Roku’s Cheaper Streaming Boxes Get a Refresh

Just a few new features and aesthetic tweaks to make Roku's $50-and-up streaming boxes that much more attractive.

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Roku is putting some polish on its line of streaming TV boxes as the holiday shopping season approaches. These aren’t industry-changing updates, but rather just a few new features and aesthetic tweaks to make Roku’s $50-and-up streaming boxes that much more attractive.

The entire line is getting a visual makeover, adopting a more rounded look similar to the $100 Roku 3, which launched in May. Roku is also tweaking the names of its product line, which should be less confusing even if some old names are being recycled, as Dave Zatz points out.

Here’s the rundown:

  • The $50 Roku LT is the least changed of the bunch, gaining only the new box design. As with before, it does 720p video.
  • The $60 Roku 1 gets a resolution upgrade, from 720p to 1080p.
  • The $80 Roku 2 has a headphone jack on its remote, so you can watch shows or listen to music without disturbing everyone else. It also supports dual-band wireless.
  • The $100 Roku 3 has all the features of cheaper models except for composite video output, so you have to use HDMI. In return, you get Ethernet input, a USB jack, a microSD card slot, a much faster processor and a motion controller for games.

All four Roku boxes have access to the Roku Channel Store, which for U.S. users includes more than 1,000 apps. Roku also recently added the ability to view any photos and videos you’ve captured on your phone, as long as you’re using an iPhone or select Android devices.

Roku’s biggest strength has always been the number of apps that it offers–and it’s biggest weakness is the lack of a YouTube app–but recently other companies have joined the race. Both the Apple’s TV box and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 have been adding new apps at a rapid clip, and Google’s Chromecast will eventually open the door to more apps than just Netflix, YouTube and Google Play. There have been reports of a possible Amazon TV box or game console as well. Roku is responding by revamping its interface and tweaking its hardware, and the company plans to offer its own Chromecast-like phone-to-TV video beaming in the coming months.

The Roku 3 is already available, but the cheaper new Roku models will ship on October 8.

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