What is Roku TV?

What is Roku TV? It’s a smart TV with Roku hardware built in, so you don’t need a separate Roku box to stream. Should you buy one? It depends.

A Roku TV is a smart TV with the convenience of Roku hardware built in, making it a good all-in-one streaming solution. But the downside is it loses usefulness once the built-in hardware goes obsolete.

Advantages of Roku TV

What is Roku TV
You can buy a TV with Roku hardware built in. This is convenient, but does it limit you in the long run? I think it does. Image credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

The advantages of Roku TV compared to other smart TV technologies hinge on Roku’s popularity. With other technologies, like Web OS, there’s a slightly higher risk of content providers ignoring it, since it’s a standard owned by one company. But no one in their right minds is going to ignore Roku’s huge user base.

The advantage of having the hardware built in is that you don’t have to find another power outlet and you don’t tie up an HDMI port with it. It’s all inside the main unit. It’s economical too. A Roku TV often costs less than a comparable dumb TV and a Roku Streaming Stick would cost.

Roku is also a nice choice from a security standpoint. Unlike many companies, Roku is pretty good about updating its software on a regular basis. If I were going to buy a smart TV, I’d favor Roku technology.

But notice I said “if.” I don’t buy smart TVs because of the security issues, but I also don’t like planned obsolescence.

Disadvantages of Roku TV

As with anything, there’s a tradeoff. The advantage of having a discrete Roku box is you can replace it at any time. When my Roku box I bought in 2013 started getting sluggish, I bought a slick new model. My performance issues went away and I got a slick new user interface that took advantage of the more powerful hardware in the newer box.

And while Roku supports its devices a good long while, eventually it stops producing updates for old devices. Or the old devices don’t get the slick new UI because they aren’t powerful enough to run it.

So even though it takes a little more space, and I have to find a way to power it, I prefer to get a discrete Roku device and plug it in. LCD and LED TVs last a very long time. We bought a Panasonic LCD TV in 2010 and it’s given us zero problems. It’s outlived everything we plugged into it when we got it, and I have every reason to think it has at least five years left in it.

And it’s not like Roku devices are space hogs. A full-size Roku box is about five inches square and 3/4 of an inch tall. It’s pretty discrete. A Roku streaming stick is even more discrete, because it plugs right into an HDMI port and sticks out the back. And if your TV has a USB port, you can power it off the USB port, so you don’t have to find a power outlet for it.

What I buy

I prefer to buy dumb televisions from established companies who make more than just TVs, but it depends what room I’m putting it in. For a TV that’s just going to get occasional use, a no-name TV is usually OK.

I’ve been buying Roku boxes since 2013. I know some Roku owners who replace them every three years no matter what. But I don’t do that. I prefer to hold on to the device until Roku stops providing UI updates, though you can stretch it until Roku stops providing updates altogether if you wish. Here’s some advice on what model to buy.

This may cost extra in the short run, since the difference in price between the TV you pick and a comparable Roku TV may be only $20. But once the hardware in the TV goes obsolete, you’ll have to plug a discrete Roku device into it anyway. Now you’ve lost the savings and the convenience. Since a quality TV can last over 10 years, I think it makes sense to plan for the long term when you buy one.

One thought on “What is Roku TV?

  • June 3, 2019 at 5:12 pm
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    I can’t see any reason to avoid buying the Roku TV so long as you value the feature appropriately in your buying decision. At the start you save the cost of a separate box. In three to five years when the smart features are obsolete you disconnect the TV from the internet, buy a newer Roku or whatever device you prefer at the time, and use the set for the rest of its life as a dumb TV.

    I figure that the added value of a TV with built-in Roku, Chromecast, or Fire TV is about $5 less than the cost of the equivalent separate streaming box or stick, if you would have chosen that streaming device if you didn’t buy a TV with it built in. (Those three streaming devices and Apple TV are the only ones that I think are worth considering in 2019. Apple TV only really makes sense if you’re already thoroughly enmeshed in the Apple ecosystem, and there are no TV sets with Apple TV built in so far as I know.) It’s more convenient and saves an HDMI port, but it’s less flexible and you don’t get to take advantage of any residual value it might have after that three to five year period. If you have the separate streaming device, you might retire it from your main viewing setup because it doesn’t support some new channel or a new audio format but it would still be good enough for a secondary viewing setup in another room. Or you could sell it for a few dollars or pass it along to a friend.

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