By now you're probably aware of Roku. It's a company that creates streaming video players -- you know, little devices that play Netflix and YouTube on your TV -- as well as an operating system for Smart TVs.
We like Roku streamers and TVs a lot here at CNET. Most are cheap and good.
Now the company has two new streaming players -- the sub-$50 Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere Plus. And if history is any indication, we'll like them even more. That's because they seem just good as existing players, and they're cheaper than ever. And to sweeten the pot, Roku is adding voice control support for Google Assistant (you'll need to add an Assistant-capable device to your network) and re-introducing Spotify, too.
The $40 Roku Premiere is now the cheapest streaming device on the market that can stream 4K HDR video. This finger-sized mini-box is barely big enough for the (included) HDMI cable, yet can output the highest-quality video from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Vudu and others, provided you have a 4K HDR TV and, in the case of Netflix, the most expensive subscription tier.
The other new player, the $50 Premiere Plus, seems worth another $10 to me. That's because it adds an enhanced remote with a mic for voice searches and commands, and it doesn't need line-of-sight to the player, so you can stash the Plus out of sight -- there's even a sticker included so you can paste it on the back of the TV. The best part of the enhanced remote, however, is the keys that allow it to turn your TV on and off, and control volume.
Which Roku to buy (2018 edition)
I was surprised when Roku told me it will continue to sell all five of its original 2017 players at their current prices too, from the $30 Express through the $100 Ultra. Aside from a new set of JBL headphones on the Ultra -- Roku says they're a $30 value -- they're unchanged from last year. That makes seven total "current" Roku players.
All current Roku players
|Name||Price||First released||Form factor||Streaming quality||Voice remote|
|Express Plus||$40||2017||Mini box||HD||No|
|Premiere||$40||2018||Mini box||4K HDR||No|
|Premiere Plus||$50||2018||Mini box||4K HDR||Yes|
|Streaming Stick Plus||$70||2017||Stick||4K HDR||Yes|
|Ultra||$100||2017||Bigger box||4K HDR||Yes|
So which is my favorite now? I'll review the new ones before I form my final opinion, but on paper I like the Premiere Plus best. It has every feature of my 2017 favorite, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus -- the exception is the Stick's Wi-Fi enhancing antenna, which in my tests didn't make much difference -- for $20 less. The only wrinkle is that, just like the older Express Plus, the Premiere Plus isn't available from any store except Walmart.
And in case you're experiencing Roku deja-vuku, you're not alone. The company used the exact same Premiere and Premiere Plus names in 2016 to apply to a pair of 4K streaming boxes. They were bigger then, but largely similar to the tiny 2018 versions.
The Roku Premiere is available for preorder now, the Premiere Plus will come exclusively to Walmart in October.
Roku's new players do 4K cheaper than everSee all photos
Roku will also start selling its previously announced Roku TV Wireless Speakers this November for $200. They ship with a pair of remotes: a conventional Roku clicker and a new voice-enabled Touch Remote. The latter is designed to sit on a table or shelf, rather than be held in the hand, and allows you to control the TV's volume, power and some other functions via voice or buttons from across the house. It works with any Roku device and will be sold separately for $30 at the same time the speakers ship.
Read more: Roku streamers and TVs will work with Google Assistant devices
And: Spotify coming back to Roku, adding Spotify Connect