What is a Roku TV? And should you buy one?

A TV on a stand displaying a Roku operating system interface
(Image credit: TCL)

One of the easiest 21st-century recommendations to give anyone whose TV has a dire streaming offering is to either a) get an all-new smart TV, or b) invest in a separate plug-in video streamer. One guess as to which elicits the more favourable response...

Alongside Apple, Amazon and Google, Roku is one of the most popular video streamer brands. It started life as a manufacturer of Roku streaming sticks that connect to the internet, plug into your TV's HDMI port and give it access to video apps such as NetflixDisney Plus and Amazon Prime Video through a dedicated Roku operating system – great for updating old 'dumb' TVs with streaming. It also produced a Roku Streambar that is essentially a streaming stick and soundbar in one.

Off the back of the success of Roku's hardware and operating system software, the company decided to go beyond the stick part and build its streaming platform directly into TVs – those from other manufacturers like TCL and Hisense, as well as its own branded sets.

So is Roku TV desirable and will it suit your needs? Read on to find out all you need to know about the streaming platform and the best TVs that integrate it.

How good is the Roku TV OS?

Roku hasn't been able to rub shoulders with powerhouses like Amazon and Google, and become the success it is today, with just mediocre software. Indeed the Roku streaming platform is among the best. 

The platform offers access to several subscription services, including but not limited to – deep breath – Amazon Video, Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, as well as region-specific apps such as, in the US, Hulu, Paramount Plus, Sling TV, CBS All Access and WatchESPN. But bear in mind you'll need to subscribe to each service you want to watch content from; the Roku OS is simply a single-access gateway to all these services.

Roku does offer apps with free content, though, such as YouTube, Crackle, PBS Kids and its own The Roku Channel. There is also access to buying and rental services like Vudu and the Google Play Store, too. The choice is truly impressive and the interface comes with an excellent search function to make finding your next favourite film or TV show very easy indeed.

As we said in our latest Roku streamer review, its interface is a "simple, clean, clear" affair with "only a handful of menu options, the homescreen largely being dedicated to a grid of your chosen apps.

"It’s a more objective approach to Amazon’s Fire TV, which pushes its own content throughout its interface. As the Roku is a neutral party, you’ll get the same experience whichever streaming app you subscribe to.

"Menu options are kept brief, so alongside the standard search and settings options, there is also a ‘Channel Store’ and an option for ‘My Feed’. The [Roku] Channel Store is the place to go for more apps, with thousands to choose from."

If you've got this far, you're likely sold. So what is an actual Roku TV, we hear you ask...

Roku TV homescreen displayed on a wall-mounted TV

(Image credit: Roku/Element)

What is a Roku TV?

A Roku TV is a physical television that runs the Roku operating system for streaming apps. 

With it directly embedded into a TV experience, you have immediate access to all Roku has to offer. The interface on each brand of Roku TV may differ slightly – usually just with a different colourway – but the content should be present and correct across them.

Roku TVs were initially made and branded by dedicated, mostly budget-orientated TV manufacturers such as TCL, RCA and Hisense, who decided to power their smart TVs with the Roku system. That list has now grown to include JVC, Sharp and Westinghouse, while Roku-branded TVs have also been added to the mix.

Roku's move into the TV market made a lot of sense since Roku has been working on its service for years and offers some of the widest third-party app functionality there is, plus one of the simplest interfaces to navigate, all while keeping processing demands on the hardware to a minimum.

What Roku TVs are available?

Roku Pro Series TV wall-mounted above a wooden console

(Image credit: Roku)

Roku's own TVs, called Roku Select, Roku Plus and Roku Pro, are only available in the US, but expect them to be rolled out wider as demand increases. There are 11 options available to pick from at the time of publishing, with the Pro line yet to go on sale.

The Roku Select panels offer HD resolution in 24-inch and 32-inch models or Full HD in the 40-inch panel. Pricing is super low, from $119 (approx. £98 / AU$174).

The Roku Plus series is more premium, offering 4K QLED panels that support HDR10+, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. These come in 55-, 65- and 75-inch sizes, topping out at $999 (approx. £830 / AU$1463).

Roku has also announced its Roku Pro Series TVs, which promise even higher quality from its 4K QLED panels as they use Mini LED technology and AI processing smarts to create what it says is its best images yet. 

We haven't reviewed any Roku-branded TVs yet due to their fledgling availability, but we do have plenty of experience in testing third-party Roku TVs...

What third-party Roku TVs are good?

Of the many (many) other Roku-powered TVs out there, some of the best options that we have tried and tested include TVs from Hisense and TCL.

First up is the Hisense A7200G range. We named its 50-inch model, called the Hisense R50A7200GTUK in the UK, the 'best 48-50in TV' available in the budget market in that year's What Hi-Fi? Awards.

The Hisense A7200G models are all 4K HDR LED TVs available in 43-inch, 50-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch sizes.

Hisense R50A7200G 4K HDR Roku TV £399 at Argos
This Award-winning 50-inch TV is a genuine bargain even at full price. With good blacks, bold colours, plenty of punch and the excellent Roku OS, you simply won't find better at this price.
Also available in 43-inch: £329 / 55-inch: £429 / 65-inch: £549

Hisense R50A7200G 4K HDR Roku TV £399 at Argos
This Award-winning 50-inch TV is a genuine bargain even at full price. With good blacks, bold colours, plenty of punch and the excellent Roku OS, you simply won't find better at this price.
Also available in 43-inch: £329 / 55-inch: £429 / 65-inch: £549

The TCL RP630K range is also worth a look as this is a fantastic example of a Roku TV that offers plenty for your money. It comes recommended by our Australian sister brand Sound+Image, who called the 55-inch model a "triumph" in its TCL 55RP630 4K Roku TV review. Considering we awarded its predecessor, the 55-inch TCL RP620K, a five-star review in 2021, we'd say this range is a winner.

The 4K HDR LED TV series sits firmly in the affordable TV category but is one step closer to mid-range than the Hisense above. It offers a greater bit-depth in terms of colour processing, plus Dolby Vision support too.

This line of Roku TVs is another excellent choice for those after an app-happy and exceedingly user-friendly experience alongside a highly recommendable picture.

TCL 55RP630K 55in 4K Dolby Vision Roku TV £450 £379 at Currys

TCL 55RP630K 55in 4K Dolby Vision Roku TV £450 £379 at Currys
This Dolby Vision-enabled Roku TV is something of a bargain with a big chunk chopped off the original price. It's worth noting the HDR does include Dolby Vision here.

Are Roku TVs worth it?

Roku's smart platform is certainly easy to recommend. It's a one-stop shopfront for every subscription service you'd likely sign up for, complemented by free content and a simple, intuitive interface.

The Roku TVs with the streaming platform built-in are all from reputable budget-conscious brands that offer a wide range of TVs at attractive budget prices, and of the many available, we can certainly vouch for the two mentioned above. As for the Roku-branded TVs, we haven't had the chance to go twelve rounds with one yet, so we can't comment on the quality of their picture.

It's worth mentioning that not all Roku TVs will support 4K HDR playback through apps that have such content, like Netflix, so it's always worth checking such details before you buy. While perhaps more obvious, it's also worth noting that budget Roku TVs typically won't offer you the best picture quality offered by higher-priced sets – our best TVs guide will help you on that front.

Still, if big screens, a whole host of streaming options and budget prices satisfy your requirements, you may well wish to welcome a Roku TV into your home with open arms. The Roku TV OS experience is excellent, and excellently performing TVs with it built-in certainly exist.


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