© iStock.com/Robert Daly

Key Points:
  • The Roku OS comes with a bunch of free apps, and the hardware comes in a variety of shapes and formats.
  • Smart TVs are upgraded traditional TVs that run on an operating system. The OS lets you access many other apps and online content in addition to your cable programming.
  • Roku TVs offer superior voice commands compared to most other smart TVs and work with Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Cutting the cord and getting rid of cable has been the trend for TV entertainment for a while now. Whether you are just hopping into the streaming world now or have been using it for a time, there are many more devices that can stream than there were just 6 years ago.

One of the names that has been in this world pretty much since streaming has become a thing is Roku. Rokus are streaming devices that you plug into an HDMI port, turning a non-smart TV into a device that allows you to stream content online. However, smart TVs have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Smart TVs have hardware that will enable them to stream content online.

But, which one is better? Does having a Roku make a real difference from just having a smart TV? In this article, we will find out the answer to both of these questions and find out which is suitable for you.

Let’s get started!

Smart TV vs. Roku: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Smart TVRoku
Price Range$255-$1,700$29.99-$99.99
Available Channels190300+
Max Resolution 8K4K

Smart TV vs. Roku: What’s the Difference?

What is a Roku?

Known for its simplicity and clutter-free layout, the Roku OS has been a favorite among tech enthusiasts and regular consumers. It comes with a bunch of free apps, and the hardware comes in a variety of shapes and formats. Some are small sticks that you plug into your TV, while others are built into a TV.

Roku device remote plugin
Rokus are loved for its user-friendly, straightforward approach to streaming.

©Fozan Ns/Shutterstock.com

What is a Smart TV?

Smart TVs are upgraded traditional TVs that run on an operating system. The OS lets you access many other apps and online content in addition to your cable programming. Most apps will let you stream live or on-demand content from streaming services and online platforms.

Unlike Rokus, many different manufacturers make smart TVs. For this comparison, we are giving a general comparison between the two products. However, it is worth noting that your mileage may vary when it comes to individual smart TVs.

Audio and Video Quality

One of the most significant specs for TVs is the audio and video experience. Smart TVs have a leg up on the video side; some can display up to 8K resolution. The Roku, on the other hand, has a slight limitation here by being limited to 4K displays. We want to point out that a lot of content for streaming is only available in 4K resolutions, so you might not notice a considerable difference between the two.

Audio, on the other hand, is an even playing field. The Roku and many smart TV models offer Dolby Atmos support for that ultimate home sound experience.

User Experience

Secondary to audio and video quality, the next most important factor is user experience. The specs can be top of the line, but if the device feels terrible to use, it is not worth it. And, this is where Roku absolutely shines. With its minimal yet intuitive layout, the Roku OS has gained authority in the streaming device industry. Regardless of which Roku device you use, it will be the same excellent experience.

Because smart TVs are from various manufacturers, the user experience varies depending on which device you are using. For example, LG WebOS comes close to the clean and straightforward Roku interface. On the other hand, the Samsung smart TV interface may be a little confusing for novice users. So, there isn’t a ton of consistency in the kind of user experience they each offer, as every smart TV is different.

Roku Express 4K+ | Streaming Media Player HD/4K/HDR with Smooth Wireless Streaming and Roku Voice Remote with TV Controls, Includes Premium HDMI® Cable
  • Brilliant 4K picture quality: Stream in HD, 4K, and HDR with sharp resolution and vivid color optimized for your TV
  • Smooth wireless streaming: Now featuring dual-band wireless, enjoy a smooth streaming experience with faster wireless performance, even with multiple devices connected to your network
  • No more juggling remotes: Power up your TV, adjust the volume, mute, and control your Roku device all with one remote
  • Convenient voice control: Use your voice to quickly search across channels, turn captions on, and more in a touch
  • Upgrade to Roku streaming: All of your favorite channels, like HBO Max, Netflix, and Prime Video, are front and center on the customizable home screen, plus your device is always getting better with automatic updates
LG 32LM577BPUA 32 Inch LED HD Smart webOS TV 2021 Model Bundle with Premium 2 YR CPS Enhanced Protection Pack
  • LG USA AUTHORIZED - Includes 2 Year Extended Protection Plan in ADDITION to the Included FULL Manufacturer Protection
  • LG's best HD TV. See detail, color and clarity in your scenes. The processor optimizes picture quality. And smart features work with your connected home. LG HD TVs are made to impress with clear picture quality. With Dynamic Color, all your favorite content will be natural and vibrant.
  • LCD Display - HD 720p Resolution | Dynamic Color Enhancer | Quad Core Processor | Active HDR (HDR10, HLG) | Works with Google Assistant & Alexa
  • Connections: Wi-Fi Certified 802.11ac | TV Tuner | HDMI-CEC (Simplink) | 2 HDMI Input | USB Ports (v 2.0) | AV Input | Digital Audio Output (Optical) | HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) | RF Connection Input (Antenna/Cable) | Ethernet Input
  • BUNDLE INCLUDES: LG 32 Inch LED HD Smart webOS TV | Remote Control | Stand | Assembly | 1 Year Premium Extended Service Plan (2 Years Total) Including Accidental Damage, and Burn in Protection as well as Free Tech Support and Remote Control Replacement (“hot swap” no questions asked)

Remote Control

The remote control goes hand in hand with the overall user experience, and Roku really shows its expertise in this category. Roku remotes are some of the best TV remotes due to their ease of use. They typically come with all the buttons for basic controls and channel shortcuts. Some remotes even come with voice search capabilities, so you can speak to find the content you need.

When it comes to smart TVs, it is another thing that varies from brand to brand, and it’s not to say that they are bad (just different). However, we particularly like Samsung’s remotes. They have a sophisticated universal remote that lets you control your smart TV and other external devices.

Man holding smart tv remote
Smart TVs come in many different remotes, depending on which smart TV you get, as per the TV’s brand and individual design.


Smart TV vs. Roku: 4 Must-Know Facts

  • Roku TV offers a simple remote control, minimal interface, and quick processing system.
  • Smart TVs have a range of features, especially for video, that Roku TVs do not yet offer.
  • Roku TVs offer superior voice commands compared to most other smart TVs and work with Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.
  • Both Roku and some smart TVs offer Dolby Atmos support.

Smart TV vs. Roku: Which One is Right for You?

The suitable streaming device for you depends on your personal needs and preferences. You have many options for regular smart TVs—from brands and operating systems to hardware and streaming quality. If you want the flexibility of choosing a brand you like more than the other, a smart TV might be the right choice.

If you like the minimal and easy-to-use interface of Roku OS, a Roku device is the only device you can get that experience. Even with LG getting close, using a Roku feels so much better. Plus, if you are still just getting into streaming, a Roku is a great way to get your feet wet without having to dive in with an entire TV purchase.

Up Next…

Last update on 2023-01-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Smart TV vs. Roku: What are the Real Differences? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do I need a smart TV for Roku?

No, you can use a Roku device to make a non-smart TV a smart TV. Make sure this TV has an HDMI port to plug into.

Do I need Roku if I have a smart TV?

It depends on your preference. For example, some people choose to connect standalone streaming devices on top of their current smart TV setup.

Does a Roku TV work without access to the internet?

A Roku TV does work without access to the internet, but you will not be able to use its full ability for streaming online content.

Between Roku TV and Google TV, which has the better OS?

This is up to debate still, but we tend to lean towards Roku’s design more than Google TV. Roku’s clean, minimal, responsive interface is hard to beat.

Does Roku charge a monthly fee?

Roku itself does not have a monthly fee. However, those channels could have a monthly fee depending on the streaming channels you are watching.

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