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Roku Ultra 2022: The 5 Things on My Wish List

Commentary: Roku, please add an Xbox Game Pass channel.

Roku Ultra box and remote control
Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku offers plenty of streaming devices, from the $50 Streaming Stick 4K to the $40 Express 4K Plus. The Roku Ultra box, however, is the most powerful. It has long been the streaming giant's showcase for its platform, offering advanced features, a beefier processor, a find-my-remote button and built-in Ethernet all for $100. Although, for many people, those extras aren't worth paying twice as much.

According to Cord Cutters News a new Roku Ultra may be coming soon. The site spotted a new model number among the list of Roku's supported hardware for its recent OS 11 release. The model number, 4802X, is one above the 4801X sported by the Roku Ultra LT and two above the otherwise current Roku Ultra (4800X) which last got a major hardware update in 2020. Roku has since removed the reference to the model, and when CNET reached out for comment about the report, a representative emailed back "nothing to share at this time."

So with the possibility of a new Roku Ultra in mind, here's a wish list of a few things I'd love to see Roku embrace for its next high-end player, whenever it might be released. 

Read More: Apple TV 2022 Wish List: What I Want to See in a Refresh This Year

Game streaming

xbox-gamepass-ultimate

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold into one subscription. 

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Roku tried to make gaming on its players a thing years ago, a fact that most people probably don't remember. But in 2022 Roku doesn't need to court developers to make games specific to its platform; it just needs to allow for game streaming services to run their apps and stores on Roku players and TVs.

Game streaming has not only become more commonplace with the rise of Xbox Game Pass, Google Stadia, Amazon Luna and Nvidia GeForce Now -- and soon Sony's PlayStation Plus Premium -- but it is increasingly becoming a table-stakes feature for streaming video platforms. Google's Android TV and Google TV play well with its own Stadia service as well as GeForce Now, while Amazon's Fire TV software and devices can tap into Luna. 

Why not have an Xbox Game Pass channel on Roku? Microsoft gains a new avenue to boost its platform without requiring the costly purchase of a console, Roku gains a new partner and gamers pick up a new way to stream games onto their televisions -- or to be able to play on televisions outside their homes or on a second television without needing to move a console. Seems like it could be a win all around, and with a more powerful processor, the Ultra could probably run those services.

Game Pass is the most exciting to me, but it also makes sense for a more powerful Ultra to run Stadia or GeForce Now. Amazon might be reluctant to bolster Roku's features checklist by adding Luna, but it's probably technically possible, too.

Chromecast support

Yes, Rokus work great with Apple's AirPlay for casting content from an Apple device and with screen sharing available for streaming from some Android devices or Windows PCs. It would be great, however, if Roku got even more agnostic and embraced the ability to let people cast directly from their Android devices through Google's Chromecast protocol. This is not only easier than setting up screen sharing, but it would allow Rokus to work better with Chrome browsers and Chromebooks. 

Roku and Google settled their YouTube TV beef last year. It's time for the two of them to make this happen and put whatever possible hardware is needed into the next Ultra. 

Include the Voice Remote Pro

Roku Voice Remote Pro
Sarah Tew/CNET

The Ultra is Roku's priciest streaming box, but the included remote is inferior to the Voice Remote Pro, a $30 upgrade. The Pro packs a built-in rechargeable battery and midfield microphone to allow you to bark "Hey Roku, find my remote" to locate the clicker when it's inevitably lost under the couch cushions. 

If Roku really wants to move Ultra boxes, including a Voice Remote Pro in the box would be a nice touch. The company already has experimented with bundling the product through its Streaming Stick 4K Plus offering, which combines a Streaming Stick 4K with a Voice Remote Pro. 

While we're at it, I'd love Roku to update the Voice Remote Pro with USB-C as opposed to Micro-USB. But that might be getting too greedy. 

Alexa and Google Assistant support 

Since we're talking voice support, why not have Roku's next box directly integrate other assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant? Roku's unnamed voice assistant is fine for basic tasks like searching for titles or actors, turning the TV on or adjusting the volume. On the other hand, it still lags far behind its rivals when you ask basic questions, such as "what is the weather?," tuning to a particular channel on a streaming service like Sling TV or YouTube TV or controlling smart home devices like lights. 

I understand this particular item could be more software "wishlist" than something for the next Ultra, but combined with the Voice Remote Pro or adding far-field mics like those on the Amazon Fire TV Cube could be really valuable. 

Roku already has integrations with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri for controlling its platform via other devices, like phones or smart speakers. Why not add it into the next Ultra directly? Give users a choice and an option for a better voice assistant. 

TV calibration

Apple TV screen calibration using an iPhone

Apple TV screen calibration using an iPhone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple TV has a nifty feature for calibrating your TV through an iPhone, and a new Ultra could be the perfect place for Roku to debut a similar feature. Apple's feature requires holding an iPhone X or later up to your TV screen, though there is nothing to say Roku can't do something similar with iPhones or Android devices, like Samsung's Galaxy S line. It could also be something available via the Roku phone app, similar to the company's audio lip-sync calibration features added in OS 10.5 and OS 11.

The Ultra is designed to give people a premium experience. Adding TV video calibration capability could go a long way toward making sure they see that experience, even if they aren't comfortable fiddling with their TV picture settings

For the last few years Roku hasn't delivered any major features that differentiate the Ultra from its other devices. Adding any (or all!) of my wish list items could change that and make Roku's best player even more Ultra than ever.