New Roku boxes offer 4K HDR and Google Assistant support

Roku will be sending Roku OS 8.2 and 9 with Google Assistant support over-the-air so keep an eye out for that

Roku on Monday added two new members to its streaming media player family with the addition of the Roku Premiere and the Roku Premiere+. TCL, which was supposed to be Roku's first partner, reportedly scrapped its soundbar plans earlier this year.

You will also be able to buy a Roku controller that will allow Roku owners to program quick access buttons to open any Roku Channel. The company just announced those players will be getting a refresh, and in typical Roku fashion it's mentioned nothing about a United Kingdom launch.

- “Roku Premiere and Roku Premiere+ are the easiest and most affordable way to stream in outstanding picture quality.

Roku Express and Express+ These devices carry over from past year. Instead of the rounded box of earlier media streamers, the Premiere is a small black plastic block a few inches long, created to be placed under or in front of your TV. The press release simply says "select Roku devices". Unlike pricier models with point-anywhere RF remotes, it includes a lower-cost infrared remote that requires line-of-sight to the streaming device, and it uses single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, which doesn't support the speedy 5 GHz band of newer routers.

Aside from a nicer remote, the Roku Ultra also supports 1080p and 4K streaming, additional storage through micro SD cards or USB, and a "night listening" mode that levels out the sound by lowering high-volume moments and raising low-volume moments.

Now, in 2018, the reverse is true: the new Premiere will take the shape of the Roku Express - i.e. a petite, crescent-shaped player with rounded edges.

Roku's voice control and smart speaker strategy is more ambitious than its approach to streaming hardware.

Even before that, there'll be better voice support courtesy of the Google Assistant.

The company won't get into detail on why its voice assistant and broader home audio plans have been delayed.

But in lieu of an immediate AI overhaul, Roku is making some more modest improvements to the voice controls in some of its remotes. Pandora Premium is already available on the Pandora channel in the Roku Channel Store, and the Google Assistant capability will arrive within the next few weeks. Finally, there's iHeartRadio, Pandora, and TuneIn voice support, all of which will integrate with the Roku voice remote or - if you don't have that - the Roku app.

The missing piece is the ability to launch directly into videos from apps like Netflix, HBO Now, or YouTube TV.

Roku does not give a specific list of which Roku devices will see the Google Assistant update.

Amazon's Fire TV is normally listed at $US70, but the price has recently been lowered to $US40.

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[Image: courtesy of Roku] To be fair, using your voice as the TV remote still feels rudimentary on those devices.

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