With time, smart TVs have become the talk of the town. Their ability to connect to the internet and the sheer number of applications they offer set them apart, especially when compared to conventional TV sets. Smart TVs provide ample content options, save time, and also enhance your experience when you watch content by yourself or with your family and friends. In the beginning, all smart TVs appeared the same to me, but as I delved deeper, I realized that some are better than the rest.
One such streaming product is Roku. In the beginning, I thought that Roku was just a fad that wouldn’t last for very long and eventually fizzle out. It wasn’t until I got it for myself that it hit me. The ease of use and the improved viewing experience are all things I had never experienced in any of the smart TVs I used before. In fact, I was so inspired by this choice that I wrote an article on whether Roku devices work on any TV. You should read that if you’re just looking for a separate Roku device for your smart TV.
Do you need a Roku with a smart TV? The answer is a little complicated. While there is no need to splurge on a Roku device if you already have a smart tv or Android tv, however it is advised to do so for broader content options, better user experience and awesome remote.
What Is Roku?
Before I get into the whole discussion of, “do smart TVs need Roku,” or “do you need Roku when you have a smart TV,” let’s first understand what Roku is and how it is different from other smart technologies. Roku has a single interface that allows you to access both free as well as paid movies and TV shows. In some cases, using a Roku is similar to using an iPhone. You can pick and choose the content that you want to watch, and you can organize apps according to your will.
Furthermore, Roku is very easy to set up. Not too long ago, TV options were fairly limited. Either you had a cable or you didn’t. The availability of a cable service would decide the type of content you’d end up watching, but those days are gone, and Roku has revolutionized the way consumers enjoy movies, TV shows, music, and games.
So, which is better – Roku or smart TV? Let’s find out.
Evolution of the Roku TV
Let’s talk about the evolution of the Roku TV.
The first ever Roku TV was launched in 2014, and since then, the company hasn’t looked back. In 2015, they came up with the Roku 4, and in 2016, they came out with five more models, i.e, the Express, the Express Plus, the Premiere, the Premiere Plus and the Ultra. In 2017, they put out the Roku Channel and the Streaming Stick Plus. 2017 saw the introduction of the wireless speaker, and in 2018, they put out the new sound bar. Finally in 2020, they came up with the new Streambar and Ultra.
When I was introduced to Roku TVs, I would often ask myself, “do I need Roku if I have a smart TV?” and “why do I need a Roku?” Then I got my answer. A smart TV comes equipped with all the streaming services that a person wants – Netflix, Hulu, and the list goes on. However, there are a couple of things that make a normal smart TV lag behind when compared to Roku.
So, do smart TVs need Roku? The answer is yes, they do need Roku since they don’t come with free access to all the streaming services that exist out there. If you have a subscription with a streaming service, it’s extremely likely that you can access it with Roku.
User Experience Matters A Lot
The thing about TV manufacturers is that they came into business selling hardware rather than software. When the smart TV culture really took shape, some big names rose to prominence. Among these names, the most popular ones were LG, Vizio, and Sony. These companies gathered their engineers, designers, and developers to come up with an interface that would help their consumers interact with the TV. The same technology later on gave birth to services like Netflix.
On a regular smart TV, navigating the user interface can often be time-consuming and frustrating. This is where Roku stepped in and designed a product with the consumer in mind. As I have discussed above, the design is simple and straightforward, and it is built in a way that allows you to arrange and organize your apps far more easily.
When it all began, I would ask myself, if I have a smart TV, do I need a Roku? Part of the reason behind my curiosity came from not knowing how to use it in the first place. Like a normal TV, Roku also comes with a remote control. The Roku remote has less than 20 buttons on it, and each of them serves a purpose.
Besides changing channels, the Roku remote also has quick launch options for services like Hulu and Netflix. Interestingly, you can also download the Roku remote application on your smartphone, which allows you to control your TV with your phone without having to use the remote every time you have to change the channel or access a video streaming service.
If you compare a smart TV to Roku, there are two main areas where smart TVs drop the ball. First of all, most don’t have a great user interface, which can be a major roadblock in the viewer’s experience. Next up, the processors found in a smart TV are fairly weak. As a result, their weakness keeps them from keeping up with the demands of streaming services like Netflix. I too have dealt with the lag on smart TVs, and my life has become much simpler ever since I opted for Roku.
Furthermore, the software optimization on a smart TV is also not up to par, which paves the way for speed issues. If you don’t know already, streaming applications spend a lot of their time and resources on creating applications that are compatible with platforms that receive the highest amount of traffic.
At the moment, there are four big players in the market. These include Apple, Amazon, Google and Roku. Smart TVs can be buggy and slow at times, which is why you need Roku. So, does Roku stream better than smart TV? The answer is yes. It does in a very major way.
Difference Between Roku TV and Smart TV
When we talk about Roku VS smart TV, one thing we need to talk about is the software. The thing we need to know about software is that it is never constant, and it continues to change every once in a while. Every time a new feature or an update is introduced, it is released and made available so you can incorporate it into your system. The great thing about Roku is that it makes changes much faster and with much less interference.
But there’s more to the Roku VS smart TV debate. It’s not just the software part. The biggest annoyance associated with smart TVs is that they tend to accumulate a lot of junk. The sad part is that you simply cannot get rid of this junk. There are always some obscure TV applications that have deals with TV manufacturers. These apps are never used, and you have to look at them every time you turn on your TV. They also take up a lot of space, which slows down your TV. The good thing about Roku is that it gives you 100% control over the apps on your TV. You can keep the ones you want while deleting the ones you don’t want.
Yes, if there is an application you don’t want, you can delete it right away. If there is an application you need, you can simply download it on Roku. So, the next time someone asks your opinion on the Roku VS smart TV debate, you can simply say that Roku is much faster and much easier to use.
By now, you must have understood the difference between Roku TV and smart TV. However, it is important to note that you don’t always need a Roku TV. When I say this, a lot of people ask me, “is Roku worth it?” Well of course Roku is worth it, but you need to ask yourself whether or not you need it.
Let’s suppose you only watch cable and don’t have subscriptions to any streaming applications. Then, obviously, you don’t need to spend money on Roku. Furthermore, if you are using a device like a Playstation or an XBox, you won’t have to get Roku, as these devices have built-in services that work pretty well.
A common question that I get way too often is “do smart TVs have Roku built in.” The answer is yes, but there are some caveats here. There are TVs that have built-in Roku, and these TVs save a lot of money, since you don’t have to buy a separate device. Some of the most popular smart TVs with Roku are made by companies like Sharp and TCL.
Android TV vs Roku
Now, let’s talk about another player in the smart TV game. A lot of people ask me, “James, is Android TV better than Roku?” Well, there is no definitive answer to this question, but we can evaluate both of them based on what they offer. Here’s my take on the Android TV vs Roku debate.
The first thing to look for when distinguishing between the two is interface. Roku has a faster and a simpler interface compared to Android. The UI in Roku has a fairly minimalist design, which is suitable for people that aren’t too tech savvy. It makes Roku easy to use, even for first-time users.
All the installed channels are visible on the home screen, and all you have to do is access them. On the left, you can find the menu. You can use the menu to search for apps and tweak the settings on your device.
On the flip side, on an Android device the UI is very dynamic and highly customizable. This is great, especially for power users. With Android TV, you can use the add button to add your favorite channels to your list. Moreover, you can also change the order of your apps. The list is available at the top of your home screen. All in all, both Roku and Android TV have decent interfaces that are easy to use, efficient, and customizable.
As far as channels are concerned, both Android TV and Roku offer the same streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. However, on a Roku device, you can find a lot of smaller streaming services that Android TV fails to offer. It is surprising, but Roku offers a little over 2000 of these services, which gives it an edge over its Android counterpart.
Sadly, in recent years, content providers and Roku have gotten into some major disputes. As a result, a lot of the content providers pulled their apps back from Roku.
It is important to note that HBO Max is still not available on Roku. Peacock also took some time before landing on the service. In this situation, Android TV is a much better alternative as it has access to most services.
Search and Voice Controls
The good news is that Roku is compatible with the latest remote models of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. However, the bad news is that not all of the features are supported… yet.
For example, if you try using Google Assistant on Roku, you won’t be able to check the weather or the latest events, which isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s something that you might want to use from time to time. Similarly, on Roku you don’t enjoy full voice control. On the flip side, if you are an Android TV user, you get to access all the features on Google Assistant.
An Android TV supports connections via Bluetooth. This means you can connect your Bluetooth devices to an Android TV without a hitch. Not every TV with Roku supports bluetooth connections. This means that you might not be able to connect to some devices via Bluetooth.
Here are some of the Roku devices that support bluetooth.
- Roku TV
- Roku Streambar
- Roku Smart Soundbar
- Roku Ultra model 4800
You can only make bluetooth connections on your Roku TV provided you have Roku wireless speakers or the soundbar that came with your Roku TV.
Mobile Private Listening
It is important to note that a Roku TV does not support features like Mobile Private Listening. However, you can enable mobile private listening on your phone by connecting it to bluetooth speakers. Moreover, you can use the bluetooth speakers to play audio from the Roku application.
The great thing about Android TVs is that they have a built-in support system for Chromecast. If you want the best of both worlds, your best bet is to get yourself a Roku Dongle along with a Chromecast Dongle. Whenever you want to use it, all you need to do is enable the TV HDMI. If you are not casting, you can simply switch to the Roku HDMI input.
A Roku TV gets more frequent updates than an Android TV. It happens primarily due to Roku’s Beta program. This is extremely helpful for Roku as it allows the company to test a specific update on a large chunk of users.
This is a great feature if you look at it from a marketing standpoint. Not only does it mean that your device gets regular updates, but it means that Roku is able to send out updates and get relevant data that can help them improve the frequency and quality of their updates.
There is some bad news for gaming enthusiasts who have a Roku TV. Roku isn’t the best system for gaming. The gaming options on Roku are available, but they are pretty limited. While it is possible to play a game on Roku, it is important to note that this tool wasn’t designed with gamers in mind.
Sure, playing lighter games like solitaire and Minesweeper won’t be a problem, but when it comes to more complex games, it is better to switch to Android TV. On the other hand, Android TVs offer a lot of versatility, especially when it comes to gaming. However, even if you are playing games on an Android TV, it is better to splurge some cash on an NVIDIA Shield TV.
So, in the Android TV vs Roku debate, it really depends on what you want out of your smart TV. So weigh up your choices well.
Q1. Do Smart TVs Have Roku Built In?
Answer – The answer is yes and no. While not all smart TVs have built in Roku however there are some prominent brands that offer built in Roku. This unique combination saves money since you don’t have to spend any extra money on a separate Roku device. All you have to do is to buy a smart TV that has Roku on it. If you are shopping for a smart TV with Roku on it, here are some of my best suggestions.
- TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635)
- TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535)
- Hisense R8F Roku TV
- TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435)
- TCL Roku TV 6-Series 8K (R648)
Q2. Do Samsung TVs Have Roku?
Answer – Samsung TVs don’t come with the Roku functionality built in. It is possible to use Roku on a Samsung TV, but it’s not exactly easy. Your Samsung TV should have the Tizen 2.3 OS or a later version. However, there is a series of steps that must be followed before using Roku on a Samsung TV.
- First, press the SmartHub button.
- Next, you have to scroll down to select the applications.
- Now, enter Roku in the search bar.
- Then, press “download” to add it to any Samsung TV.
Here is what you need to do to check your version of Tizen OS.
- Access the menu using your TV remote.
- Scroll down a little and select the support option from the list provided.
- Next, tap on contact Samsung to figure out what version you are using.
Q3. Is Roku Better Than Samsung Smart TV?
Answer – This is a very subjective question. Both Roku TV and Samsung smart TVs have their pros and cons. For example, they both have immaculate interfaces, which makes the experience simple and quick for users. Moreover, they both allow you to arrange and organize your applications, thus avoiding any clutter.
Do Samsung TVs have Roku? Unfortunately, it doesn’t, so you need to carefully weigh your options to decide on the right TV for you. This mainly comes down to a matter of preference. If you’re a Samsung enthusiast, you’re probably going to choose a Samsung smart TV. However, if you’re not loyal to any particular brand, you’ll find a Roku TV a lot better.
So, do you need a Roku with a smart TV? Well, I will leave you with this. If you’re looking for a TV that can connect to the internet and offers you more than just cable and a few apps here and there, you need a Roku TV. Does Roku stream better than smart TV? Yes. Is Roku worth it? Also yes.
However, if you’re satisfied with limited functionality or have another way to stream your favorite content, it’s better to opt for a regular smart TV and save some money.
As an engineering graduate (and a full-time layabout), I am always looking for smart technological innovations to make my life simpler and more automated so that I can be even lazier than usual.