Roku TV vs. Smart TVs

With the ability to explore thousands of apps and online content, smart TVs open up a world of possibilities beyond traditional cable. And with leading brands like Samsung and LG offering their own operating systems (OS), you have a bunch of smart TV options to choose from. Among these, Roku TVs take the cake with the Roku OS’ simple and straightforward interface.

So now the big question is whether you should get a Roku TV over other smart TVs and why this option stands apart from the competitors. At the same time, some may still prefer other smart TV options if they don’t like the Roku OS environment. In this post, we take an in-depth look at the Roku TV vs. smart TV comparison to help you make the right choice.

What is a smart TV?

Smart TVs are an upgrade from traditional TVs as they run on an operating system. This lets you access a bunch of other apps and online content in addition to your cable programming. Most of these apps will let you stream live or on-demand content from streaming services and online platforms.

So, for instance, you could use the YouTube app to stream YouTube videos using your smart TV. Or you could use the Spotify app to stream your favorite music. You could even watch live TV programming with the Sling TV app or watch on-demand content with Netflix. Think of your mobile or tablet, but bigger.

What is a Roku TV?

A Roku TV is essentially a range of smart TVs that runs on the Roku OS. Known for its simplicity and its clutter-free layout, the Roku OS has been a favorite among tech enthusiasts and regular consumers alike. It comes with a bunch of free apps for streaming services like Netflix and YouTube TV. And you can download more through the Roku Channel Store.

So although it may cost slightly more than a regular smart TV, getting a Roku TV means you won’t have to invest in a separate Roku streaming device. But if you’d like to consider every option, you can also check out our review of Roku streaming devices.

How does the Roku TV compare to smart TVs?

User experience

This is where the Roku TV particularly outshines other smart TVs. Due to its minimal yet intuitive layout, the Roku OS has gained authority in the streaming device industry. So having it seamlessly built into your smart TV simplifies things even more.

The home screen doesn’t see any clutter from first-party ads. And you can easily access controls for your antenna, cable TV and game console from the same screen. Below that, you can see all the apps installed on your Roku TV, with the option to customize the arrangement based on what’s important to you.

The user experience across other smart TVs varies depending on which OS they’re using. While the LG WebOS comes close to the clean and straightforward Roku interface, the Samsung smart TV interface may be a little confusing for novice users. So there isn’t a lot of consistency in the kind of user experience they offer.

Processing power

When it comes to processing power, Roku TVs and other smart TVs are on par. The exact specification may vary based on the model and brand. However, you may be able to find smart TVs that work slightly faster than the Roku range of TVs.

Roku TVs typically have RAMs (Random Access Memory) ranging from 512 MB to 1.5 GB and processors as powerful as quad-core 1 GHz. On the other hand, some smart TV brands such as Samsung can have quantum processors that are as powerful as 1.3 GHz.

Casting, mirroring, sharing

Like most Roku players, Roku TVs also support screen mirroring on Android and Windows devices. Plus, you can also cast content from your phone or tablet to your Roku TV and even share your personal photos and videos with the device.

Many new smart TV models come with built-in features to mirror the screen of your mobile or tablet. For instance, you can use the Smart View app to enable screen mirroring on your Samsung smart TV. Most smart TVs also support Apple AirPlay or Google Cast to cast content from your phone or tablet to your TV screen. Keep in mind that the process and the necessary apps vary by OS, so you’ll need to check which options are available for the smart TV you want to get.

Audio and video quality

In the Roku vs. smart TV battle, Roku TVs have a minor limitation in terms of video quality. Currently, you can only get Roku TVs with up to 4K resolution. On the other hand, you can even get up to 8K display on certain smart TV brands.

As for sound quality, many Roku TV models and other smart TVs will support Dolby Atmos pass-through to give you immersive audio.

Remote control

Just like the user interface, the remotes for Roku TVs are pretty simple and straightforward. They typically come with all the buttons for basic controls as well as channel shortcuts. Some remotes even come with voice search capabilities, so you can simply speak to find the content you need.

As for other smart TVs, the range of remotes you can get is a bit more expansive and largely depends on which brand you’re getting. Some brands like Samsung even have sophisticated universal remotes that’ll let you control your smart TV and other external devices.

Value

In terms of value, you can find both Roku TV and other smart TV options in a wide range of price points. With both options, you should be able to get smaller high-definition TVs for under $200. And since both types of smart TVs pack a punch with powerful processors and excellent picture quality, you get great value regardless of which one you choose.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of regular smart TVs is the clunky and often cluttered interface that can be difficult to navigate for many novice users. As for Roku TVs, there aren’t any major disadvantages except for the fact that they don’t come in as high a resolution as some other smart TVs. You only get up to 4K display at the time of writing this post, while other smart TVs even have 8K.

Which streaming device is right for you?

The right streaming device for you really depends on your personal needs and preferences. You have an abundance of options when it comes to regular smart TVs — from brands and operating systems to hardware and streaming quality. So if you like the flexibility to choose between multiple options, regular smart TVs might be just what you need.

But if you like the clean and straightforward user interface of the Roku OS, consider getting a Roku TV instead. Keep in mind, however, that you might have to spend slightly more on a Roku TV with the same technical specs as a regular smart TV.

Our hot take

In the Roku TV vs. smart TV comparison, Roku TVs clearly offer a much more sophisticated yet easy-to-use interface. This makes it perfect for novice users who’re getting a smart TV for the very first time. It also makes sense for anyone who wants to enjoy a seamless user experience.

But regular smart TVs offer more variety in terms of technical specs and pricing. So if you like flexibility in choice, you might want to go for one instead.

Jacqueline Zote

Jacqueline Zote is a digital marketing and entertainment writer who makes regular contributions to Sprout Social and Recreation Insider. Her interests range from pop culture and mythology to social activism. When she’s not writing, she goes on food adventures and binges on crime drama. Her short fiction has been published by HarperCollins Publishers and Zubaan Books.