Element Roku TV Review
If you're lucky enough to find this Roku TV, it might be the perfect way to upgrade
The Element Roku TV is a 50-inch model that boasts 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range compatibility, and the Roku smart platform built right into the software. As of this review, it's available exclusively at Wal-Mart for $368 (though this price may change). And by exclusively, I mean you can only buy the TV in a brick-and-mortar Wal-Mart, which settles this TV into a bit of a niche. It's also only available in one screen size, which further narrows the subset of potential buyers.
However, if you're in the market for an affordable 50-inch model, getting one like this for $300 and change certainly seems like an incredible deal. Not only do you get the titular Roku platform baked right into the TV, this Element model also delivers 4K resolution and support for HDR10, which is a pretty staunch feature set for how affordable it is.
While there are some small drawbacks here that buyers should know about, all-in-all, this is a very valuable buy. The TV looks good for what you're paying, and is stuffed to the gills with content compatibility. The only issue is how hard it'll be to track down—but if you're a patron of Wal-Mart and in the market for a 50-inch TV, this is a spectacular deal.
About the Element Roku TV
The Element Roku TV is available in one size only:
• 50-inch (Element E4SW5017RKU), MSRP $368
The 50-inch Element Roku TV is a 4K, HDR10-compatible, Roku-ready smart TV. We received ours on loan from Roku, and gave it 24 hours of warm up/break-in time prior to review and evaluation. This TV can only be found/purchased in-store at select Wal-Mart retail locations—at least for now.
What We Like
You're getting a lot of sizzle—for a very reasonable price
Obviously, the main draw of this TV are that its laundry list of desirable features can be had for such a low price. Getting a 50-inch 4K HDR Roku TV for $368 is a ridiculous bargain. The TV is indeed 50 inches in size, and we can confirm its resolution is 3,840 x 2,160 (4K), that it comes with the Roku platform, and that it will play HDR content.
While it feels a little silly to simply check off the spec boxes as part of a full review, the pricing on this model is so much lower than most of the competition (the 50-inch Vizio E Series is almost $100 more expensive) that it's worth acknowledging that there's no catch here: you are, in fact, getting a 50-inch 4K HDR smart TV for under $400.
However, that doesn't mean that corners weren't cut in order to get the price so low—but more on that in the next section.
As usual, the included Roku platform is a defining feature
While it's extremely unlikely you don't already have a pretty robust solution for streaming content in 2018, when it comes to the array of options, they're not all created entirely equal. Roku is our favorite streaming platform due to its extremely robust content offering and intuitive, easy-to-navigate software, so it's only a bonus that it's included with this TV.
Not going to blow you away, but it looks pretty good
As you'd probably expect from the pricing, the Element Roku TV doesn't look amazing, but I was honestly expecting it to exhibit more problems than it did, given the price.
Overall, picture quality here is solid, and the TV performed pretty well in our in-depth lab tests. I measured decent overall contrast (reference brightness around 130 nits in Movie mode and black levels around 0.036 nits), accurate color production, and neutral, color-free grayscale elements (grays, whites).
I'd say this TV has the chops to make anything you're streaming—Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, etc.—look very good. Sub-4K content scales well enough, and the TV is bright and colorful enough to satisfy. It doesn't stand up to more expensive sets, but it won't disappoint the standard viewer. You can check out the charts and test details on the Science Page.
What We Don't Like
Not much to look at, but at least the remote is great
While you could probably guess as much, one place where this Element TV has cut corners is its design. Not that it's designed poorly, but it's about as bare-bones as modern TVs come, comprised primarily of plain black plastic. The 50-inch screen perches on two equally chintzy-feeling, wide-set feet. This TV isn't going to impress anyone in the looks department, but it at least feels sturdy enough to take a few knocks without shorting out.
On the back of the TV, you'll find the TV's selection of audio-video connections. Element provides four HDMI inputs, two USB inputs, shared component/composite inputs, ethernet (LAN) input, digital (optical) audio out, a 3.5mm jack for headphones, and a coaxial connection for cable/satellite. My one gripe with the connectivity options is that all of the HDMI cable inputs are vertically inclined. While this is better for wall-mounting, it's a pain to plug HDMI cables into, and it's almost impossible to tell (initially) which port is HDMI 1, 2, 3, or 4.
The TV also includes the standard Roku remote control: a small, easy-to-use clicker that's identical to the one that comes with the standalone Roku streaming boxes. It's compact, minimalist, and makes the perfect companion to the Roku software.
A 60 Hz refresh rate isn't great news for film buffs
Obviously, this Element TV is playing hard into the value/budget factor at its roughly $360 starting price, and one corner it cuts is by using a panel with a 60 Hz native refresh rate instead of a 120 Hz native refresh rate. Right now, TVs come in two "native" refresh rate types: either 60 Hz or 120 Hz. The former is fine for stuff like streaming content on Netflix, cable/satellite TV, etc., but won't play Blu-rays (or 24fps content) as smoothly as a 120 Hz screen.
The Element Roku TV is poised to be a TV primarily for streaming, so this isn't a huge issue, but it's something to keep in mind if you're thinking about buying but have a big Blu-ray collection at home. Fans of on-disc films should consider spending more to get a 120 Hz panel.
The TV is HDR compatible, but not a great HDR TV
For regular content, this Element Roku TV actually looks a lot better than I was expecting. But I also wasn't expecting it to drop jaws playing HDR content, and that's pretty much the case here.
The main draw of HDR is that it's graded/colored to take advantage of the higher color saturation and overall brightness/luminance modern TVs are capable of. Unfortunately, the Element Roku TV doesn't really have good "HDR" specs. When playing HDR content, it looks about the same as it does playing SDR content. The content itself may look better than its SDR counterpart, but the TV lacks the brightness/color specs to do it much justice.
Of course, where compatibility is concerned, there's no issue. You can stream everything on services like Netflix or Amazon Video, whether it's standard content, 4K/UHD content, or HDR (also 4K) content without issue. Just don't expect it to blow you away.
Should You Buy It?
Maybe—if your needs cross paths with this model's limited flexibility
The Element Roku TV is a great deal at $368, but it's limited in appeal to only a few types of buyers. It's only available in a 50-inch size, and according to our loan contact, is only available in-store at Wal-Mart—not online or at any other brick-and-mortar locations.
However, if you're in the market for a 50-inch TV, you won't be disappointed. Picture quality is reliable, if not mind-blowing, and getting extras like HDR compatibility and the very user-friendly Roku platform make this a great bundle where content accessibility is concerned.
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