Electronics are becoming very difficult to differentiate nowadays. Everything in our house is slowly turning into a computer.
Phones have full access to the internet, streaming services, games, and more. Your television can access most streaming services and, in many cases, the internet. Tesla is working to make their vehicles compatible with your Steam video game library.
When everything feels like it gives you options you didn’t know you needed, it can be hard to decide which product is ideal.
This issue is often considered for those with a smart television, as they question the need for a Roku streaming device. The truth is somewhere in the middle and largely depends on what you need from a streaming product.
This article is going to give a more informed response to this dilemma. We will be going over specific Smart TVs, which Roku product would be preferable, and why you may or may not want one.
Benefits of A Roku Streaming Device
To those wondering if there are advantages to using a Roku with a smart TV, the simple answer is a confident yes.
Roku doesn’t slow down the television with 3rd party software so it can operate at far faster speeds than the average smart TV. Roku has been around since 2008 and has shown from its inception that it is more than capable. As the years progressed they have made notable updates, though the original idea is still worthy enough on its own merits.
Roku has access to streaming services that most televisions won’t be able to compete with.
Not only do you get the big three (Netflix, Hulu, Prime) but it offers dozens of lesser-known video services such as RailStream and even Rumble. More exclusive services such as Apple TV are also easily streamable on the device, making it the most easily accessible for any type of content.
The small black box or stick also has a user interface that is largely superior to almost all Smart television alternatives. Everything is easy and convenient to locate, the options are laid out very competently and you never have to worry about it signing you out for seemingly no reason.
Most tech from 2008 would seem largely archaic now, though we would argue the original Roku is still far easier to navigate than the average Smart TV app of 2023.
While on the topic of ease of use, let’s discuss the Roku remote. It is simplistic, straight to the point, and designed for one thing – streaming services. Smart TV remotes have so many buttons on them you need a manual and a graphing calculator to figure out what button does which.
Roku streaming boxes or sticks come with the disadvantage that you will require two remotes, though this will prove far faster as the Roku can access streaming services without the fear that your TV has frozen.
For those that have to travel for work or to escape the crushing reality of their existence; the Roku is far more mobile and easier to move around than a 55-inch smart television.
For those that want some entertainment on long vacations, having a Roku on standby is preferable to having to suffer basic cable at an Econo Inn. You can also seamlessly switch it with other televisions without having to reconfigure all of your various streaming settings and sign-ins.
Another positive is how personalized you can make the Roku menu as opposed to most Smart TVs. You may have never used Peacock or even considered it for a month, though it is likely featured prominently on your Smart TV.
Roku skips all this financially incentivized nonsense and allows you to organize your favorite apps on one convenient screen.
Most television brands will stop updating older devices after a few years as they start to focus on newer models. This is a painful pill to swallow that covers most regularly updated electronics nowadays.
Because of this, the requirements streaming services require and how fast they run will begin to feel slower and slower. Roku will have a longer lifespan when it comes to using streaming services that won’t throttle the smart TV’s processor.
The company also has a specific focus on streaming services so the products tend to work better with Roku than the average television.
A final point when considering Roku is how cheap they all are.
The most expensive option is the Roku Streambox Pro which sits just a hair under $180 at full MSRP. You can also get something like the Roku Express 4k+ for about $40, not including sales or discounts. This is without monthly fees either, so you only have to deal with a manageable one-time cost. (Roku TVs can get up there in price, but that’s a conversation for a different article).
Why You Shouldn’t Get a Roku
In the interest of being fair, let’s look at the opposing side of this argument.
If you are someone who is reluctant to add another accessory to your television or simply don’t want to spend any more money on it, there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t. This will ultimately come down to how often you use streaming services (and what streaming services those are) as opposed to basic cable.
If you are someone who prefers the nostalgic thrill of long commercial breaks and cable sitcoms, then you may not need a Roku. The device is used exclusively for streaming services and a few video platforms such as Youtube. If you have abstained from monthly streaming subscriptions, the device will prove largely useless outside of a few free alternatives with little to offer.
You can also get by with some peculiar electronics that most wouldn’t consider. Video game systems have also evolved over the years and things like The Playstation 5 or the Xbox Series X have far stronger processors that can access Netflix quicker and more competently than your television.
While many would still prefer a Roku, it feels a bit superfluous with a good video game system.
Finally, there is the initial cost. Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is in full swing, but many people are still wondering where half of their bank account went. If you are in a tight spot financially or simply want to save a few bucks, then you may decide that this is an unnecessary purchase.
With that said, Roku devices are surprisingly cheap and tend to last anywhere from 3 to 6 years on average.
Outside of this, you should really consider a Roku. The wait times between screens are far smoother and you will experience very little lag, which is not true of just about any Smart TV.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Roku Should I Purchase?
If someone were to twist our arm about the ideal Roku product taking in cost, convenience, and features we would likely go with the Roku Express 4k+. The Roku Express 4k+ can usually be snagged for just under $40 and comes with all the necessary features you would need from the device.
As the name suggests, you can stream in vivid 4k, and it offers dual-band wireless (2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz) so you don’t have to be selective in how you connect to it.
It allows you to use voice commands, contains the entire library of Roku channels, and for its price you really can’t argue its utility. For a more expansive list of Roku’s catalog, you can refer to their website.
How many channels come with a Roku?
The Roku contains over 300 channels (according to Roku) at last count, including all of the bigger names as well as very recognizable television channels. You get free options like Crackle, Tubi, Pluto, The Roku Channel, and more.
There are also many unknown, weird hidden gems to find in the extensive list of options that will occupy many a regrettably curious night.
In the past, HBO Max and Apple TV were loudly absent from the extensive list of channels featured on Roku though these are now both possible with a paid subscription to the individual companies.
Apple TV may not be on certain Roku products and HBO Max may require you to update your device.
How Hard is the initial Setup?
Roku has made their installation quick and easy and will require little more than ten minutes of your afternoon. Simply plug in the HDMI cord or “streaming” stick into the HDMI outlet (or RCA cables if your television does not have an HDMI port available).
If you want a wired connection, you will need to connect the Roku to your router via an Ethernet cable.
Plug the Roku into a power outlet, switch your TV to the HDMI channel that corresponds to the port you used and follow the on-screen instructions. You will likely need to wait a few minutes as the Roku updates and downloads the needed software.
From there you will simply need to set up your streaming services with your login information and you are good to go!
Smart televisions are certainly a product that will be around for a good while, though they still have a few kinks to work out before they can rival products like a Roku.
For those who prefer basic cable, the device is largely useless.
For those who prefer internet options and commercial-free streaming platforms – the answer is a definitive yes, despite the initial cost. Even if your television is capable of lightning-fast response times and offers a solid user interface, it simply can’t compete with the variety of choices available on a Roku.