Roku continues to add brands to its stable of Roku TV partners, and Sharp is the latest.
The well-known TV maker joins less familiar monikers TCL, Hisense, Haier and Insignia in offering televisions with Roku's streaming platform built-in, and true-to-form, they're all very affordable. The new Sharp TVs will be available in two sizes, the 43-inch LC-43LB371U ($380) and the 50-inch LC-50LB371U($500).
Meanwhile Roku also announced pricing and availability of the Insignia Roku TVs. They'll bracket the Sharps in size with the 32-inch NS-32DR420NA16 ($230) and the 55-inch NS-55DR420NA16 ($550).
Unlike the Roku TVs from TCL and Hisense, which are sold at numerous outlets including Wal-Mart and Amazon, the new Sharp and Insignia sets will be exclusive to Best Buy. They go up for preorder today at the BestBuy.com site, and will appear in stores over the next couple of weeks. They're also the first Roku TVs to be available in Canada as well as the U.S.
The Roku platform is our favorite not just for, but also, judging from the we reviewed last year, for integrated Smart TVs. Its app selection and interface are second to none, and it largely avoids the , such as infrequent updates, slow response times and useless clutter. We're also fans of its innovative home screen, which places source devices like game consoles and cable boxes on the same plane as apps like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
According to Chas Smith, SVP and GM of OEM for Roku, the company's goal is to avoid fragmentation between the boxes and TVs as much as possible. To that end, all of the new Roku TV sets ship with the, including Roku Feeds and a dedicated Channel Store search. Current Roku TV owners should be getting the update soon as well, if they haven't already.
No Roku TVs offer the remote-based enhancements found on the, such as voice search. The updated iOS and Android Roku apps, however, do work with Roku TVs and support voice search (the Windows Phone app for Roku lacks voice search capability).
Beyond brand the Sharp and Insignia sets appear very similar to the TCL and Hisense models. They get entry-level features--a 60Hz refresh rate, three HDMI inputs and 1080p resolution (even on the 32-inch model)--and prices to match. They also have simplified remotes that keep buttons to a minimum, although they clickers will apparently get a couple new buttons, namely a sleep timer and direct access to the Game input.
Aside from external styling, one of the main differences between the Roku TVs introduced so far is the default background color of the menu system. TCL's menu color is red, Hisense is green, Sharp gets what was described to me as "charcoal black" and Insignia warrants "Insignia Blue." As with all Roku devices you can modify the TVs' background color using a couple of themes.
are currently on sale at prices that are very similar to the Sharp and Insignia sets. Amazon has the 48-inch 48S3700 for $500 and the 55-inch 55S3700 for $550. The 32-incher is currently out of stock, but its list price is $220. Roku says pricing and availability for the S3800 and S3850 series are still to be announced.
Roku isn't the only independent Smart TV platform to appear on a Sharp TV this year. Android TV will also ship on certain 2015 Sharps such as the. If our review of the is any indication, Android TV has a long way to go before it catches Roku.
We look forward to reviewing the new Roku TVs shortly.