Taking on the $179 Apple TV 4K, Roku unveils $99 Roku Ultra with 4K HDR capability

“Fresh off its IPO on Thursday, Roku has announced its latest line of hardware products, as well as a software update for all TVs running the company’s Roku operating system,” Daniel Howley reports for Yahoo Finance. “Roku, whose shares doubled from their initial price of $14 to $26.54 at the close of the markets on Friday, debuted five devices on Monday including new entry-level and high-end streaming players.”

“The top-of-the-line device, the Roku Ultra, starts at $99, down from $129, and features 4K and HDR compatibility. The box also includes a microSD card slot and USB. It also includes ethernet ports in case you want to connect an external hard drive or run a hardline cable to your router if you don’t have the best Wi-Fi connection” Howley reports. “The next step down is the company’s new Roku Streaming Stick Plus. Starting at $69, the stick is basically a slimmed down version of the Ultra. Instead of a box with various input and output ports, though, the Stick Plus is, well, a stick. Roku says the device, which looks like an oversize USB thumb drive, can stream 4K, HDR content.”

MacDailyNews Note: According to the research firm Park Associates, Roku is the leading seller of video streaming players in the U.S. with a 37% share. Amazon has 24%, up from 16% in 2016; Google’s Chromecast streaming device has 18% and Apple TV sits in 4th pace with 15%.

There’s still plenty room for growth in the market as Park Associates estimates that two-thirds of U.S. households still don’t have a video streaming player.

The Roku Ultra costs $99 and delivers HDR and 4k streaming capabilities
The Roku Ultra costs $99 and delivers HDR and 4k streaming capabilities

 

“Roku has also announced its new Roku OS 8 operating system. The software includes an updated interface that allows Roku-powered TVs — those sets sold with Roku’s smart interface, not TVs you connect the players to — to pull in information from over-the-air broadcast antennas. Connect an antenna to your TV, and Roku OS 8 will provide you with a menu that shows what shows are on and how long ago they began,” Howley reports. “Roku also conveniently allows you to look up shows being broadcast and find out if you can stream them via various streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and others.”

MacDailyNews Take: The over-the-air antenna content integration is a great feature, depending on how well it works. The Ultra’s wired earbuds into the remote is a decidedly low tech implementation versus Apple’s seamless AirPods, but plenty of people who have the need to listen to TV with earbuds will choose Roku as they can use their existing earbuds and it, again, costs $80-$100 less.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: At $80-$100 less than Apple TV 4K, the 4K HDR-capable Roku Ultra with Roku OS 8 will sell very well even without access to Apple’s Planet of the Apps.

19 Comments

    1. It’s just Roku’s crappy batteries-dying-in-days remotes that have killed it for me. I have to remove the batteries after every use despite taking every precaution to prevent it listed online.

      Really, it’s not that hard Roku – it’s called “auto-shutoff.”

  1. I actually have a Roku TV myself and it’s actually pretty cool. This is a company that knows how to be original while still making quality products, something Samsung or Google known noting about. This is the type of company that deserves to be an  competitor!

  2. “Taking on Apple”? I think it’s the other way around as Roku introduced a 4K system two years ago while Apple is just catching up with their new 4K ATV

    Bought the Ultra earlier this year and love it’s H.265 playback ability.

  3. I assume Roku doesn’t do Airplay and doesn’t have the ATV’s access to iTunes. That’s probably the only advantage the ATV has left, and there may not be many people who think that’s worth paying almost twice the price.

    1. Agreed — Airplay tax is not worth it.

      Totally unsurprising that Roku & Amazon both had 4K HDR products just waiting to release as soon as Apple puts its toe in the 4K water so late.

      Apple : This is new / innovative! (read: we caught up to our competitors)

      Others : Nice to have you here. We’ll just be up front here with the NEXT product for you to chase, already mass-produced & way less expensive than yours. TTFN.

    2. No, the Apple TV has many more advantages than just those…

      Among other things, unlike the Roku Ultra (Roku’s top model), Apple TV provides Bluetooth and that allows wireless headphone and keyboard connectivity as well as freedom from line-of-sight requirement for remote control. Apple TV’s remote is also rechargeable unlike the one provide with the Roku Ultra. Apple TV supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR protocols whereas Roku Ultra supports only the former. Apple TV provides gigabit ethernet vs. just 100baseT for the Roku.

      Unlike the Roku, Apple TV supports the latest image file HEIF formats.

      Finally, Apple TV includes a minimum of 32 GB of built-in storage vs. “none” for the Roku Ultra and the Roku’s voice functionality is much more limited than Apple TV with Siri.

      (And MDN, calm down and get a grip.)

    3. Install a (free) Plex server on your Mac and that will take care of the iTunes content access. That’s what I did when I got the Roku Premiere+ while waiting on a 4K compatible AppleTV. Airplay would be nice, but not a deal breaker for me.

      1. Agreed. So with your Mac (starting at $999), the reasons to even consider an Apple TV are gone

        Of course Apple’s target market will shrug and say they earn $300 per hour so who cares about purchase price.

        But that argument reinforces the fallacy of Apples strategy. You would have to have a lot of spare time on your hands to justify managing, charging, accessorizing, and figuring out the workarounds and limits of all the iOS derivatives.

        For less long term money and time a Mac + iPhone does more stuff better than ATV + iPod + iPad + Watch + iPhone. Mac is more versatile and faster for stuff like home automation and cinema. I will never understand the infatuation people have with walled gardens. You can do so much more with a personal computer.

  4. I have plenty of both devices, TCL 4k TVs with Roku built-in and Roku streaming sticks, and AppleTV 4k and regular AppleTVs. I like both, otherwise I wouldn’t own both.

    The Rokus have always been a great value, but their software could use alot of improvement. Software updates have been pretty random, with some of my TVs getting the update first, then others months later.

    The AppleTV 4k is pricey, but the software is far more polished as you would expect. Lots of little touches that make it more useful than the Roku. Of course, the remote could be larger as it would be easier to hold. I think it should be $99, and then it becomes a no-brainer, with no pricing umbrella for others. At $179, there’s a big market for Roku, Chromecast, Fire, etc.

    When I have a choice between the ATV and the Roku, I use the ATV.

    1. The new AppleTV should have been announced at $149. That price point has a different impression than $179. Also at $129 I believe the AppleTV would become that “no-brainer” you mention. It’s advantages mentioned by deasystems and others are easily worth the extra $30. They’re very unlikely to be worth $80 to most people.

  5. The Apple TV 4K will pay for itself when all my iTunes movies stream in 4K for free. Thanks for taking care of your best customers Apple. As usual I appreciate it.

  6. AppleTV also has HomeKit which is becoming more important to me with the latest updates. I don’t want to be a slave to the IoT cloud connections that many devices insists on.

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