Roku has announced a faster and more powerful internet media streamer.
The Roku 3 is the first Roku to sport a completely redesigned interface that adopts the grid format seen in some competing devices. The new interface also includes a new "one-stop" Search feature that lets your search by title or artist across multiple channels.
It's not clear how many channels the search feature covers. But the blurb on the product page shows logos for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Crackle and HBO Go. So if you're willing to pay for content, the Roku 3 will make it easier for you to empty your wallet.
Roku said the new interface will be available as a free upgrade for Roku 2, LT and HD (model #2500) models by "May 2013".
The 3 features a faster dual-core Broadcom A9 processor that promises to let you easily and quickly cruise around its new interface and load channels more quickly. You also get a new wireless remote (using Wi-Fi Direct) that lets you mute your TV's sound and listen via earphones plugged into the remote. Volume can be adjusted via a rocker on the side and Roku includes a pair of earbuds. The remote also functions as a game controller for the bundled Angry Birds and other titles available from Roku's Channel Store.
Other hardware features include a micro-SD card slot, USB 2.0 port, 10/100 Ethernet LAN connection and dual-band Wi-Fi. It also appears that the 3 supports some sort of content projection, since Roku is advertising that its app will let you play images and music (but not video) from your mobile device. (Fast Company reports that the mechanism is Miracast.)
Roku's main weakness compared to streamers like WD's WD TV Play has been its inability to play locally-stored content from either SMB shares or DLNA servers. There is nothing in today's announcement that says that the 3 changes this.
You can order one now from Roku for $99 or shortly from most everywhere else.