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Roku 3 Launches with Faster Processor, New UI and Private Listening

By Wesley Fenlon

Roku improves on its last model with better hardware and a reworked user interface that will also be coming to some of its existing players.

Roku announced the launch of a brand new media streamer on Tuesday. The Roku 3 arrives more than a year and a half after the last Roku hardware update. And like the fully featured Roku 2, the Roku 3 is sticking with an affordable price: $100.

Roku's announcement highlights a new processor, which it claims is five times faster than the chip powering the Roku 2. The company claims that processor will enable faster and smoother navigation of the user interface, which has also seen an overhaul. The Roku Channel Store and a search box are now integrated into the main menu for easier access, and the Channel Store shows more channels on the screen than in the previous layout. CNET writes that a persistent menu bar in the Channel Store makes navigation faster, and overall the new interface is a step up from Roku's old design.

Some existing customers will benefit from the reworked user interface in April: Roku plans to roll it out to all three Roku 2 models, the Roku HD (model 2500), Roku LT and Roku Streaming Stick.

The biggest addition to the Roku 3 may be a headphone jack in the included remote. Roku included a pair of earbuds with the media streamer, and if you plug a pair of 'phones into the remote, the Roku will mute the TV's audio and kick into private listening mode through the remote. It's a smart way for Roku to potentially reclaim some TV watchers who move to a tablet at night to watch with headphones. If they can watch in the living room without making any noise, they might give it a shot.

Nothing else major has changed with the Roku 3. The edge of the player sports a glossy, curved plastic finish, and it's a big heavier, at 5 ounces. It now supports dual-band Wi-Fi, but unlike the Roku 2 XS there's no SD video output. There is, however, an Ethernet port around back. HDMI, Ethernet, microSD and USB will have to suit you for connectors.

Roku plans to have its new box in stores this April, but it's already available on Roku's website and should be popping up on Amazon soon.