Roku, the company you probably know best for making set-top boxes that let you stream video from popular services like Netflix and HBO GO, has partnered with two TV manufacturers to bake its software directly into TV sets.
Roku now comes inside a series of new TVs from Hisense and TCL, makers of mid-range HD TVs that cost a lot less than what you’d normally pay for a fancy Sony or Samsung TV. Instead of coming pre-loaded with a bunch of streaming TV apps like many smart TVs today, these sets will essentially give you the Roku experience without having to buy a separate box.
At first glance, it looks just like the Roku system that’s been around for over a year. But Roku has simplified all the basic TV settings menus and inputs to make it as easy as possible to manage what you watch.
And that’s a good thing. Roku makes the best streaming TV box, thanks largely in part to its easy-to-use menus. One of the best features is universal search. You just enter the name of a movie, actor, or director, and Roku pulls in all the sources you can watch the video from. It’s much better than searching Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. individually.
But keep in mind these TVs don’t have the retina-melting displays and powerful features you find in expensive sets. Roku and its partners are going after the market of Average Joes who just want to binge watch a bunch of stuff online without spending a fortune. Spec geeks and home theatre nerds should stick to their current setup. Everyone else: Don’t worry, most of the sets are still full HD and should be fine for most people.
The TVs are affordable too. TCL’s models cost $US229 for the 32-inch model, $US329 for the 40-inch, $US499 for the 48-inch, and $US649 for the 55-inch. You can pre-order them from Amazon now. They will be in stores soon.
Hisense didn’t give precise pricing or a release date, but the company has traditionally sold sets at very affordable prices. They will probably be in line with the pricing of TCL’s sets or cheaper. They will go on sale in time for the holidays this year.