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Roku's free OS 10.5 lets you dictate passwords, fixes pesky sound lags on headphones

Roku's software update will let you speak some passwords to enter them and troubleshoots bad AV syncs that can make everything look like off-timed dubs.

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Roku rolls out automatic, free updates to its operating system about twice a year. 
Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku owners, get ready for another free software upgrade. Roku's operating system will automatically upgrade free to OS 10.5 in the coming weeks, adding a number of clever features like: letting you dictate some passwords instead of using your remote to navigate character-by-character around an on-screen keyboard, as well as enhanced troubleshooting for bad AV syncs on your wireless headphones, the kind that causes a lag between when you watch somebody speak on screen and when you actually hear them. 

The update adds other bells and whistles, including: 

  • Creating a Roku Voice Help page in the settings menu that helps customers better understand the kinds of commands that work well and provides examples. People who use a Roku Voice Remote Pro can also find tips on using hands-free voice. 
  • Introducing support for 3.1 and 5.1 surround sound if you use Roku's own soundbar, so that you can essentially turn your Roku soundbar (what they call a Streambar) into a center channel and add an additional set of speakers up front to the sides to create a wider soundstage.
  • Adding sound-setting controls in the Roku mobile app, so customers can now adjust their Roku audio device's sound settings without triggering on-screen menus. It's a way to fiddle with night mode, automatic volume leveling or speech clarity without breaking into what you're watching on the TV. 
  • Putting other new elements in the Roku mobile app, such as a Home tab with browsable collections of programming and a "save list" to store titles that you want to watch later when you're at your TV again. 
  • Adding music and podcast results to voice search with a visual "music and podcast" row of options.
  • Widening direct playback from voice commands to both Netflix and Spotify, so you can verbally ask to play something on Netflix or Spotify and it will fire up immediately, without additional steps. 
  • Expanding the Roku Channel's Live TV Channel Guide with more than 200 free live TV channels so that it can be added directly onto your home screen for instant access.

Roku's OS 10.5 has already begun rolling out to Roku players and is expected to reach Roku TVs in the coming weeks, the company said Monday. It also announced a new player, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.

Among its rivals, including Apple TV and Amazon's Fire TV, Roku is the rare competitor focused solely on video-streaming products and systems. The singular focus has helped Roku become one of the most popular streaming-TV devices, with more than 50 million active accounts -- and it also contributes to a steady drumbeat of software improvements for its products. Roku tends to roll out two significant updates to its operating system each year. 

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