Roku TV is becoming the standard interface on budget smart TVs, with Sharp's entry-level models and Best Buy's Insignia house brand joining Chinese manufacturers Haier, Hisense and TCL in offering the software. Prices and sizes of the new models range from $230 for a 32-inch set to $550 for a 55-inch screen (both from Insignia's lineup). All four models — two from each brand — go on sale online today and will hit Best Buy stores in the following days.
Roku has won a lot of love over the years for the intuitive interface on its streaming-video set-top boxes that make any TV a smart model (with more than 10 million sold, vs. about 20 million for the Apple TV box). Last year, it began providing the operating system for TVs from budget brands Hisense (see review) and TCL. At this year's CES, Roku announced that Best Buy and Haier would join the lineup.
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Adding Sharp — and naming the specific Insignia Best Buy models — was just announced today. None of the TVs are high-performance models, as they all have the now-outdated 60 Hz screen refresh rate, whereas 120 Hz is becoming the de-facto standard for its smoother motion rendering.
A review we did of an earlier 32-inch Insignia (see review) was far from stellar, with it taking last place among eight contenders. However, Roku has influenced the overall quality of its branded TVs from Hisense and TCL, raising the bar for quality. So the Insignia TVs may get a performance boost.
Sharp is the first top-tier brand to adopt Roku TV, but it's a minimal commitment of just two low-end models, a 43-inch set for $380 and a 50-inch for $500. Sharp treats its smaller, entry-level models as almost a separate brand, often using outside companies to produce these basic offerings. A Sharp 32-inch model we tested (see review) was better than the Insignia, but still not one of our recommended picks.
For most of its sets, including the high-end Aquos brand, Sharp will continue using its homegrown smart TV software, called SmartCentral.