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Do You Need Roku With A Smart TV? No-But Also Yes

Look, if the title seems a tad confusing, that just reflects the nature of the situation here. As you’ll see, there are arguments on both side of this question, and the answer is largely going to come down to your personal taste and preferences here.

You don’t need a Roku with a Smart TV, since Smart TV’s have much of Roku’s functionality built-in. That said, Smart TV are slower, chocked full of bloatware and ads, and degrade more over time. So, we think adding a Roku to a Smart TV is a great call for the overall user experience.

Roku players offer easy setup, a wide selection of streaming channels, and a variety of models to choose from. They can enhance your smart TV experience, providing stronger performance and access to exclusive content. But, smart TV’s also claim to be able to do all these things too, from downloading apps to offering free channels. Let’s look deeper at how to make this decision for yourself, based on your unique home theater setup.

Do You “Need” A Roku For Your Smart TV?

Roku For Smart TV

Need” is a strong word here. You need water and food. But if you already have a smart TV, you don’t necessarily need a Roku as smart TVs already have built-in streaming capabilities, support for key streaming apps, etc.

However, getting a Roku device has several benefits, including access to more streaming content options, a user-friendly interface, faster loading times, the option to remove unwanted apps, more consistent updates, and a simpler yet better remote. Whether or not you need a Roku depends on your personal preferences and streaming needs.

Let’s start by discussing what your Smart TV is capable of – here are features that are built into most Smart TVs as well as Roku devices, so you can get a sense of how many of the Roku features you may already have access to.

  1. Streaming: Smart TVs and Roku devices allow you to stream content from popular services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. With a Smart TV, you can access these services directly from your TV, while with a Roku device, you’ll need to plug the device into your TV and use the Roku remote to access the services, but you can still access them for sure.

  2. Voice Control: Many Smart TVs and Roku devices come with voice control capabilities, allowing you to use your voice to search for content, change channels, and adjust the volume. Some Smart TVs even come with virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant built-in, which may be a feature or a bug depending on your privacy perspective.

  3. Screen Mirroring: With both Smart TVs and Roku devices, you can mirror your phone or computer screen onto your TV. This is a great way to share photos, videos, and presentations with others in the room.

  4. Gaming: Some Smart TVs and Roku devices come with built-in gaming capabilities, allowing you to play games directly on your TV. You can also connect a gaming console like the Xbox or PlayStation to your Smart TV or Roku device for an even better gaming experience. Again, though, this isn’t mutually exclusive–you can do the same thing on Roku TVs.

  5. Internet Browsing: Smart TVs typically allow you to browse the internet directly from your TV, giving you access to websites and online services like social media and online shopping. Roku devices, on the other hand, do not have this capability (though you can access it through a couple loopholes).

So, if these devices are mostly the same, how should we think about this? Do you really need to go the added expense or effort to add a Roku to your already-smart TV? We think the answer is YES.

Adding a Roku is a Great Option

There are several reasons why adding one to your home theater system can still be a great option. We’ll look at a few key differentiators below, but you should understand that, first and foremost, Smart TV’s have to be TV’s. MAnufacturers are focused ont he panels first, and the operating system as an afterthought. Or worse…they optimize their OS for ads and bloatware to try and milk you for more money.

Pro-Tip: You don’t need a Roku for a Smart TV, but you may really enjoy one because…Smart TV Operating Systems suck!

Put simply, we consider the typical Smart TV experience from Samsung or others to be user-hostile, powered by slower hardware that is updated less often, leading to a user-experience of wading through a dog’s breakfast of bloat and crapware to get to the apps you want, which gets worse and worse over time the longer you own the device.

Adding a Roku to your smart TV will greatly enhance ease-of-use. Roku is known for its user-friendly interface, which makes navigating various streaming apps and channels a breeze. This can be especially helpful if your smart TV’s built-in interface is less intuitive or cumbersome to navigate.

Speed is also a notable benefit of using a Roku device. Roku streaming devices are designed to provide fast and smooth streaming, thanks to their powerful processors. If your smart TV is slow or struggles to handle multiple streaming apps simultaneously, a Roku device can help resolve these issues and provide an overall improved streaming experience.

Moreover, Roku regularly releases software updates to enhance the performance and functionality of its devices. While some smart TVs may receive software updates, they’re often not as frequent or comprehensive as those offered by Roku. This means your Roku is more likely to stay up-to-date with new features and improvements.

Roku’s remote control also deserves a mention here. With its simple design and responsive buttons, it’s easy to use, making your TV watching experience more enjoyable. This is especially helpful if your smart TV’s remote control is complicated or difficult to use.

What About Roku TVs?

Roku TVs are an ideal solution for those who haven’t purchased a smart TV yet and are committed to the Roku ecosystem. With a Roku TV, the operating system is powered by Roku, providing a seamless user experience without needing to purchase a separate Roku device.

Manufacturers like TCL (example Roku TV on Amazon) can focus on creating high-quality panels, while Roku handles the operating system and user experience. This keeps everyone focused on what they should be focused on, and greatly enhances the user experience.

In our article on Roku lifespan, we note that Roku TV’s actually have a longer expected lifetime than the individual Roku devices, offering another compelling reason to go with this option.

Using Roku to Upgrade Older (“Dumb”) TVs

RCA HDMI Converter1

Are you looking to upcycle an old TV or add streaming capabilities to a non-smart TV? A Roku device can be a perfect solution for this. In fact, Roku devices are designed to add smart TV functionality to “dumb” TVs that don’t even have HDMI. You can check out this guide for detailed information, but the key idea is pretty simple:

Even if your old TV uses older RCA connectors rather than an HDMI, you can still use an RCA to HDMI converter to connect a Roku device. These converters help you extend the functions and features of your old TV, transforming it into a more modern home entertainment system.

This is a great option to avoid the Smart TV experience.

Want Even More Streamlining? Use A Universal Remote

We all know the struggle of juggling multiple remotes to manage our devices. And if you’re already on this article, we think you’re a person who’s interested in streamlining your home theater setup. So, we’d like to recommend you consider a universal remote.

This is just a better experience overall, to have fewer remotes to manage. If you choose to use a Roku with your Smart TV, for instance, a universal remote like the Phillips 6 Device Universal Remote (on Amazon) can at least take the sting out of needing to hunt down the right controller whenever you want to hop from ecosystem to ecosystem.

To connect a compatible remote to your Roku, locate the code for Roku devices in the user manual of your universal remote control. Just keep in mind that not all universal remotes offer complete access to the button controls present on the original Roku remote. Check out our full article on this for more.

What About Remote Apps?

You can use your Android or iOS smartphone as a Roku remote by installing the Roku app. Just make sure both your Roku device and smartphone are connected to the same network. This option allows you to control your Roku TV without the need for a physical remote, providing a handy alternative.

So, Do You Need It?

While you may not necessarily need a Roku with a smart TV, it can offer some benefits like more content options, an easier menu to navigate, faster load times, and more frequent updates. Smart TVs already have built-in internet connections and streaming capabilities, but a Roku device can provide access to additional channels and a better overall streaming experience.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide if a Roku device would enhance your smart TV experience enough to justify the additional expense. Consider your personal preferences, usage habits, and the available content on your smart TV. If you find that you’re craving, better performance, or an easier-to-use interface, a Roku device might be a great addition to your entertainment setup.