I took a super brief look at Roku TV back at CES, but CNET is now out with a more thorough once over as pricing and timing have been revealed. And that pricing is extremely competitive, with the 32″ TCL running a mere $229. While that’s pretty darn good for a 720P smart TV with WiFi, CNET wonders if budget sets from Vizio might provide better picture quality, given local dimming… along with providing their own raft of apps. Of course, no one comes close to Roku’s breadth (even if the vast majority of their 2,000 over-the-top “channels” hold no appeal). Yet, at launch, the Roku TV doesn’t much compel me. In fact, they seemed to have overlooked some very interesting cord cutter interplay.
As with LG, “TV” is an app. In fact, highlighting the TV tile will even live-preview whatever’s being broadcast (as will any other input tile, such as a STB wired up via HDMI). But Roku’s very fine universal search doesn’t incorporate current or upcoming OTA programming. In fact, there’s no guide at all (as far as I know) – just a sidebar of tuned channels. Which, I suppose, is at least a step up from the yet-to-be-released Roku Antenna that requires you flip inputs between apps and TV.
The Roku 3 remains my go-to streamer, besting Apple TV, Fire TV, TiVo, and Xbox One. And, if I were in the market for a budget smart set, for kitchen or office usage, I’d probably go with the Vizio – that also comes in a smaller 28″ size. Alternately, I’d simply get a “dumb” TV … and add over-the-top capabilities via the relatively inexpensive and clutter-free Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick.