What is a Roku Smart TV?

Find out if this smart TV is right for you

Sharp Roku TV

Sharp

A smart TV combines traditional TV functions with an operating system/platform allowing viewers to access, manage, and view internet and network-based media content without having to connect an external media streamer.

What is a Roku Smart TV?

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

There is no need to plug in an additional streaming device since the features of a Roku streaming stick or box are placed inside the TV (via software).

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
TCL 

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
TCL/Amazon

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

Is Roku TV Worth It?

Roku TVs are easy to set up and use and offer a lot at affordable prices depending on screen size, brand, and model. Prices range from about $129 (24-inches) to $1,999 (75-inches) which compare favorably against higher-end offerings from brands such as LG, Samsung, and Sony.

However, those higher-end brands include Smart TV features combined with more refined video processing and some also include home control and other advanced features you may not find on most Roku TVs.

Although Roku TV is not your only choice, if you are a cut-the-cord streaming fan, it offers great features that complement over-the-air TV reception as well as access to over 5,000 streaming channels and apps (depending on location) with more added via periodic updates.