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Roku offers more streaming options with the new Roku 1 and Roku 2 players

The company is also adding M-Go, a pay-as-you-go streaming service

Published: September 25, 2013 08:00 AM

Roku, which launched a flagship Roku 3 streaming media player earlier this spring, has now passed its update wand across the rest of its player lineup, adding the Roku 1 and Roku 2 models and revamping its entry-level Roku LT model. Two things that aren't changing: pricing and the lack of direct access to YouTube.

Roku streaming media players, especially the Roku 3, have done very well in our tests of streaming media players. The Roku 3 is among our tops picks and is especially recommended if you're looking for a lot of content.

To that end, Roku is increasing the number of channels it offers from about 700 to 1,000 in the U.S., the company says. Its channel lineup now includes the recently launched M-Go entertainment streaming service, which lets you rent or buy TV shows and movies.

All new Roku players feature an updated design. At $50, the Roku LT is the least expensive model, and the only one currently limited to 720p resolution. Stepping up to the new $60 Roku 1, which replaces the 720p Roku HD, gets you support for 1080p video quality.

The $80 Roku 2, which replaces the Roku XD, adds two features—dual-band Wi-Fi and a remote control with a built-in headphone jack—that were previously available only on the Roku 3. It also has analog connections, something the Roku 3 lacks. But the Roku 3 has a faster processor, plus a USB port and an Ethernet jack for a wired network connection, which aren't available on the other models. It also has an enhanced motion-sensing remote for games.

You can preorder the new Roku models, due in stores next month, through Roku.com.

Find the right model for you with our streaming media player buying guide and Ratings.

The new model gets Roku 3's dual-band Wi-Fi and a remote with a headphone jack
Photo: Roku

Additionally, Roku is closely integrating the M-Go service within new Movies and TV Shows shortcuts on the Roku home screen. M-Go is a pay-as-you-go service‚ much like Vudu or CinemaNow, through which you can rent or buy popular TV shows and newly released movies. The service allows each family member to create a personalized profile, and a recommendation feature will offer suggestions about content it thinks you'll like. To make purchasing easier, M-GO billing is integrated within your Roku account, so no additional billing set-up is needed.

There was some speculation before the announced update that Roku would be adding some features similar to Chromecast to its newest boxes, using an AirPlay-like second-screen mirroring technology called DIAL (short for "discovery and launch") that was developed by Netflix and YouTube. But that isn't happening—at least with this latest player release. But don't count it out in the near future, the company says.

Roku and Apple TV dominate the market for standalone streaming media players. While Apple TV has a greater installed base of players, Roku is narrowing the gap. In fact, Roku accounts for more streaming than Apple TV, according to a recent study by Parks Associates, which found that 37 percent of respondents primarily used a Roku media player for streaming, compared with 24 percent who mainly use an Apple TV device.

—James K. Willcox

   

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