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We’ve long been fans of Roku here at Cordcutting.com – in fact, we consider their streaming boxes to be among the very best on the market. But Roku hasn’t been content to sit back and coast on its streaming box accomplishments. Instead, it has joined up with hardware partners to bring its platform to smart TVs. In doing so, the company hopes to solve the major problem with smart TVs – that their user interfaces can’t match the ones found on streaming boxes like Roku – and extend the Roku platform’s reach to a new group of customers. One result of Roku’s hardware partnerships is the TCL Roku TV S-series, and the folks at Roku were kind enough to send us one to review. Here’s our TCL Roku smart TV review.

TCL Roku Smart TV Review

A Quick Disclaimer

To keep our readers informed, we always mention when we receive review copies for free. Roku sent this TV along to us, but that won't affect the objectivity of our review.

The Device

We reviewed the TCL Roku 40FS800 – a 40-inch S-series TV. It's a 1080p HD TV, and it looks simple and functional: the screen is bordered by a thin black frame, and the TV rests on two feet. Around the back you'll find three HDMI ports, composite A/V, and a coaxial jack for an antenna or cable. You'll also find ports for digital audio, HDMI ARC, and headphones. There's a USB port – Roku's OS supports local media attached via external storage, including photos and videos.

User Experience

Roku views itself as a platform company, not a hardware company. They've been made famous by their streaming boxes, but a project like this – in which the hardware comes from TCL and the OS comes from Roku – is a good indication of how Roku really views its mission and its future. And Roku's platform works seamless on this device. Other than some input options masquerading as channels (¢€œHDMI 1¢€ and the like appear right alongside streaming options like Netflix), everything looks exactly as it would on a regular TV with an external Roku device running on it.

And that's a good thing, because Roku's operating system is quite simply the best platform of its type. It's simple, user-friendly, and pleasant to look at. It works with an app (except for turning it on, you can control your TV completely with your mobile device) and features absolutely massive channel library (on Roku, apps are ¢€œchannels¢€).

The TV is missing a few of the perks from Roku's top-of-the-line streaming boxes: there's no voice search and no remote control headphone jack (though you can use your phone for private listening), and there are no gaming buttons on the remote, either. The remote needs to be pointed at the TV (the Roku Ultra, by contrast, has a point-anywhere remote). There's no 4K spotlight, because this is a 1080p HD TV.

The remote is pretty minimalist, as are all Roku remotes, but cord-havers will have their cable remotes to use for channel guides and menus and cord cutters will find that the minimalist remote does all they need it to.

The whole UI is a breeze, but it's made even easier for the uninitiated with an introductory video that is re-playable at any time from the channel menu (old pros can take it off the menu if they wish).

Picture Quality and Streaming Quality

As a casual viewer, I was perfectly pleased with the TCL Roku's picture quality. As a critical reviewer, though, I have a couple of small criticisms to mention. I thought the picture could have looked a little crisper and the colors (particularly dark ones) a bit more vivid. Connoisseurs may want to move up their price range and target a fancy 4K TV.

Loading times were quick for the most part, though I didn't find the Wi-Fi connection to be quite as reliable as the Roku Ultra's. That made me wish that the TV had an Ethernet jack. No such luck.

That said, I enjoyed smooth streaming for the most part and was more pleased than not with the picture and streaming quality. For its price point, this is a very high quality TV.

Price

There may be better TVs out there than the TCL Roku S-series, but there aren't any at this price point. The 40¢€ model I tried out goes for $270 on Amazon, and that makes it an excellent value. Different sizes are available, and even the 49″ model costs less than $400. The relatively tiny 28″ goes for around $150.

Verdict

Roku got its start by making boxes that turn regular TVs into smart ones capable of streaming Netflix, Hulu, and the like. They've been able to keep doing that (most recently a freshly branded lineup topped by the Roku Ultra) even as more and more TVs come out the factory ¢€œsmart,¢€ and that's largely because most smart TVs have terrible user interfaces. Legacy TV companies have never made their smart TVs as easy to use as a Roku, and now Roku has gone and beaten them at their own game. Here, at last, is a smart TV that is truly made better by its smart-ness.

This TV isn't a world-beater in terms of picture quality. You won't be getting any of the 4K picture that the Roku Ultra, paired with a 4K TV, could give you. But the TCL has the very best smart TV interface on the market and comes in at an excellent price point. If you're looking for a smart TV under $300 or $400, look no further: this is your TV.

7 thoughts on “TCL Roku TV Review

  1. Avatar The Col says:

    Please explain regular viewing of major networks and locals input by Xfinity, U-verse, and the satellites.

  2. Avatar David George says:

    Has been a good Tv so far but after several months 0f use three stations have stopped streaming. Netflix, You Tube TV and Amazon Prime have just stopped streaming. No help from Roku or TCL customer service unless you want to spent hours going from site to site with endless entering E-mail address, passwords, filling out problems statements finding dead ends and pulling your hair out and still no help. Before this I just had one major problem. The Remote is the cheapest flimsily thing you have ever used. too small for the hand. cheaply made and no upgrade for a better one or for a universal remote available. Very frustrating.

  3. Avatar MIKE PERRY says:

    I WOULD NOT SUGGEST BUYING A TCL TV. I GOT IT AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT 2018, WENT BLACK ONE TIME WAS ABLE TO REBOOT, HAPPENED AGAIN CAN NOT REBOOT. HAD TV FOR 17 MONTHS AND DOES NOT WORK. TALKED TO TCL. THEY KNOW THIS A KNOW PROBLEM WITH THIS TV AND WILL NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT WITH OUT A RECEIPT. VERY BAD SUPPORT. TV SHOULD LAST LONGER THEN 17 MONTHS.

  4. Avatar sally farries says:

    sound comes and goes

  5. Avatar robbin says:

    today my t.v. suddenly stopped streaming any channels. no Netflix, no Youtube, none of the free streaming channels either. I’ve had it a few years, but I would hope a smart tv would last longer. can’t afford a new t.v. and will now have to cancel netflix. during a pandemic you need all the distraction. very depressing.

  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    went to crap today won’t connect to the internet to stream channels, but says it’s connected. something inside it has broken. wonder if there’s a class action lawsuit against them.

  7. Avatar Never again says:

    Will be returning my 32″ TCL Roku TV tomorrow for a full refund. Whoever designed a BLACK remote control to be smaller than a set of car keys should be fired. I have spent more time searching for my stupid remote than actually being able to watch the thing. Do NOT waste your money.

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