhile, the Roku Premiere is getting its own successor with the Express 4K+, also due to arrive in May and priced at $40.
The Express 4K+ takes the Premiere’s basic form factor and feature set and adds a faster user interface (courtesy of an upgraded processor and more RAM), dual-band Wi-Fi support, and a Micro-USB port for connecting third-party ethernet adapters.
The Express 4K+ will also get a voice remote to replace the basic one that came with the Premiere. A basic remote will ship with the Express 4K, a Walmart-exclusive version of the new streaming player that will sell for $35.
Besides its new physical components, the Express 4K+ will add support for HDR10+, a flavor of HDR most commonly found on Samsung 4K TVs. The Walmart-exclusive Express 4K will also get HDR10+ support, as will Roku’s top-of-the-line streaming player, the Roku Ultra, which already supports Dolby Vision.
Roku Voice Remote Pro
On sale now at Roku.com for $30, the new Roku Voice Remote Pro comes with an oft-requested feature: a rechargeable battery that can be powered up via a Micro-USB port. The Voice Remote Pro’s rechargeable battery should last for “months” on a single charge, Roku promises.
The new remote also comes with a mid-range microphone for hands-free voice commands, meaning no need to press the microphone button (although you still can if you don’t want the microphone listening for the wake word). A 3.5mm audio jack for headphones (either Roku’s or a third party’s) allows for private listening sessions, while a “find my remote” feature makes the remote beep when you call for it.
As with Roku’s existing “enhanced” voice remote, the Voice Remote Pro will have shortcut buttons for such major streaming services as Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, and Hulu, and it will let you program “personal” one-touch shortcuts by pressing and holding a button after saying a voice command.
Roku OS 10
The Roku OS will be getting a slew of updates starting today, including the addition of AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support for “select” HD-only streaming players (including the Roku Express) and Roku TV models. For full compatibility info, scroll down to the bottom of this article.
The updated Roku OS will also add an “instant resume” feature that will offer “much quicker” reload times when you return to a previously accessed channel. More than 15 channels will support instant resume at launch, including AT&T TV, FilmRise, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Fubo Sports Network, HappyKids TV, Plex.tv, Starz, and The Roku Channel.
The Roku Live TV Channel Guide is slated to get a series of customization features, including the ability to hide specific channels or add oft-viewed channels to a list of favorites. You’ll also be able to switch between three different guide views: favorites, recently visited, and all channels.
To help boost wireless connectivity, Roku OS 10 adds a new Automatic Wi-Fi Network Detection feature that checks to make sure that your Roku player is connected to the best Wi-Fi band. If, for example, your Roku device is connecting to your router’s 2.4GHz band and it detects a faster 5GHz signal, a pop-up will ask whether you’d like to switch to the faster network.
Next up, Roku TVs updated to Roku OS 10 will be able to detect connected game consoles and add a gaming icon to the TV’s input tile on the Roku home screen, as well as automatically configure your TV’s available gaming features, including Game Mode, auto low-latency mode, high and/or variable refresh rates, and THX Certified Gaming Mode (if your TV supports those features, of course).
OS 10 will also let you use voice input for a “variety” of on-screen keyboards (just look for the microphone icon), while voice search results will now appear as an overlay with hits from the current channel displayed prominently in the first row.
The OS 10 update should begin rolling out today, and it’s compatible with all Roku streaming players and “select” Roku TV models.
Roku OS 10 and AirPlay 2 compatibility
Finally, here are the full details on OS 10 compatibility, straight from Roku:
Apple AirPlay and HomeKit will support the full current lineup, including HD Roku TVs and streaming players.
Most Roku devices will support Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit with the exception of Roku TV model numbers beginning with “6” (6XXXX), “5” (5XXXX), and Roku player model numbers 2700X, 2710X, 2720X, 3500X, 3700X, 3710X, and 4400X. You can access your Roku model number in the Settings menu by clicking Settings > System > About. For more information, please visit our AirPlay and HomeKit support page.
OS 10 will be available on all Roku TV models and the following streaming players: 9102X, 9101X, 9100X, 4800X, 4670X, 4662X, 4661X, 4660X, 4640X, 4630X, 4622X, 4620X, 4400X, 4230X, 4210X, 4200X, 3941X, 3940X,3931X, 3930X, 3921X, 3920X, 3910X, 3900X, 3821X, 3820X, 3811X, 3810X, 3800X, 3710X, 3700X, 3600X, 3500X, 2720X, 2710X, 2700X
We’ll have reviews of the new Streambar Pro, Express 4K+, and Voice Remote Pro once we spend time with some review units.