BUDGET TV sets are often a let down, with limp displays and bewildering software meaning you frequently get what you pay for.
Set-top box maker Roku has had a crack at changing that with a new smart telly that promises to buck the trend – but is it actually any good?
What is the Hisense-Roku TV?
Roku is known for its excellent set-top boxes – web-connected gadgets that turn your ordinary TV into a smart one – which offer hundreds of channels and all your favourite streaming apps.
They’ve paired up with Chinese telly-maker Hisense to make a budget smart TV loaded with Roku’s tried and tested software.
According to Roku, the boxes offer a “customisable home screen, thousands of streaming channels and advanced features.”
With the recent meteoric rise of the smart TV, it makes sense for Roku to start making its own, as set-top boxes look set to become obsolete over the next few years.
- Hisense Roku TV 43-inch 4K Smart LED TV with HDR for £299 at Argos – Buy now
Hisense-Roku TV design and features – all you need, and more
In terms of design, the Roku telly looks a lot like most 4K TVs you see nowadays.
That’s far from a bad thing, as your box should ideally blend in with your living room rather than stick out like a sore thumb.
There’s minimal bezel around the edge of the screen, and the feet jut unobtrusively from the far edge.
One gripe I have is that these feet aren’t adjustable, meaning you need a pretty large TV stand to fit everything on there.
The telly comes with three HDMI slots, a USB port, headphones and AV sockets, and an optical connection, so all your gadgetry needs are covered for.
As with any smart TV, it also comes with built in Wi-Fi, which gives you access to arguably the TV’s biggest selling point: Roku.
The operating system is based on the one loaded in Roku’s set top streaming boxes, and it does not disappoint.
It works like Amazon’s Fire TV stick, or Apple’s Apple TV box, giving you access to terrestrial channels as well as a host of streaming apps.
Those include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and more.
The telly’s remote even features dedicated buttons to access some of the most popular apps, which is a nice touch.
Roku’s software is as smooth as warm milk and easy to navigate – something that can’t be said of mostly telly operating systems.
You navigate everything from a central hub that features all your apps plus your favourite telly channels and even your HDMI port connections.
The TV guide has a nice translucent design and is simple to work your way around. All-in-all, it’s the best built-in TV operating system I’ve ever used.
The Roku TV also features “private listening”, which lets you switch the sound from your TV to your smartphone at the click of a button.
It means you can listen to your telly through headphones if the kids have gone to bed and you need to keep the noise down.
Another feature allows you to control the telly with the Roku app on your smartphone instead of the remote, if that’s your thing.
Hisens-Roku TV display – good but not the best
In total, four sets are available, boasting 43in, 50in, 55in and 65in displays.
I used the 50in model, and it was perfectly adequate for my needs – though I was jumping up from a much smaller telly.
Lets start with the geeky stuff: The Roku TV offers 4K Uktra HD picture quality with HDR and HDR 10 capabilities.
In simple terms, that means it looks blinkin’ great, and supports 4K content on YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime – pretty much the only places you can cheaply access 4K content for now.
From my viewing experience, the TV produced high contrast and bright pictures, with smooth motion even during challenging action movie sequences.
It handled football games in HD – as well as 4K games on my Xbox One – with ease, boasting a great depth of colour for a box of its price.
The one drawback is that it’s an LED telly, meaning the picture isn’t quite as bright as your top-end OLED or ULED screens.
It also can’t do dark scenes as well as an OLED screen – while OLEDs can turn on and off individual pixels, LEDs are permanently lit by a back light.
As a result, blacks come out a dark grey rather than true black.
It’s a drawback, for sure, but one I imagine many are happy to take on the chin when they see the set’s price tag.
Overall, the Roku TV has one of the best displays I’ve seen in an LED TV.
What is 4K, Ultra HD and UHD?
Here’s an easy guide to what 4K means…
- 4K, Ultra HD and UHD are all different names for the same type of TV screen. 4K refers to the number of pixels on your TV screen – or the “image resolution”
- The pixels are the tiny dots of colour that make up the image you see on your telly. A pixellated image is one where the pixels are really obvious, because there aren’t many. But images with lots of pixels – like a 4K movie – generally look sharper and clearer
- A true 4K screen has 4096 x 2160 pixels. That means on your TV screen there are 3840 pixels across, and 2160 pixels vertically. That’s roughly 8.3 million pixels on the display in total
- 4K gets it’s name because it’s got four times the number of pixels as a standard Full HD TV
- Full HD (or 1080p) screens have 1920 pixels across, and 1080 pixels going upwards – for around two million pixels in total. So 4K just means your TV has many more pixels on the screen compared to a more common Full HD display
- Ultra HD, or UHD, is basically the same as 4K. If you buy a UHD telly in a shop, you’ll be able to watch 4K content on it with no bother
- But there is a small difference. Almost every TV you ever buy has an aspect ratio of 16:9. That means for every 16 pixels horizontally, there are 9 vertically
- True 4K footage doesn’t quite fit in with that ratio, so you won’t often find TVs with 4096 x 2160 pixels. Instead, to fit with the 16:9 ratio, most 4K TVs will have 3840 x 2160 pixels instead
- If it doesn’t make sense, grab a calculator and divide 2160 by 9. Then multiply it by 16, and you’ll get 3840. That’s the aspect ratio working its magic. So when you see an Ultra HD TV, it just means it’s a 4K image with slightly fewer vertical pixels
- If you try watching a 4K video on a non-4K TV, the video will still play – but it won’t be in 4K quality. To watch a 4K video in 4K quality, you’ll need to fork out for a 4K TV. Similarly, if you’re watching standard or HD footage on a 4K TV, it won’t magically become 4K quality
- Some TVs promise “4K upscaling”, which converts your standard or HD footage to near-4K quality. This works by using software to guess what colours would fill the extra empty pixels missing in HD footage, and then filling them in. This creates a 4K-like effect, but it’s not true 4K
Hisense-Roku TV price – absolutely worth it
This is where the Roku TV really makes a statement.
For a telly of its quality, you can get hold of one for a little over £300 if you’re willing to take the smallest model.
The 43in version costs £299, while the 50in (£379), 44in (£429) and 65in (£649) models are a little pricier.
Those are pretty staggering prices when you consider the tellies offer 4K and Roku’s excellent OS.
They’re only on sale at Argos for now, though they’re expected to hit other retailers in future.
Hisense-Roku TV review verdict – should you buy one?
Roku has had a belting first crack at a smart TV, building a top-end set that does a lot for very little.
It might not have the best display money can buy, but the Hisense-Roku set more than makes up for it in other departments.
Roku’s software is best-in-class, providing an operating system that’s both easy to navigate and easy on the eye.
But it’s the price that I imagine will woo most punters.
Some people want to spend £800 on a telly – and they’re within their rights to – but most of us just want a decent 4K set for a reasonable price.
Ladies and gentlemen: Enter the Hisense-Roku TV. It’s the best budget box on the market, for my money.
All prices were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed. Always do your own research before making any purchase.
- Hisense Roku TV 43-inch 4K Smart LED TV with HDR for £299 at Argos – Buy now
Inside the world’s ‘lost’ cities including Brazilian town ‘full of gold’
TIK-ING TIME BOMB
Is TikTok shutting down? Users panic amid rumours app will close tomorrow
YouTube flooded with hardcore sex videos from Roblox, a video game for KIDS
LOST IN SPACE
Nasa mysteriously loses control of £2bn rover on Mars, scientists reveal
BEAT ‘EM UP
First image of Xbox Series X ‘leaked’ just days after blurry PS5 photo emerges
PS5 reveal just ‘weeks away’ as game maker promises February launch
In other news, Toshiba recently unveiled smart 4K Alexa TVs that you can talk to.
LG is now selling a huge 88-inch 8K television that costs £30,000.
And LG rocked the TV world earlier this year with an incredible “rollable” telly.
Do you think 4K is worth the hype? If so, let us know in the comments!
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at email@example.com