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Roku takes over Hisense and TCL TV home screens

Both TV brands to offer Roku-powered TVs that use the Roku OS as their main interface

Published: August 19, 2014 06:00 AM
Roku TVs from Hisense and TCL show connected devices as apps—no switching inputs.

We've seen Roku-ready TVs before, but upcoming models from Hisense and TCL take it to another level—they use the Roku operating system as the TVs' main interface. One of the coolest features of doing so: The devices you have connected to the TV—your cable box, Blu-ray player, or game console—show up as apps on the home screen, so you don't have to remember which gadget is connected to which input. You just click on the device "app" and the TV automatically switches to the appropriate connection.

We first heard about these new Roku TVs at CES back in January. As you can see in the image above, the TV's home screen looks similar to the one you get when using a Roku settop box. If you need to access more features, such as the TV's picture controls, you simply push the "star" button on the Roku-style remote control to pull up a menu system on the left side of the screen. The star button is contextual, so it will call up a list of options that are related to the type of content you're watching. So, for example, if you were watching live TV from an antenna, you'd be able to access the closed-captioning feature. You can change picture settings whenever you're watching content, whether it's streaming channel, live TV, or from a connected external device such as a Blu-ray player. The various picture settings are accessible in any of the TV modes.

Hisense and TCL will each have four Roku TV models initially. It looks like TCL's sets will arrive first, as they are now available for preorder on Amazon.com. The LED-backlit LCD sets include the 32-inch 32FS4610R ($230), the 40-inch 40FS4610R ($330), the 48-inch 48FS4610R ($500), and the 55-inch 55FS4610R ($700).  All are 120Hz 1080p models with three HDMI inputs. The company says additional models will be available from major retailers nationwide in the coming weeks.

Find the right television for you with our TV buying guide and Ratings.

Hisense's four H4-series Roku TV models don't arrive until later in September. (Prices haven't yet been disclosed.) The 50-inch and 55-inch models are 1080p LED-backlit LCD TVs with a 120Hz native refresh rate, while the 40-inch and 48-inch sets are 60Hz 1080p models. All feature local dimming and three HDMI inputs.

Like many of you, we're curious to see whether the Roku OS works well as a TV's main interface, and we plan to buy one or more of these sets for testing in our TV labs once they become available. We'll let you know what we think, so keep checking back for our findings.

—James K. Willcox

   

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