Roku launches affordable and functional smart TV range
By Chris Wood
August 21, 2014
If you’re a fan of top media streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, then you’re also likely aware of Roku, a company that specializes in low-cost streaming boxes that let you throw that content up onto the big screen. The company has announced partnerships with TV manufacturers Hisense and TCL to produce Roku TV, a range of smart TVs that make media streaming more convenient without breaking the bank.
As you might expect, the new smart TVs are all about media streaming, providing access to Roku’s 1,500+ streaming channels and library of 200,000+ movies and TV shows via the company’s official store. Continuing with the content-first theme of the device, the company is bundling in two months free Hulu Plus membership, plus a package of free trials reportedly worth in excess of US$100.
There are a number of ways to control that media, the first being a simple, 20-button remote similar to those used with company’s streaming boxes. More interestingly, the TVs can also be controlled using smartphones and tablets by means of the Roku Mobile app, available for iOS and Android.
Users will also have access to Roku Search, which searches across top streaming channels by actor, title or director, making it easier to find specific content. One last nice feature is the ability to send music, photos and video up to the TV sets via a smartphone or tablet, similar to Apple TV’s AirPlay feature, or elements of Google’s Chromecast hardware.
While Roku TV might not be quite as ambitious as Google’s recently announced Android TV platform, its features are more than competitive with past and current smart TVs, which routinely feature clunky and unintuitive software.
There are 32, 40, 48 and 55-inch Roku TV models available from TCL, all of which output at 1080p with a 120 Hz refresh rate. The Hisense models are split between 120 Hz and 60 Hz variants, with the 50- and 55-inch models boasting the higher refresh rate than the 40- and 48-inch variants.
Three of the eight planned TVs are available right now. The 40-inch TCL model retails for a very reasonable $330, while the 48- and 50-inch models will set you back $500 and $680 respectively. The entire Hisense range is set to launch in September.