Roku officially announced a brand new version of its popular set-top box last night. Simply dubbed Roku 3, the tiny media streamer received a faster processor and dual-band Wi-Fi support, as well as a revamped user interface that should make discovering content from its 750 partner channels a lot easier.
On previous models, if you wanted to find out if a specific TV show or movie was available on Roku, you had to search for it app by app. That can get a bit tedious when you have so many sources to choose from. Now, there’s one central search. Type the name of an actor or director and a list of his movies will appear on screen. Click on a movie or start typing its name and you’ll see which services offer it. Results are divided in services you subscribe to and those you don’t, and within each group results are ordered by price.
Some of this was already available for a limited set of services -- including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, VUDU and HBO GO -- with an update late last year, but now search is part of the core experience. Overall the new user interface is cleaner, with a two-paned design and channels presented on a big bright grid, while scrolling seems much smoother. It will roll out to most of Roku's older devices in April.
Another distinguishing feature of the Roku 3 is its new private listening mode. Basically, the company has added a headphone jack and volume buttons on the side of the remote, so as soon you plug in a pair of earbuds the sound from the TV mutes and plays through the remote without disturbing others in the room.
As far a ports are concerned you get Ethernet, HDMI with up to 1080p support, a microSD slot and USB with support for H.264 MKV video files. Gone is the composite video output and other features like a YouTube channel and support for wireless streaming (Miracast) are still notably missing.
The new Roku 3 is available today for $100.