New York — The first TVs fully integrated with Roku smart-TV technology are about to launch from Chinese TV makers TCL and Hisense, the companies said Tuesday.
Roku, which offers a large library of streaming entertainment apps and services through its assortment of set-top boxes and streaming sticks, first revealed at International CES last January that it has created the smart-TV hardware and operating system for a new class of Roku TVs that can be operated through a newly designed interface controlled by Roku’s special 20-button remote and by iOS and Android apps.
The Roku TV’s design scales down layers and menus to make TV navigation less complicated. The home screen brings together multiple content sources and provides full access to the Roku Channel Store, offering more than 31,000 movies and 1,200 channels.
The user interface was designed to control not only Internet streaming services, but the main adjustments for the TV set, including an onscreen listing of broadcast TV stations available through the TV’s tuner.
Roku makes subtle changes (mostly the background colors) to the look and feel of the interface to differentiate the experience between brands, but for the most part Roku said it is up to the set manufacturers to distinguish their products through cosmetics and picture and sound quality, leaving smart TV and set navigation to Roku.
The sets are controlled with Roku’s familiar remote and through iOS and Android apps that control each brand of TV. The set makers do not include a second more conventional remote, relying instead on the firmware in the TV sets to provide the heavy lifting for operational navigation and program selection.
Collectively, TCL and Hisense plan to offer eight Roku TV models — four each.
TCL will offer four models in the 32- 32FS4610R ($229), 40- 40FS4610R ($329), 48- 48FS4610R ($499), and 55-inch 55FS4610R ($649) screen sizes.
“We are offering some really compelling values for this rich, immersive premium experience that many of my competitors can’t compete with basic monitor televisions,” Chris Larson, TCL North America business center sales and marketing VP, told TWICE.
The company said its screen size selection for the line covers more than 75 percent of biggest sweet spot for TV sales by size in the United States.
Beginning today, the sets will be available for pre-order on Amazon.com, with availability extending to major retailers nationwide in the coming weeks, TCL said.
“This is a real sea change in television. It is the first time that we’ve ever re-imagined where people get their content, with an operating system, a menu system and a TV system, that builds around that,” said Larson.
The TCL Roku TV models feature FullHD (1080p) resolution, 120Hz refresh rate and three HDMI inputs.
Similarly, Hisense is offering Roku TV through its H4 series in the U.S. market, offering models in the 40-, 48-, 50- and 55-inch screen sizes.
The two companies will only overlap in one screen size for the Roku TV platform.
Chris Porter, Hisense product manager, said the company has elected not to impose suggested retails or even estimated street prices on the sets, opting instead to give its “major national retail” partners complete freedom in pricing the products.
Porter said Hisense will market two flavors of smart TV this year, including the already-launched Vidaa smart-TV lineup, which allows Hisense more leeway in designing and controlling the user interface, offering a somewhat more elaborate menu system, but more limited selection of over-the-top streaming partners.
Jim Funk, Roku product management senior VP, told TWICE that Roku’s focus on developing the Roku TV platform was on ease of use and value.
“If someone’s interested in certain high-end features and technologies, they have choices in the marketplace,” Funk said. “We are going to build a product that fits what Roku is all about.”
Using the Roku smart-TV design, the Hisense Roku TV H4 series features a personalized home screen with direct access to antenna, broadcast TV, favorite streaming channels and devices such as game consoles.
The sets include access to the aforementioned Roku Channel Store.
The Hisense 50- and 55-inch models come with FullHD resolution, a 120Hz native refresh rate and a smooth-motion enhancement of UltraSMR 240 for the ultimate TV experience. The 40- and 48-inch come with FullHD and a 60Hz refresh rate. All models come with local dimming, built-in Wi-Fi, three HDMI inputs, USB and digital audio output.