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Roku’s Big Announcements Today: A New Ultra Player, Soundbar and AirPlay 2 Support

Today was a big day for streaming box maker Roku: the San Jose-based company announced new products and software features, including another entry into the world of home theater audio and an update to a popular existing device that adds some of the most desired features.

First, Roku makes several changes to its highest-end streaming box, the Roku Ultra. It still costs $ 99, and most of its features are the same. Well, something new? Well, wireless signaling has long been a thorn in Roku’s side – many households have weak or suboptimally located routers. To this end, Roku claims that the new Ultra manages 50 percent more wireless range. It also adds Bluetooth connectivity for the first time so you can use wireless headphones and the like.

The big addition, however, is the introduction of Dolby Vision HDR support (and Dolby Atmos as well). We knocked some previous Roku devices to only support the HDR-10 standard, but this update means that Ultra can now deliver good HDR on a whole range of content optimized for Dolby Vision.

Second, Roku has introduced what it calls a “2-in-1” soundbar called Streambar – which is not the company’s first soundbar, to be clear. It’s 2-in-1 because it works as both your standard, occasional, better than your TV speakers and as a Roku streaming device like Ultra that can actually deliver content to your TV. In terms of streaming quality, Streambar is 4K and HDR, which is what you would expect from a device launched in 2020, and it connects to the TV via HDMI (provided your TV supports ARC).

Streambar has four drivers – two facing forward and one pointing at an angle to the left and right. And if you’re looking for a complete home theater, Dolby surround sound experience, you can add additional Roku-made speakers and a subwoofer.

Finally, Roku announced Roku OS 9.4, which adds AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support for “select 4K devices,” among others. Roku also says that Roku Channel, its ad-supported free streaming TV network, is getting Android and iOS apps.

The two new hardware products are expected to launch on October 15, but pre-orders are open today. Roku OS 9.4 will hit supported devices in the coming days, but Roku says that TVs running Roku OS may have to wait a little longer.

List image of Roku

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