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Review: 2018 Roku Ultra Brings HLG, Google Assistant

Review: 2018 Roku Ultra Brings HLG, Google Assistant

Among the many newly up to date Roku media gamers lately introduced for 2018 is a refresh of its top-of-the-line Roku Ultra set-top field bringing a small variety of upgrades.

All Roku media gamers can be hitting retail shops this month, and can obtain a firmware replace to the brand new Roku 9.zero OS, bringing some additional options. Sadly, the check participant used on this assessment nonetheless had the eight.1 OS, so we weren’t capable of check out all the new bells and whistles, however what the participant provides on the hardware finish is sort of good.

In contrast to the opposite revamped Roku units, the Ultra is neither at “Streaming Stick” nor a compact HDMI cable-connected sweet bar-shaped field.

The third-generation Roku Ultra is, at a look, almost similar to the first- and second-generation models — it’s a flat, square-shaped participant with rounded corners that resembles a compact moveable CD participant, besides this unit doesn’t play discs.

Nevertheless this iteration of the unit does settle for moveable media. One is the by way of the microSD card slot, which accepts microSD media for extra reminiscence to obtain and retailer apps for faster entry when customers amass a private library too giant for the on-board reminiscence to deal with. This yr’s model additionally provides a port for a USB reminiscence stick, the place customers can entry digital music, video and photograph information by way of the Roku Media Participant app.

Like the sooner Ultra variations, the 2018 mannequin helps as much as 4K Ultra HD decision video and HDR10 excessive dynamic vary. New this yr is the addition of help for the Hybrid Log-Gamma, or HLG HDR profile, which lacks lots of programming now, however that’s anticipated to vary quickly. Naturally, to utilize an HDR profile, the tv set a lot be outfitted to deal with it. Many so-called “HDR capable” 4K TVs on the market lack help for HLG.

The participant’s 4K and HDR help, in fact, is along with all the decrease decision Full HD, HD codecs legacy HDMI-equipped televisions may require. Understand that any tv used with this system have to be outfitted a minimum of with an HDMI port. No analog outputs are included. Additionally absent is an optical audio output, which the Gen. 1 model did help, earlier than Roku opted to dispense with it in Gen. 2.

The participant additionally should hook up with both an in-home Wi-Fi community by way of the participant’s built-wireless connection or hardwired utilizing the participant’s Ethernet port.

We have been considerably stunned to seek out Roku nonetheless hasn’t added help for the Dolby Imaginative and prescient, HDR10+ or Technicolor HDR codecs to the gadget, since rival Apple TV made the addition of HDR10 and Dolby Imaginative and prescient help an enormous a part of its function package deal within the final installment, and now presents a wholesome library of 4K Dolby Imaginative and prescient films in it’s iTunes service.

Moreover, Roku is supporting Dolby Imaginative and prescient in choose 4K Ultra HD Roku TVs from TCL and Hisense.

We have been advised Roku continues to review including help for Dolby Imaginative and prescient and different HDR codecs for future generations. Within the meantime, anybody sufficient in having Dolby Imaginative and prescient will have already got a Dolby Imaginative and prescient-enabled tv with the power to stream 4K Dolby Imaginative and prescient content material by way of choose apps within the tv’s built-in sensible TV platform.

What’s New With Ultra?

So what’s totally different concerning the 2018 Roku Ultra? Not a lot, together with the $99.99 instructed retail worth ($89 road worth). Nevertheless, the unit properly provides a USB port for entry to exterior reminiscence help to play music and video information, and premium JBL earbuds (Roku stated this can be a $39.99 worth) for personal listening.

Meaning, customers will be capable of plug the earbuds into the headphone jack positioned on the left aspect of the provided distant management for personal listening. That method the tv’s sound will reduce out as sound is ported over to the earbuds to take heed to this system sound with out disturbing others close by.

Within the new Ultra, personal listening mode works the identical approach it all the time has, besides the newly included JBL earbuds add a slight improve in sound high quality and ear consolation to the previous purple and black ones that got here with earlier fashions. It’s a pleasant contact however not an enormous step up. Each earbuds sound fairly good.

In testing the earbuds we did run into an issue returning the Roku Ultra to regular tv sound after unplugging the earbuds. We discovered we needed to restart the Ultra by unplugging and re-plugging from the facility outlet to reset regular sound playback.

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By the best way, the Ultra’s new distant additionally options buttons to show off/on TV energy and management the quantity, with out the necessity to go to the tv’s distant. This can be a comfort function that’s fairly straightforward to arrange with a supporting tv.

We examined the Roku Ultra on a 2017 Samsung 65Q8 TV. Nevertheless, we ran right into a glitch utilizing the Ultra’s quantity management when the set was related to an A/V receiver for house theater sound.

This yr’s model additionally has an up to date assortment of distant finder alert tunes together with the Recreation of Thrones Theme and ESPN’s acquainted two-bar “DaDaDa DaDaDa” jingle. That’s to not recommend that anybody will probably be listening to them fairly often, we hope.

If the tiny distant ever disappears beneath the couch cushions or into the canine’s mattress, urgent a button on the Roku Ultra will activate the audible alert for fast location and retrieval.

Awaiting All the time-On Voice Management

New this yr for Roku media gamers in addition to Roku TVs would be the capacity to regulate primary system features and program searches utilizing Google Assistant voice instructions. This implies customers with a Google Assistant supporting enter gadget like always-on Google Residence sensible audio system and even smartphones with a Google Assistant app put in will have the ability to easy converse a desired command and have the tv flip off or on, increase the quantity or seek for a favourite film or app.

Sadly, the Google Assistant functionality wasn’t out there on the time we carried out our check. Roku stated it is going to be coming in a couple of weeks. Our check unit was outfitted with the older eight.1 OS, awaiting the firmware replace to the brand new OS 9.zero model as a result of arrive between early November and the top of the primary quarter of 2019.

So, we anticipate the Roku Ultra to be much more highly effective and responsive, however even with out the enhancements we discovered the unit to be as pleasantly straightforward to make use of as ever.

Roku Voice Search

In fact, voice search functionality lengthy has been a part of the function set of choose step-up Roku media participant fashions. The brand new Roku Ultra continues to hold a mic within the distant management and a push and maintain activation button to simply accept spoken instructions for program searches by way of the Roku app associate portfolio.

Nevertheless, the firmware within the assessment pattern was nonetheless on the present OS model and didn’t function in a different way from what’s on the market now. Voice instructions are susceptible to occasional glitches understanding title requests. That is often correctable, nevertheless, after a number of tries, and positive beats searching and pecking for letters via an on-screen delicate keypad.

Roku stated all of the media gamers shall be getting enhanced search command functionality that may current an optimized approach to seek for free content material in a short time, for instance, by saying, “Search for free comedies” into the distant’s mic, to have the tv immediately load an inventory of the free comedies out there from the varied app providers at the moment.

In the meantime, Roku’s new streaming gamers for 2018 deliver entry to each the HDR10 and newly added HLG excessive dynamic vary (HDR) profiles. As talked about, not one of the Roku gamers but help Dolby Imaginative and prescient, HDR10+ or Technicolor Superior HDR.

Roku stated it added help for HLG as a result of YouTube is now beginning to supply some content material supporting the HLG profile and that profile is predicted to quickly achieve traction amongst broadcast and cable TV providers. DirecTV, for instance, is carrying HLG on its satellite tv for pc platform, however not but via the DirecTV Now stay app service.

We gained’t be stunned to see HLG help HDR coming over the air by means of the brand new ATSC three.zero terrestrial broadcast system within the subsequent yr or two.


At $99.99 the Roku Ultra participant continues to be an unimaginable worth and our selection for the perfect exterior media streamers available on the market. That is largely as a result of customers will discover a lengthy record of apps from the mainstream to esoteric programming sources not obtainable on a variety of the preferred streaming TV platforms constructed into the units of main TV manufacturers or on media gamers from rival producers. That alone makes a Roku Ultra a pleasant add-on for full programming entry.

Now, with help for each HDR10 and HLG, viewers could have a variety of choices prepared to make use of as content material suppliers start to replace their choices. As famous, we have been a bit disillusioned to not discover any dynamic metadata HDR profiles help, most noteably Dolby Imaginative and prescient. However HLG was an sudden shock. And as talked about, in case you are that serious about Dolby Imaginative and prescient, you in all probability already personal a 4K Dolby Imaginative and prescient-enabled tv set that may stream supporting providers internally.

Nevertheless, this yr, customers are going to need to determine not provided that the Roku Ultra participant is a greater worth than the newest Apple TV 4K (recommended retails starting from $179 to $199) with Dolby Imaginative and prescient and HDR10, however are the few additional choices well worth the almost $30 increase in worth from the brand new $49.99 instructed retail Roku Premiere Plus? In any case, the Premiere Plus carries a lot of the similar capabilities, together with the voice distant with TV energy/quantity management buttons, 4K with HDR10 and HLG help, however minus JBL earbuds and the participant’s USB port. Moreover, the $39.99 Premiere and the Premiere Plus fashions include a provided HDMI cable, which the Roku Ultra doesn’t.

Most will in all probability be higher off with both of the inexpensive Premiere gamers.

Nonetheless, we just like the added flexibility the Ultra gave us, and the power to shortly plug a thumb drive or exterior HDD into the participant to entry a trove of personally saved music and video information is a pleasant contact.

As famous, our evaluation check pattern lacked the forthcoming new OS 9.zero, which we anticipate will convey added performance and new options, like Google Assistant connectivity, to 2018 fashions, so we expect the excellent efficiency and app choice will solely get higher because it goes alongside.

For many who already personal a earlier Roku Ultra era, it’s in all probability not value upgrading to this model. It doesn’t add that a lot, however Roku newbies who need the perfect ought to discover this a pleasantly straightforward to make use of shock for getting even exhausting to seek out apps.

We subsequently award the 2018 Roku Ultra media participant four.5 out of 5 hearts. 4.5 out of 5



The 2018 Roku Ultra used for this evaluation was an organization mortgage.


By Greg Tarr


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