What is Roku TV, and is it right for you?
Roku is much more than just streaming sticks—it's TVs, too
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As more of us cut the cord and cancel cable, our collective attention turns to streaming content and the gadgets we use to watch Netflix, Hulu, and the rest of our web-based entertainment.
The name "Roku" has become somewhat synonymous with the cord-cutting movement; the company offers some of the most popular streaming devices on the market today.
What you might not be familiar with, however, are Roku TVs. These TVs are manufactured by several different brands and offer something a middle ground between a typical, built-in smart platform and an external streaming device. Depending on your budget and criteria, a Roku TV could be just the thing you're looking for.
What is a Roku TV?
To put it simply, a Roku TV is a TV that features Roku software. To put it not-so-simply, we're gonna need a quick refresher:
Most TVs—even entry-level, budget-friendly TVs—feature some selection of smart features, even if they're limited in scope. While not all TVs are blessed with a full array of apps and features, even the most affordable ones typically offer Netflix, Hulu, and some of the other usual suspects.
And then there's the external streaming device: a household gadget whose present-day ubiquity is undeniable. Be it a stick or a box, a dedicated streaming device is something we recommend just about every TV owner buys—even the ones who've just recently bought their TV.
Since most TVs come with smart features baked right into the TV's software, this might seem a little redundant, but given the nature of most smart platforms, we think it's a good idea. If you want to know more, we've put together an explainer for about why you need a streaming device.
A Roku TV strives to be the best of both worlds: a TV whose software features all of the benefits of an external Roku device without the addition of a box or a stick plugged into one of the TV's HDMI ports.
What are the benefits of Roku TV?
The benefits of Roku TVs are as follows: simplicity/ease of use, Roku functionality, and affordability. Let's break these down individually.
1. Simplicity/ease of use
Roku streaming devices are well known for their simple, easy-to-navigate user interfaces and zippy response time. The Roku software featured in Roku TVs are, for the most part, no exception—the apps, inputs, and menu options are neatly arranged, and cycling through the Roku menu options couldn't be easier.
In many ways, given its speed and simplicity, the Roku experience is one that can be appreciated by both television neophytes and folks like myself, who spend hours a day bickering about TV specs online. Roku software might not be as flexible as, say, the Android OS on a high-end smart TV, but it's easy to comprehend within seconds of picking up the remote.
2. Roku functionality
Every Roku TV comes with a Roku remote control. Depending on the Roku TV, your remote might feature dedicated app buttons, a headphone jack (for personal viewing sessions), and, in some cases, a microphone for voice control.
Newer Roku TVs can also be synced with the Roku app for iOS and Android, which allows users to control their TV via mobile device.
Roku TVs occupy the budget-friendly price bracket across the board. This means that, regardless of the manufacturer and the screen size, current-generation Roku TVs are priced competitively. The good news is that, relative to its competition, you won't be paying an arm and a leg for a new Roku TV. The bad news is that, as things stand right now, I don't expect to get blown away by the picture quality of a Roku TV.
In other words, the price of a Roku TV is far more impressive to me than a Roku TVs performance—but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Should I buy a Roku TV?
If you're looking for a fantastic deal on a new smart TV and you typically find yourself struggling to comprehend the technical ins and outs of contemporary TVs, a Roku TV would suit you quite well.
That said, these TVs typically emphasize simplicity and affordability. If you want the flexibility of a more robust smart TV or the picture quality of a top-shelf flagship, you might want to look elsewhere.
Which Roku TV should I buy?
At the time this is being published, the best Roku TV we've seen this year is the TCL 4 Series, otherwise known as the TCL S425.
This scrappy Roku TV is an absolute slam-dunk value: 4K resolution, HDR10 compatibility, and a price tag of around $600 for the 65-inch model. Granted, its HDR performance is nowhere near the level we're used to seeing in higher-end TVs, but for the price, it's hard to pick nits.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.