Roku is launching the third generation of its trademark Internet set-top boxes, with an overhauled user interface, a speedier processor and a 750-plus channel lineup that now includes access to Time Warner Cable’s TWC TV service.
And among other enhancements, the $99.99 Roku 3 includes a remote with a headphone jack for private listening.
The Roku 3’s dual-core ARM-based processor chip from Broadcom is about five times faster than the Roku 2 XS for snappier performance, according to director of product management Lloyd Klarke.
This quarter, Roku will surpass 5 million set-top shipments to date since it launched its first device for streaming Netflix video in 2008, Klarke said. In 2012, Roku users watched more than 1 billion hours of video.
The Roku lineup now includes TWC TV -- with up to 300 live channels available to the MSO’s video and broadband customers -- as well as Blockbuster On-Demand, HBO Go, Disney, Fox News Channel, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Pandora, UFC and Walmart’s Vudu. Other channels launching soon include Fox Now, PBS, iHeartRadio and Rhapsody.
Roku 3’s new interface is designed to simplify access to channels, and now includes an integrated Roku Channel Store (instead of a separate app as before) with a one-stop search across channels and programs. Making it easier to find content was a priority given that Roku is adding an average of one channel per day, Klarke said.
In addition, the new UI displays nine channels on the screen at once compared with five in previous guide, and includes five different user-selectable visual themes (the classic Roku purple plus Daydream, Graphene, Decaf and the sci-fi-inflected Nebula).
The new interface will automatically roll out as a free software update in April to all current-generation Roku devices: the Roku LT, Roku HD (model 2500R), Roku 2 HD, Roku 2 XD, Roku 2 XS and the Roku Streaming Stick.
The Roku 3 is about 5 ounces -- two ounces heavier than the 2 XS -- and has increased viscosity on the bottom so it won’t slide around. The new unit, which is about 3 inches square, also features a more contoured industrial design.
“It’s more of a living-room object than a technology object,” Klarke said.
The Roku 3’s remote includes a headphone jack for private listening and a set of earbuds. The Wi-Fi-enabled remote has volume buttons for controlling audio while in private-listening mode and also doubles as a motion-sensing game controller for playing games like Angry Birds Space.
The set-top supports 1080p HD and includes dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB ports, and a microSD slot.
The Roku 3 will be available to order starting Wednesday in the U.S. through Roku.com and Amazon.com; it will also be available in retail stores nationwide including Best Buy and Walmart beginning in April.
Roku’s investors include News Corp., BSkyB and venture-capital firms Menlo Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners. Dish Network also is reportedly an investor in the Saratoga, Calif.-based company. Roku has about 200 employees.