Roku adds headphones to latest online video player
Roku is plugging headphones and several other new features into its latest set-top box for streaming Internet video to TVs, a move that amplifies its effort to upstage Apple's better-selling player.
The Roku 3 box going on sale Wednesday also includes a more powerful search engine to find movies, TV shows and music more quickly and new menu for perusing the more than 750 online services available through the device. The new model will be sold for $100, initially only at Roku's website and Amazon.com. Next month, it will expand into other retail outlets, including Costco and Best Buy stores. Prices for older Roku models with less horsepower start at $50.
The new player is the first update to Roku's line of set-top boxes since July 2011. In the interim, Roku last year introduced a finger-shaped device that plugs directly into high-definition ports, much like a flash drive fits into a personal computer's USB drive.
The ability to listen to video and music on headphones will probably be the Roku 3's biggest attraction, especially for households that already own one of the company's earlier boxes. Ear buds are included with the Roku 3, although any pair of headphones can be plugged into a jack on the side of the device's remote control. Just as with the set-top box itself, a Wi-Fi connection is required for the headphones to work. It's a feature unavailable on the Apple TV player that poses the main competition to Roku's streaming devices.
The Roku 3 introduces new navigation tools that will be automatically sent to previous versions of the box in a software update later this year. The redesign displays more information by stacking the channels vertically in rows of three instead of in single, horizontal row in the middle of the screen. The makeover means nine channel choices can be seen at a time instead of just five under the old format.
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