Roku bills its new Ultra device as its fastest and most powerful player ever. Its features include 50% more range for its wireless capabilities, support for Dolby Vision (an HDR standard), Dolby Atmos (a surround-sound format), and Bluetooth, a fast channel launch, a lost remote finder capability, voice-remote controls and personal shortcut buttons, and the ability to share videos, photos, and music from an Apple device using AirPlay (a streaming service).
Those who compare the teardowns of previous-generation Roku devices with the new Ultra will notice several significant differences in the componentry. As with older devices, disassembly begins with pulling the rubber pad off the bottom of the Ultra to reveal four ordinary Philips screws. (Also beneath the pad is what appears to be a reset push-button which goes unmentioned in the Ultra instructions.)
The first difference evident between this and previous generations of Roku devices is the heat sinking. Older Roku boxes had an aluminum piece screwed into the top half of the case. It provided a large heat-sink that cooled the main processor. The aluminum piece is gone from the new Ultra. Instead, designers used a smaller two-piece heat sink that fits on top of the metal shielding that protects the two SDRAM chips and the main display processor. Thermal grease connects the display processor to the heat sinking.
The other most evident difference in this edition of the Roku: The presence of three different antennas to handle the multiband WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.
Most of the ICs on the Ultra come from Realtek in Taiwan. This is also a change in vendor from previous-generation devices. The main display processor carries a part-number of RTD1319VR. This isn’t a commercial Realtek device. The closest relative we could find is the RTD2662 series, a flat-panel LCD controller. It has some of the same features you’d expect to find in the Roku display processor, including support for an IR remote, HDMI processing, and an independent color processor. The Realtek display processor sits in a metal-shielded area together with two 8 Gb SDRAM chips from Nanya, a Taiwanese memory maker.
The other memory chip on the Roku main board is a 5 GB Toshiba NAND flash. It has a Toshiba part number but evidently was manufactured in Taiwan, judging by its markings. This is where user settings and configuration data gets stored.
The final main chip on the Roku board is an RTL8822 multifunction WiFi SoC which sits in its own shielded enclosure. It’s data sheet says it contains both a 200-MHz Real-M300 CPU and a 20-MHz Real-M200 CPU to handle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Wireless MAC/baseband/RF, as well as audio codec features and configurable GPIOs.
The IR remote unit for the new Ultra also looks quite different than previous models. It will obey voice commands, so it includes a microphone that sits on the underside of its PCB. The main chip is a Realtek RTL8721DM. It’s description sounds similar to that of the WiFi/Bluetooth chip on the main Roku device, but it is specifically built to work as an HMI device. So it includes functions such as key scanning, IR signal handling, and an audio ADC. That said, it is interesting that we didn’t spot a discrete antenna on the remote. Apparently some of the conductive traces on the PCB double as antennas.
One last new feature on the remote is a buzzer-type assembly that sits in the top part of the case and connects to the PCB via a twisted pair. The buzzer/speaker serves two functions. It emits a tone as audible feedback when the user sets up personal shortcut buttons. It also helps locate the remote if it is lost between the couch cushions or if the dog has hidden it; Pressing a button on the Roku main unit actuates the buzzer.
There you have it. All in all, a lot of features built into the latest generation of streaming technology.