Roku’s New Firmware Explored

Roku’s New Firmware Explored

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Ryan Michael Downey Roku‘s new firmware is available for manual download via its settings menu. the update unlocks many new features. From new looks for familiar apps to freshly integrated features  like M-Go on demand services and Roku’s news service, the update gives Roku a new shine heading in to the holiday season. New Universal Search Features The universal search now includes results from M-Go along with all of the other choices in the select group of video apps linked to the search feature. In fact the universal search feature is the only way to look for specific titles  in M-Go, which has no native search feature,

The M-Go on demand movie and TV service is now available.
The M-Go on demand movie and TV service is now available.

more on this later. Also included in the search results are Netflix, Block Buster on Demand, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Vudu, Crackle, Red Box Instant and HBO Go.  This means that despite Roku including M-Go in its main menu it is not attempting to stifle competition from other on demand apps when searching for individual titles or actors. The look of the interface gets a slightly different feel also but still remains a helpful way to find selections across a wide spectrum of the set-top box’s featured apps. Netflix Changes The visually stunning new Netflix interface brings it in line with Netflix’s cross-platform upgrade meant to give the service a uniform look across all of the devices that offer the industry-leading streaming app. Roku users will now be able to select personalized profiles before launching the app, which means no more cartoons and children’s movies taking up real-estate in mom or dad’s queue. While this feature had been available on other platforms already this marks its

The new Netlfix interface uses more of the screen to  to highlight  it features.
The new Netlfix interface uses more of the screen to to highlight it features.

debut on Roku. The personal profiles are not the only new experience. When navigating Netflix’s menus  any given selection launches a loop of pictures from the film or TV show to give viewers a sneak peek at the visual style of the feature,  like the feature art on the back of a DVD or Blu-ray disk. A description for the given selection is prominently displayed in the upper left hand corner of the screen which also includes ratings, video playback quality and length (for movies).  The app even lets users behind the curtain to know why a given selection was recommended.  Last but not least video selections load more quickly. No more similar to Feature One major omission from the functionality front is that users can no longer view selections that are similar to a given movie or TV show with the push of a button. Under the original format pressing the asterisk on the remote previously brought up a menu of selections either related thematically to the current selection or other selections featuring the stars of movie or TV show. This would link a tittle such as Batman Beyond with the Avengers because they are both comic book movies or Thor to Charlie Bartlett because Cat Denning appears in both features. It was a helpful discovery tool that will be missed by those who utilized it. Unchanged Features Not everything about the Netflix experience has changed. If you had a “My List” it will still be available as will all of the specially created niche categories based on personalized ratings and preferences. Everything from because you watched “given title” and the specifically tailored selections “Zombie Based Dark Comedies” are alive  and well. M-Go On Demand TV Shows and Movies While Roku has for years featured many ways to access newly released movies and next day viewing of television shows it has up until now given all of the platforms equal treatment. Users have had the option to add Amazon, Vudu and most recently Target Ticket at their leisure or leave them out of the equation completely. That has changed with the new firmware. Just under the “My Channels” heading in Roku’s main menu is a heading for “Movies” and a heading for “TV Shows”. Both of these selections will shuttle users to M-Go, Roku’s official partner in on demand viewing. The feature is similar to Apple TV’s integration with the iTunes store. M-Go though is not owned and operated by Roku. Because it is partnered with Roku an M-Go account can be created with the push of a button using the email registered to the your Roku account as well as the credit card used to register the device. This saves users the trouble of having to go to a website and enter all of their information before diving in to the selections. Using M-Go TV: The TV selections are broken down by Top 50 TV, New Releases, TV Deals (which is a selection of bargain prices on lots of popular content) and of course “All” which will populate all available titles. There are also separate sections for purchased content and a watch list for those who want a reminder to purchase the latest episodes of their favorites. Television shows can be purchased by the episode or by the season. Movies: Movies are set up in a similar fashion to the television section. They are broken down in to genre categories along with the “My Movie Watch List” and “My Movie Library” for purchased digital content where purchased movies will stay readily available. Not unlike Vudu and other services M-Go also includes sub sections such as “Marvel Super Heroes”. Try For Free As an added bonus M-Go will give new users two free movie selections from its catalogue Lack of Discovery Engine One drawback of the M-Go service is that it does not have a service specific search. Unlike Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon and others who have a search feature embedded in to their apps, users looking for specific content on M-Go must use the Roku’s universal search. This means that M-Go titles will be populated side by side with selections from other services. Also despite its genre categorizes  selections are also not organized in any way. When searching for TV shows there is no separation based on Network affiliation nor are the selections listed in alphabetical order. This is a curious omission that almost emulates the days of the discount DVD box at a big box store. When accessing media on a device that is built on the idea of customization of media it is off-putting to search for a movie or television show in that fashion. Roku’s New News Section Roku has partnered with AOL to bring an integrated video news service on to the device. The News heading is listed under TV shows and features short video segments from categories across the spectrum. The categories include News, Entertainment, Technology, Business, Health, Travel and Weird News. The service is easy to navigate and will help users quickly catch up on the headlines of the day with a few clicks. The segments load fast in full HD and will continue from story to story until the user stops. With a selection of models starting as low as $50.00 before various holiday mark downs Roku’s continued firmware improvements and apps may well make it a big winner this Christmas.

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