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Roku 3 Set-Top Box Adds Power, Simplicity

3/10/2013 08:00:00 PM Eastern

SARATOGA, CALIF. – Streaming entertainment-on-demand service Roku introduced the latest addition to its lineup of set-top boxes last week, offering a more powerful processor and enhanced user interface.

The Roku 3, which ships to brick-and-mortar retailers in April at a $100 suggested retail, will be positioned as the new premium set-top box in the company’s line, and will enable users to access more than 750 channels of web-based entertainment content.

The box is available now through Roku’s dot-com ecommerce partners, including Amazon.com and Roku.com.

Roku said the more powerful Broadcom processor at the heart of the Roku 3 box makes it easier and quicker to access the service’s rapidly multiplying partner apps.

Initially the new processor will speed up the process of accessing content, but in the future it will enable new levels of advanced game play, said Lloyd Klarke, Roku product management director.

In addition, the Roku 3 includes an enhanced remote with a side-mounted mini headphone jack that allows users to plug in earphones (a pair is included with the device) to privately listen to TV or music through the set-top box via a Wi-Fi connection anywhere in the house.

Volume buttons on the remote control audio while in private listening mode. Additionally, the remote doubles as a motion-sensing game controller for playing games like “Angry Birds Space.”

Roku also offers a free app for iOS and Android devices to control Roku operation from smartphones and tablets.

Roku said its new interface will launch with the Roku 3 and will be added as an update to prior active Roku devices, including the Roku LT, Roku HD (model 2500R), Roku 2 HD, Roku 2 XD, Roku 2 XS and the Roku Streaming Stick. The new system offers an even simpler way of navigating and finding content on the Roku platform, the company said. A fully integrated Roku Channel Store and one-stop search lets customers find what they want.

Roku 3 delivers up to 1080p HD video content and adds a dual-band wireless Wi- Fi connectivity, an Ethernet port, a USB port and a MicroSD slot.

Klarke said the new highend Roku 3 device omits analog output connections (composite-video out is available on the entry and mid-range models) because “our consumer studies show that the $99 customer has an HDMI set, and it’s easier for that customer to hook it up that way.”

The box also does not offer HDMI pass through.

Meanwhile, Roku said it recently added several new channels to its platform, including TWC TV, Blockbuster On Demand and iHeartRadio.

Other channels launching soon include FOX Now, PBS and PBS Kids.

Roku’s continued focus on improving its user interface and simplifying the user experience should help it compete against the Apple TV set-top box, which it has been running neck and neck with in the marketplace, said Klarke.

“Our continued focus on content, and this is something that we’ve done over the last couple of years, has amassed a lot of special interests along with all of the top channels,” he added. “We have services like HBO Go, and we are now adding Time Warner Cable through Roku, and we offer affordability. At $99 we have much more than any one of our competitors.”