The Roku 3 (USA Today/Roku)
(USA Today) -- The Roku streaming box player gets a big update Wednesday with the release of the Roku 3.
The $99 box, which replaces the Roku 2, has a faster processor, stronger Wi-Fi and, most important, a new search interface.
On previous models, if you wanted to find out if the movie The Descendants, for instance, was available for viewing on the Roku box, you'd have to search for it app by app, stopping at Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and other Roku channels until you found the answer.
Now, Roku has one central search.
"This makes it more seamless," says Ali Vassigh, Roku's director of user experience.
The Roku box connects to the TV to bring in Internet entertainment programming from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, among 750 total channels. (New additions coming soon: PBS, PBS Kids and Time Warner Cable.)
It competes with smart TVs, connected Blu-ray players and the Apple TV set-top box, which offer similar functions. Roku has been a big hit - this quarter it will surpass sales of 5 million units since the original Roku was introduced in 2008.
For the remote control, Roku has put some innovation into what is the couch potato's most-used accessory:
-- Headphone jack. Spouses, rejoice! A small hole on one side of the remote allows for insertion of a headphone, which then mutes the sound of the TV, allowing you to continue watching while your spouse goes to sleep.
-- Non-point usage. Unlike virtually every other remote in the world, you don't have to point it toward an Infrared signal. It will operate whether it faces the TV or anywhere else in the room. How it works: It uses the Wi-Fi signal to talk to the Roku box, which, when connected, controls the TV.
An updated user interface will also be available to previous Roku customers who've bought units since July 2011 as a software update, beginning in April.
The new Roku 3 goes on sale at Roku.com and Amazon this week but won't get into retail stores until April.