Everyone is searching for a TV that ticks all the boxes: value, picture quality, usability.
And the Hisense Roku TV comes damn close to nailing the criteria.
Hisense is a Chinese manufacturer that started out doing radios in the sixties while Roku is well-known for its streaming sticks with a simple-to-use operating system.
Blending the two together means you get affordable hardware alongside well-presented software. It’s a pretty compelling mix if you’re just looking for a new TV without all the hyperbole and marketing of the top-tier sets.
The version I’ve been testing is the 50-inch model – provocatively titled ‘R50B7120UK’ – but it also comes in 43, 55 and 65-inch screen sizes.
Here’s how the pricing stacks up:
Now, there’s some obvious stuff to point out straight after the pricing info. The Hisense Roku TV doesn’t have the build quality of something like a £1,000 Samsung or Sony telly. The bezels, attachable feet and remote are all a bit plasticky and the TV doesn’t feel like it would survive too many accidental knocks and bumps.
It also doesn’t have the bells and whistles – there’s no Dolby Atmos, contrast can be a bit wonky and the detail gets lost a bit if you’re watching really dark content. Furthermore, viewing angles aren’t the best so if you’re settling down to watch something, you want to be as central as possible.
You may also see a little bit of lag when it comes to controls. I found hitting the volume buttons on the remote translated to a fractional delay on translating to the set so I may accidentally over or under compensate.
But really, as soon as the show starts you’re going to stop worrying about the lag and looking at the plastic bezel because you’re concentrating on the picture. And the Hisense hits the mark for an LCD panel (as opposed to a pricey OLED display where each individual pixel is lit from behind).
This is a fully 4K-capable set that boasts high dynamic range (HDR) certification. It’s bright and detailed but the settings skew slightly towards a colourful, dynamic picture style that offsets the fact the contrast isn’t as good as you’d find on a higher-priced set. Colours pop and there’s plenty of vibrancy, but it struggles just a touch with both light and dark on the screen together. The blacks aren’t as deep as OLED but things like skin tone and bright colour tones come through really well.
All that being said, the picture quality is extremely impressive for a £379 TV. I feel Hisense may have dispensed with things like build quality to focus on making the actual panel as good as it can be. I was extremely impressed while viewing and pretty soon couldn’t even notice any discrepancies.
If the hardware is perfectly serviceable, then it’s the Roku software that really makes this device sing.
The interface is simple and intuitive with easy navigation through the wide variety of content choices available. You can configure your home feed with shortcuts to your most-used services and even though there’s a lot of stuff there, it doesn’t ever feel cluttered, overloaded or sluggish. The remote control also has some handy shortcut buttons for the most used services for even faster access. If you really want to, you can use the Roku smartphone app on your phone as a remote as well.
The Roku TV has almost every streaming service you could want available on its platform. There’s Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Now TV, Freeview Play, iPlayer and many, many more. Roku even has its own channel you can access for free movies and shows. There’s no need to plug anything into this screen even if you do have an Amazon Fire Stick or Google Chromecast.
Speaking of plugging things in, there’s the usual assortment of ports around the back. There are three HDMI slots, one of which is an HDMI ARC connector for plugging in soundbars such as the new Sonos Arc. Elsewhere you’ll find a USB port and an optical audio port for boosting the sound the old-fashioned way. The Roku TV also does what the new iPhones can’t – by providing a headphone jack if you’re so inclined.
There’s no Bluetooth options for connecting wireless headphones but Roku does have a neat feature on its app called Private Listening. When activated, it channels the audio from the TV through your phone which can connect to headphones and gives you the chance to listen to your content without disturbing anyone else in the house.
The sound output from the TV itself is totally sufficient thanks to its two 7-watt drivers. I don’t have the largest living room in the world so it was able to fill it with sound. You can choose from audio presets like ‘Theatre’ but I didn’t notice much difference to be honest. I’d still recommend adding a soundbar for a bit of extra punch if you’ve got the budget for it.
Even though I can pick at a few of the Hisense Roku TV’s failings, there’s no getting away from just how good a package it is for the price. It focuses on all the right things and ignores all the irrelevancies. The display is absolutely top notch for the price, the usability is just about the best I’ve ever experienced and the wealth of content on offer is astounding.
Yes, if you’ve got a bit more cash to burn then Samsung’s QLED or Sony’s Bravia screens look noticeably better. But Hisense and Roku have teamed up to offer a TV set that just can’t be beaten in terms of value for money.