How the Roku Experience Translates to a Dedicated TV

Roku's streaming devices are plenty popular, but do Roku-branded TVs hold their own?

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Dec 25 2016, 9:00pm

Image: TCL/Roku

Honestly, nine times out of 10 I tell people don't get a smart TV. I'm often not convinced it's worth it to pay extra for the bells and whistles that come with them: they're often slow, clunky and hard to manipulate. Plus, sometimes certain apps aren't available, and it feels like you're not getting nearly all that was promised. Looking for a Sling TV app on that Sony smart TV? Not so fast, my friend.

So when Roku contacted me to test one of its latest smart TV models, made in collaboration with TCL, I was skeptical: Yes, I own and like Roku's streaming devices, but would those sentiments transfer over to a smart TV?

My Roku TV Experience

Before testing this TV, my setup consisted of a regular flat screen TV hanging in my living room wired to a Roku 3. I loved my setup—although dealing with all the wires was less than optimal.

I replaced my old TV with the TCL Roku TV and now it would be hard to go back.

This isn't your smart TV of yesteryear. First of all, my wife is incredibly happy because now there is no HDMI cable hanging from my TV since the Roku software is built right in. Second, with the Roku software built in, I only need one remote for all my TV watching. I can turn on the TV, change the volume, change inputs, and stream whatever I want without having to go hunting through the couch for the second remote.

Also, as a cable cutter an antenna is a tool I use all the time to watch things like football or some of my favorite shows. The Roku has the antenna featured as an app, so you can go from streaming ESPN to watching live over-the-air news with a push of the remote.

"We've made switching inputs a thing of the past with icons for over-the-air antenna, game consoles and set-top boxes," said Chas Smith, general manager Roku TV & Players. "These icons are right next to your favorite streaming channels.

As for picture quality, I was so blown away that I upgraded my Netflix account in time to watch Luke Cage in 4K. While I was slightly disappointed in the series (Daredevil > Luke Cage), the 4K UHD didn't let me down one bit. Now, I'm counting the days until I can watch Planet Earth 2 on Netflix when it comes out in January.

Any Cons Associated with the TV?

Of course, not everything is perfect here. While it might seem minor, I do have a complaint with the remote. Like any Roku I've ever had, the battery cover breaks off incredibly easy. I've got two kids, and when they dropped the remote, which was inevitable, the cover broke. Now I've got the classic look of the taped-on-battery cover. That's never been a problem with any of my other remotes. The Amazon Fire TV, which I also use sometimes, has a much sturdier battery cover.

However, as many Twitter users note, the Roku TV remote app is amazing, so you're better off using that.

I also keep running into a problem when I try to plug my laptop into the Roku TV with an HDMI cable. It worked with my old TV, but I can't seem to get it up and running; the picture keeps blinking repeatedly. However, my PS4 and Amazon Fire TV both work fine when connected to the TCL, so it's likely just a weird incompatibility of my HP laptop—maybe this is a sign that it's time to upgrade my HP Pavilion.

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