Two Weeks With Roku TV

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2015

I wasn’t the only member of the Zatz family that picked up a new television this season. And, unlike my Vizio experience, Mom has been quite pleased with the two TCL Roku TVs I chose for her. Of course, her expectations and tolerances in this realm are far more, uh, relaxed than most of our regulars – so context is indeed important.

Upon moving from Florida to Virginia in 2013, I had Mom unload her truly crappy living room television while hanging onto her 32″ bedroom Vizio with an understanding that we’d come up with a more modern solution once she furnished her NoVA condo. As the furnishing have now (mostly) arrived, it was time to identify new televisions for the bedroom and the living room, with the Vizio earmarked for the den/office. I originally thought a pair of 42″ HDTVs might do the trick and figured she’d benefit from the same manufacturer, remote, and interface. With that in mind, my original thought for practicality was to pick up whatever Vizio model Costco had on the floor. She’d had good luck with her original Vizio and Costco includes a stellar warranty and technical support.

Obviously, I ended up switching gears as the TCL Roku TV hit… to good reviews. My thought process was that we could remove her hand-me-down Roku (as my aversion to clutter is hereditary) and, given the television’s interface, further limit “Input” confusion as Cable TV and DVD would become tiles in the UI. (Keep in mind her Vizio remote has a cheat sheet taped to the back reminding her which inputs do what.) In the course of setting things up, we discovered that the TV can be configured launch straight into cable television versus the Roku Home screen or even the prior input – further smoothing the experience. So, in this case, I clearly chose usability over picture quality that would not have been appreciated.

From Mom herself:

I’m very sorry you weren’t pleased with your new TV. As for me, ignorance is bliss. I don’t know enough about how my TV should function to be disappointed … and my expectations are so basic that I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t performing as I should expect. Also, I’m comparing its upgrade with my smaller 8 year old TV.

She goes on to say that she’s quite pleased with the TCL Roku TV picture – specifically the colors. Old ladies also like it loud and she’s more than satisfied with the internal speakers. Related, she prefers the vertical volume indicator over the Vizio’s horizontal one which sometimes hid her ticker or Comcast mini guide. Beyond that, something in the UI beeps at her as she moves around and she appreciates the auditory feedback (even though it’s something you and I would have certainly disabled). On the hardware front, she says it powers on/off much faster than her old Vizio. I assume this is a low power standby mode that either the Vizio didn’t have or I never enabled. Lastly, she’s quite impressed with the TCL Roku’s exterior styling. So I am. It’s quite sleek, especially compared to her older set, and the glass base is both elegant and stable.

As to the industry itself, it’s amazing how far we’ve come. Mom went from a single $600 32″ HDTV in 2007 to two 40″ HDTV, with builtin streaming services, for that same $600 in 2014.

6 responses to Two Weeks With Roku TV

  1. The sets aren’t in their final locations as her new TV stand arrived at the warehouse damaged and she’s awaiting a replacement. In the interim, she’s largely been watching SD Comcast via DTA in the bedroom which will be replaced by a HD STB ($10/mo) and the other set has been in the den and primarily used for Sky News and CBS News Roku apps. That set will ultimately go to the living room and also receive a HD STB, with the Vizio and bedroom DTA relocating to the den. I’m sure she’ll do more Netflix and Amazon streaming once the living room is ready. 

    We also got her Comcast remote controlling most of the TCL Roku TV functions via the below support note. Will revisit once the HD boxes are in place.

    http://support.roku.com/entries/51914284-Program-Your-Cable-or-Satellite-Remote-Control-to-Work-with-Roku-TV

    As for me, I thought the 32″ TCL Roku TV might be fun to have in the kitchen and periodically drag out to the deck. Especially given the low $188 cost at Walmart. But we had problems removing the film from the glass base and it went back. Maybe I’ll revisit. (Hers were shipped from Amazon – no problems. As TCL is new to me and I don’t want to own hardware support, we did get a 3-year Squaretrade warranty on each for $20/pop. Given early issues on that Vizio M Series, was also considering Squaretrade for myself – further reinforced when someone on AVS said Vizio’s support response in one case was to give them a refurb. Yuck.)

  2. yeah, the price drops have been amazing.

    I paid $900 for a 720p 42″ Panasonic plasma in 2008 but only $600 for a 50″ 1080p Panasonic plasma in 2011.

    Last year I picked up a no-name 50″ 1080p LCD HDTV for $299 for our extended family’s cabin in the mountains.

  3. I certainly hope you’re compensating your Mom. I picture you holding on to her social security checks until she cranks out 1000 words! :^)

  4. I agree, it is staggering how cheap TVs are these days. I bought a 42″ HDTV for $1600 in 2006, and just replaced it with a 60″ Vizio for $700.

    It’s a shame she’s on Comcast, TWC has a roku channel that essentially replaces a STB. Does on-demand too.

  5. Yeah, been wondering if an OTA antenna and the new Sling TV on Roku might be all she needs. But her HOA has her locked into Comcast. She must pay, whether or not she uses it and can’t downgrade or drop her package. Further the rates don’t reflect much of any sort of group/bulk discount as far as I can tell and she must manage TV and broadband seperately, meaning no new customer or double play discounts. Her negotiated fees do include two DTAs but anything more, including HD, costs. So the $20/mo increase for two new HD boxes runs the same as Sling TV. Again, I’m most concerned with simplicity – wonder if breaking out some channels in a Sling app and others under an antenna tile would be confusing. The cable box might be more familiar. Also on my list, I got to buy her a cable modem so she can stop paying $6 or $8/mo on that.

  6. Mandated Comcast service? Who’s running the hOA? Obama??