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Roku Ultra (2020) Review: | TechHive

2020 Roku Ultra is a surprisingly tough streaming box to review.

While Roku’s hardware and software have not changed much from last year’s model, the wider world of streaming TV has changed a lot. Between new services like Apple TV +, Peacock, HBO Max and the upcoming Paramount +, there are more streaming options to juggle than ever. In response, we’ve seen devices like Chromecast with Google TV and TiVo Stream 4K emerge to make sense of these options, and channel content from multiple apps into a single unified menu.

Roku, meanwhile, has maintained its less ambitious approach: Make free content easy to find, but get users to dig through individual apps for everything else.

This review is part of TechHive̵

7;s coverage of the best media streamers, where you will find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

If you still agree with this approach, the $ 100 Roku Ultra has a lot to like. It supports Dolby Vision and HLG video with high dynamic range, Bluetooth audio and Dolby Atmos audio decoding. It’s also agility faster than other Roku players, and it still has the most comfortable remote you can find with any streaming player today.

But if you anchor a new paradigm in streaming, where it is no longer necessary to dig through a dozen different apps, the new Roku Ultra will inevitably disappoint.

Slicker box, better specifications

Roku Ultra 2020 is easy to distinguish from previous versions. The plastic housing has a matte surface instead of being glossy around the edges, and the sides of the box curve inwards instead of outwards. I find it more attractive.

rokuultra2019v2020 Jared Newman / IDG

2019s Roku Ultra on the left, 2020s Ultra on the right.

The port arrangement has also changed. There are no more MicroSD card slots for expandable storage, although Ultra has more built-in storage. (Roku will not say exactly how much.) Meanwhile, the USB slot for local media playback has moved from the side of the box to the back, where it gets along with the Ethernet port and the HDMI output.

rokuultrarear Jared Newman / IDG

MicroSD for extended storage is gone, but USB for local media playback remains.

This is also the first Roku player with Bluetooth, so you can connect a phone, tablet or computer and play music through the TV. It’s a nice addition, although it does not support pairing of wireless headphones to play audio from Roku. (For that, you can use Roko’s mobile app, which offers private listening through headphones or earbuds connected to the phone.)

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