One of the easiest 21st-century recommendations to give anyone whose TV is missing the latest streaming video apps is to either, a) get a new TV), or b) invest in a cheap video streaming stick.
Whichever route you want to go down, Roku has a solution: a Roku TV (with everything it offers built into the set) or a Roku Stick (which simply plugs into a TV to furnish it with its smart platform). But there are plenty of other options, too, most notably from Amazon, Apple and Google streaming dongles and sticks. So is Roku TV the best option for you?
Read on for our complete guide to what the Roku TV streaming platform offers and, if you're ready to take the plunge, where to find the best Roku deals.
Roku is one of the most popular TV streamer brands in the US, and the brand's popularity is growing in Europe as more Roku hardware is launched and new features are added. And this is good news, because the Roku streaming platform is one of the best.
Roku TV offers access to several subscription services, including but not limited to - deep breath - Amazon Video, Netflix, Apple TV, Disney+, Now TV, Hulu, Showtime, Sling TV, HBO Go/Now, CBS All Access and WatchESPN. Of course you'll need to subscribe to any service you want to watch, as Roku – much like Amazon Fire and Apple TV – is simply a gateway to these streaming services. But the choice is impressive.
Roku does also offer apps with free content, such as YouTube, Crackle, PBS Kids and its own The Roku Channel. There is also access to buy and rental services like FandangoNOW, Vudu and Google Play.
As we said in our Roku Streaming Stick+ review (more on that below), the Roku OS interface is a "simple, clean, clear" affair with a simple homescreen that's largely dedicated to a grid of your chosen apps.
Our review continued: "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 apps 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."
And when the Roku platform is directly embedded into a TV, 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 all the content will be present and correct.
Sold? OK then. So which Roku streamer or Roku TV is best for you?
Roku streamers: Streaming Stick+, Express, Premiere, Ultra
Got a non-smart TV, or even a smart TV with fewer apps than you'd like, but don't (or can't afford to) upgrade? A streamer that you simply plug in to one of its HDMI ports could be just what you need. Roku offers several options: the Express, Premiere, Streaming Stick+. In the US, there's the Ultra too.
The Express is the most affordable, offering the full Roku OS experience with all the apps, and supporting HD 1080p playback with Dolby and DTS audio.
The Premiere expands upon that feature list with support for 4K and HDR content, while the Streaming Stick+ goes even further with dual-band wi-fi connectivity and an improved remote control that facilitates voice search.
The Ultra has an improved voice-supporting remote, an ethernet port and comes with JBL headphones.
We reviewed the Roku Streaming Stick+ and praised its stable 4K picture, great app selection, fast buffering and easy-to-use interface – but note that, unlike the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, it doesn't support Dolby Vision HDR.
Roku vs Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV Stick plays video in 1080p quality, supports up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 channel sound and, one-upping the similarly priced Rokus, comes with a voice remote.
It doesn't have The Roku Channel perk of course, but its responsive interface is Amazon Prime-focused and thus offers quick and easy access to the service's rental and streaming catalogue, which Prime users will undoubtedly like.
The Fire TV Stick 4K offers 4K playback with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR support (which is missing on the Roku sticks), and can be furnished with an ethernet port via an adapter.
Roku TV: Hisense, TCL, Sharp
Nowadays you don't need to purchase or plug-in a Roku streamer, as the smart TV OS platform is directly integrated into a handful of 4K TVs. All of its features and apps will be there, all at the touch of a button on your TV's remote.
Roku has partnered with the likes of TCL, Sharp and Hisense to bring consumers in the US such all-in-one, wallet-friendly packages, while Hisense has recently introduced the first Roku TVs to the UK market.
Naturally, then, there are plenty of Roku TVs across popular retails in the US (Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy) and UK (Amazon, Argos), from as little as $130/£300.
But are Roku TVs any good? Read on for our pick of the best Roku TV deals.
Hisense Roku TVs
In the last few years Hisense has made its mark on the world as a purveyor of good value, budget TVs.
We've seen a handful of competitively-priced Hisense 4K TVs of late, and the majority have suitably impressed with their performance-per-dollar offering. The most recent we've seen in the UK is the new Hisense R50B7120UK Roku TV, which we called "extraordinary value for money".
In the US, there's the Hisense R6 and R7 Roku 4K TV ranges, available in various sizes and each with 4K HDR panels, a few HDMI inputs and, of course, plenty of apps courtesy of the Roku TV OS.
TCL Roku TVs
TCL has the most exhaustive selection of Roku TVs on the market, ranging from super-cheap 32in models to 4K TVs that are over twice that size and five times that price.
The Chinese company, which in 2017 became the third-biggest brand in North America, is renowned for offering huge screens with vast smart features at dirt-cheap prices. We haven't tested many TCL TVs ourselves – the brand is in its infancy in the UK market – but of the $300 TCL 4 Series Roku TV 55S425 we concluded that it was a "strong option" for anyone looking for a super-budget smart 55-inch 4K TV.
Every TCL 4K TV sports a 3640 x 2160 Ultra HD resolution and support for High Dynamic Range (HDR). Each features a few HDMI sockets (at least one of which will support 4K passthrough), one or more USB inputs, built-in wi-fi, and compatibility with Roku's mobile control app. They also come with an official Roku handheld remote, while support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa means that users can use their voice to control certain TV functions via a smart speaker.
As if often the case with such budget TV offerings, though, we'd be wary of recommending them to anyone whose priority is getting the very best 4K HDR picture quality. That's what you typically pay extra for to get premium brands and premium sets in your living room, after all.
But for those looking for decent 4K and HD pictures and a vast selection of built-in smart apps, whilst also looking after their wallet, these are the best deals and cheapest prices on 43-inch to 65-inch budget TCL Roku TVs out there...
Sharp Roku TVs
We're more familiar with the Sharp brand. Its TVs used to be regulars in our test rooms, often leaving with either three- or four-star reviews for their enticing price tags, good features, and average or above-average picture quality. Now that the brand is back in Europe once more, we hope to re-familiarise ourselves soon.
Again, the company aims to get you a better inch-per-dollar ratio than the likes of Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG, with a large variety of screen sizes all at appealing price tags.
The Sharp Roku TVs are very similarly spec'd next to their TCL rivals, matching them for all the 4K and HDR support, voice control ability, connectivity and remote control features mentioned above.
Your choice between the two brands may well come down to screen size options (Sharp has 50in and 58in choices, but no 65in), brand loyalty or even where you like to shop. At the time of writing, Sharp's 4K Roku TVs are only widely available, and well-priced, at Best Buy...
Roku's smart platform is easy to recommend. It's a one-stop shopfront for every subscription service you'd likely sign up to, alongside free content and a simple, intuitive interface. Unless you're a die-hard Apple TV fan or a dedicated Amazon Prime user, it's hard not to see the appeal.
The Roku TVs with the streaming platform built-in are all from reputable brands (TCL, Sharp and Hisense) offering a wide range of TVs at attractive budget prices. Their main purpose here really is to offer an all-encompassing streaming hub on a budget, rather than deliver the very best, industry-leading 4K HDR pictures.
Still, if the affordability and HD, and sometimes 4K, connectivity satisfies your needs, a Roku TV may be the perfect option - and which you opt for will largely be down to screen size, price and retailer preference.
Alternatively, the Roku streamers offer a fuss-free and perfectly good upgrade for an older, existing, non-smart TV – so long as you don't want Dolby Vision.
If you've got this far but are leaning towards spending a bit more for a better picture performance and the promise of 4K streaming content, there's always the option of one of our favourite budget 4K TVs or our pick of the best media streamers.