New Roku Express and Roku Ultra players to load videos 20% faster

(Image credit: Roku)

Roku is announcing that two of its most popular players are both getting a hardware refresh for 2019 that should make videos load up to 20% faster. 

The players up for a refresh are the 4K HDR-capable Roku Ultra that’s getting more memory and the cheaper, HD-only Roku Express which will be see a reduced physical footprint and new SoC. 

The new hardware inside the players themselves will account for a slight boost in speed, but an even bigger boost will come from Roku OS 9.2, the latest version of Roku’s player software, that will offer faster initial setup and video startup times. 

The good news? Roku isn’t planning on upping the price of either player: the Roku Express will still only cost $29.99 (£25) while the Roku Ultra will come in at $99 (not available in the UK).

Come on down, player

So what’s Roku doing differently with these players? The Roku Express will actually look different than before – according to Roku it will be around 10% smaller. The basic version still comes with a basic remote and not the more popular voice remote, but it retains the same low price as before. 

The refined Ultra doesn’t look any different than its predecessor, but Roku says it’s loading it up with a number of new features that will make the player faster than before. The first of those features is the new Fast Channel Launcher that loads news content 20% faster and most channels – at least all of the ones in Roku’s Top 100 apps – will now load 17% faster.

The other new features coming to the 2019 Roku Ultra are two customizable buttons similar to the ones found on the Roku Touch that will allow you to set custom commands directly to buttons on the remote.

(Image credit: Roku)

Get ready for Roku OS 9.2 

Of course what’s new hardware without new software to go with it? Thankfully, with both the Roku Ultra and Roku Express you’ll be getting Roku OS 9.2. 

New features in the latest version of the egalitarian OS is a new curated list of content called Roku Zones that will show up in search results and offer interconnected content recommendations. In an example provided by Roku, Roku Zones would allow you to see all the Oscar Award-winning movies if you search for something like La La Land or Moonlight. Once you find something to watch, Roku says, content will load faster than before thanks to the updated hardware.  

So when will you be able to get your hands on the latest Roku devices? 

In the US, pre-orders begin today with a full roll out expected sometime in October while UK readers can expect the Roku Express, Roku Premiere and Roku Streaming Stick+ in the coming weeks.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.