Roku just made the best TV streaming devices on the market a whole lot better.
A major software update to both the Roku 3 and the Roku Streaming Stick adds a new channel search feature, voice search, and the option to be notified when your favorite movie is available for streaming.
From a practicality standpoint, the channel search option is easily the most helpful part of the software update. It allows you to find channels by searching by name the same way you would search for a movie or TV show.
Previously, finding specific Roku channels was incredibly frustrating, as you had to guess the category that a certain channel fell into and then manually scroll through the available channel list. And with more than 2,000 channels of content — which mostly cover incredibly niche and strange topics — that got old real fast.
The new voice search feature is also a step up from Roku’s current search option. It lets you simply say what you want to watch and automatically pulls it up for you.
Like Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku’s voice search will be accessible via a special remote that comes with the updated $99 Roku 3. Also like Amazon’s Fire TV and TV Stick, Roku is making its voice search available via its mobile app. So if you have a previous-generation Roku or Roku Streaming Stick, you’ll still be able to take advantage of voice search.
Roku has also added a new Movies Coming Soon feature that lets you track movies from before they are in theaters to the time they are available for streaming, telling you what channels they are on and how much they cost.
So if you want to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but don’t feel like paying theater prices, you can add it to your Movies Coming Soon queue, and your Roku will update you whenever it can be streamed.
(Though if there is a movie that I care enough about to plan streaming it months ahead of its availability, I’ll probably just see it in a theater.)
In addition to the software update and improved Roku 3, the company has also announced a new version of the $79 Roku 2, which gets a faster processor that puts it on par with the Roku 3 in terms of performance.
That means the only difference between the new Roku 2 and new Roku 3 is the fact that the Roku 3 gets a better remote with voice search and built-in headphone port, while the Roku 2 gets a more basic remote.
I’m still partial to the Roku Streaming Stick, which at $49 gets you all of the same channels as the Roku 2 and Roku 3 and works with the Roku mobile app to use the new voice search feature.
That said, if you want to be able to flip through menus and settings faster and don’t mind spending some extra cash, the $79 Roku 2 seems like your best bet.