What is a Roku Smart TV?

Find out if this smart TV is right for you

A Roku smart TV is a combination of both a smart TV and a Roku streaming device (also known as an external media streamer.)

This combination combines traditional TV functions with an operating system/platform. That allows viewers to access, manage, and view internet and network-based media content straight from their television set with no extra devices.

The Difference Between a Roku TV and a Roku Streaming Stick

A Roku streaming stick is a separate, handheld device that communicates wirelessly with a television set to connect you to entertainment from the internet. A Roku TV includes everything in the television instead.

How Does a Roku Smart TV Work?

Roku licenses its streaming platform for use in smart TVs. This means that Roku doesn't make its own TVs, but it allows manufacturers to include Roku features inside their TVs.

There is no need to buy an additional streaming device since the features of a Roku streaming stick or box are already inside the TV (via software). When it's time to stream a television show or movie, users simply turn on the TV set and use its controls to download, set up and use the streaming apps as needed.

TV brands that make Roku TVs include Element, Hisense, Hitachi, Insignia, JVC, Philips, RCASharp, and TCL and All Roku TVs are LED/LCD TVs. Screen sizes range from 24 to 75-inches. Depending on the brand/model, a set will feature 720p, 1080p, or 4K display resolution. Some Roku TVs are compatible with one or more HDR formats.

TCL Roku TV with 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision

What Does a Roku TV Do?

Roku TVs provide access to familiar services such as Netflix, Vudu, Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube as well as over 5,000 more official and non-official services (referred to as channels) depending on location. They also provide access to additional devices that can be plugged into it as well as over-the-air TV broadcasts when an antenna is connected.

What You Can Connect to a Roku TV

Just as with any TV (smart or not), you can connect other devices to a Roku TV.

  • An Antenna connection is provided for reception of over-the-air TV broadcasts.
  • HDMI inputs are provided for plugging in DVD/Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray players, cable/satellite boxes, game consoles, and more.
  • At the manufacturer's discretion, shared composite/component video connections may be provided which allow you to plug in older devices, such as VCRs or DVD players that don't have HDMI outputs.
  • HDMI-ARC and HDMI-CEC are also included. HDMI-ARC simplifies connection of the TV with many home theater receivers and some soundbars, while HDMI-CEC provides limited control of externally connected devices, such as Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray and cable/satellite boxes using the Roku TV remote.
TCL S305 Series Roku TV Connections

Roku TVs feature a modest speaker system. However, you can connect it to an external soundbar or audio system using HDM-ARC, analog and/or digital optical audio outputs if those options are provided.

Roku also offers optional external wireless speakers that work exclusively with Roku TVs.

Roku TVs also support screen mirroring/casting via smartphones and media file playback via plug-in USB drives.

How You Control a Roku TV

A Roku TV can be controlled via its provided remote or the Roku Mobile App.

Roku TV remotes look and work like the ones used for streaming sticks and boxes, but the main difference is that they include volume control and can turn the TV on and off.

The Roku Mobile App includes features such as voice control, private listening, and more. You can also control a Roku TV with Google Assistant via your smartphone or Google Home directly or indirectly in combination with the Quick Remote App.

Roku TVs provide control and management of both streaming and traditional TV functions such as input and channel selection, picture and sound settings.

Picture settings can be applied to each input separately.

Insignia Roku TV AV Settings
Robert Silva for Lifewire

Additional Roku TV Convenience Features

Roku TVs have built-in WiFi for convenient connection to your home network and the internet. Some Roku TVs (mostly 4K models) provide both Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity.

If an antenna is connected and you select the Antenna TV icon on the Roku TV's Home Screen, it prompts you to scan for available channels.

Antenna Channel Scan Example – Roku TV

An onscreen Smart Guide allows you to navigate through antenna channels. The Roku TV will also show if the program is available via streaming (More Ways to Watch feature via the * icon next to the program listing).

When using Roku TV's search feature, in addition to finding streaming channels and content, in some cases, you may find TV programs available through your antenna.

Roku TV Antenna TV Smart Guide
Robert Silva for Lifewire 

You can connect a 16GB or larger USB flash drive (ver 2.0 suggested) to a Roku TV and use the Live TV Pause feature for up to 90 minutes of video. While Live TV is paused, the program is recorded on the flash drive. When you hit play, the portion of the program you missed will play back.

Live TV Pause only works for live TV received via an antenna, it can't be used to store recorded programs or transfer recordings to another device. If you change channels or exit Antenna TV, any paused video stored on the USB drive is erased.

Roku TV – Set Up Live TV Pause
Robert Silva for Lifewire
  • How do I add apps to my Roku TV?

    From the Home screen, scroll left to bring up the side menu, select Search, and find the app you want. Apps can be downloaded for free, but you may need to set up an account to use some streaming services.

  • How do I cast to my Roku from another device?

    Open the app you want to stream (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) on your device, tap the Cast icon, and select your Roku TV or stick. It's also possible to mirror your device's screen on your Roku TV.

  • Can I jailbreak my Roku TV?

    There's no way to jailbreak a Roku, but there are workarounds that let you stream content from outside the Roku Channel Store. For example, use your phone or PC to mirror streaming content on your Roku.

  • Can I watch the Roku Channel without a Roku device?

    Yes. The Roku Channel is a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix, and you can download the app on most smart TVs and streaming sticks. You can also stream movies and TV shows on The Roku Channel's website, and you can watch the Roku channel on Android and iOS devices using the mobile app.

  • How do you reset a Roku TV?

    Go to Settings > System > Power > System restart > Restart to perform a system restart. To perform a factory reset, go to Settings > System > Advanced system settings > Factory reset > Factory reset everything. You can also perform a factory reset using the physical pinhole reset button on the back of your TV.

  • How can you turn on a Roku TV without the remote?

    You can press the physical power button on the TV. It's typically either in the front near the logo or in the back of the TV. Or you can use the Roku app on your phone or tablet as a remote.

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