LAS VEGAS — Roku has led the way in making set-top boxes a living-room mainstay, but what happens now that smart TVs provide most of the apps the average viewer needs?
Over the last year, Roku has expanded into manufacturing a smart-TV operating system, and at CES 2016, the company announced that it plans to offer a native 4K interface. Aside from its 4K OS, Roku aims to pave the way for high-dynamic-range (HDR) content across five major brands, bringing the new color display technology to mid- and top-range machines alike.
Unlike LG's webOS 3.0, Samsung Smart Hub and other manufacturer-specific programs, Roku is a platform-agnostic OS that's currently available in models made by five different TV brands: Haier, Hisense, Insignia, Sharp and TCL. The interface works just as it does on Roku's set-top boxes and streaming stick, but requires no additional device.
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Up until now, Roku has offered 4K content only on its Roku 4 set-top box, but the company claims that in 2016 its OS will be available on 60 TVs, including sets with native 4K resolutions. This change will let viewers use the Roku 4K Spotlight channel, which trawls multiple streaming services for 4K content. TCL will be the first manufacturer to produce a 4K Roku TV, and others should follow suit by the end of the year.
Roku also has its eye on HDR technology, and will work with TCL to produce a reference model that all of Roku's other partners can mimic. This flagship 4K TV will have Dolby Vision HDR support and could exceed the color quality mandated by the industry-standard HDR 10 specification (which Roku 4K TVs will also support). As with the Roku 4K TVs, TCL will design the first HDR-compliant models, with other manufacturers to follow suit later in the year.
Tom's Guide will check out some of the new Roku TVs firsthand at CES 2016, but so far, they sound much like the Roku TVs already available on the market: solid, mid-budget sets with an extremely intuitive interface and a respectable commitment to supporting emerging video standards.