In recent years, there has been a massive shift in how people buy or view TV. Well, not just TV but any piece of technology — phones, computers, tablets, and even speakers. Traditionally, TV purchase decisions were centered on technical specifications: What’s the picture quality of the TV? What’s the size? What’s the available resolution? How loud can it go? Those considerations are still important, but they’re not nearly as important as the TV’s smart features and OS. This is due in large part to the shift in our TV viewing habits, which have moved from cable and DVDs to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. When you buy a phone, your primary consideration is its OS — whether it’s an Android or iOS. When you purchase a laptop, you choose between a macOS or Windows. Similarly, people now focus on the operating systems of their TVs as well. In recent years, Roku TV, complete with its native Roku TV, Roku OS, and Roku streaming players, has emerged as one of the leaders of the Smart TV movement. So far, Roku TV has been released exclusively in North America and parts of Latin America. But that’s soon to change. Roku has announced that its much-awaited Hisense Roku TV R7 series is finally coming to the UK. In anticipation of that, we’ve put together a comprehensive and detailed article about the Roku platform and the upcoming Hisense Roku TV.
What/Who is Roku?
Even though Roku is one of the pioneers of the smart TV movement, people outside North America don’t know much about it. This is because Roku has so far remained exclusive to the Americas. So, let’s kick this article off with a brief introduction to what/who Roku is and what Hisense is. Roku is a smart TV platform that allows you to watch both free and paid video on your TV. The Roku platform is powered by its native Roku OS, which currently powers over 15 million smart TVs. The name “Roku” means “six” in Japanese because this is the sixth company of Anthony Wood (the founder).
Who is Hisense?
Hisense is a Chinese multinational electronics manufacturer known primarily for products like smart TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. Hisense has produced a wide range of high-quality smart TVs, including laser TVs, ULED TVs, and UHD TVs.
Hisense Roku TV Coming to the UK
Roku — in collaboration with Hisense — is now all set to bring its OS outside North America for the first time. The latest string of Hisense TV releases — scheduled for the end of the year — will be powered by Roku OS. Roku has widely been hailed as one of the best smart TV operating systems so we’re happy to see it finally make its way across the pond. The Roku platform is easy to use, highly intuitive, and extremely fast. It also includes pretty much every streaming platform you could ask for. While Amazon Fire TV leads the race in the rest of the world, Roku is currently the leading smart TV platform in North America. This means that Roku’s global launch is concerning for Amazon Fire TV, which has only recently partnered with TV manufacturers to release smart TVs with an inbuilt Amazon OS. While Hisense is the first TV manufacturer to license a Roku operating system, Roku believes other manufacturers will soon follow suit. Samsung and LG seem perfectly content with their in-house software, Tizen and WebOS, but time will tell if other manufacturers — spurred by the Hisense/Roku collaboration — will also go the Roku TV route.
About the Roku Platform
As previously mentioned, Roku is a platform with an OS on which you can stream services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, SlingTV, and many others. Just like on your smartphone, you can download apps from streaming services to load on your Roku. Roku is both software and hardware. You can attach the Roku device — some call it the “Roku Box” — to your existing TV to access the Roku OS on any given TV.
How Does Roku Work?
Once you get a Roku device, you need to plug it into your TV using an HDMI cable. Your Roku will need an internet connection to work but can be connected to both wired and wireless networks. Roku downloads content from the internet which you can then stream on your TV. Your Roku includes several apps — called “channels” — from which you can stream movies, TV, music, live content, and other forms of media. Roku comes with a wide range of pre-installed channels such as Netflix, Hulu TV, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, and many others. However, you can also add more channels. This is quite similar to how you use apps on your smartphone after downloading them from the app store.
What Platforms Does Roku Work With?
When Roku was first launched in 2008, it only included one streaming service — Netflix. Since then, Roku has established itself as a platform with the widest compatibility of streaming services and now has over 3000 channels. In addition to the popular streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, Roku also gives you access to almost all cable TV channels. Through Hulu TV Live or CBS All Access, you can watch live cable TV networks like Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, AMC, HBO, and many others. No subscription fee is necessary for the Roku device. However, if you want to access specific streaming services like HBO Now or Netflix, you’ll have to pay their subscription fees. You can also access pay-to-rent and purchase services. In addition to the paid services, Roku offers a registry of free content pulled from various sources. The Roku Channel, for example, is the best place to find free, ad-supported shows. Launched on the 6th of September 2017, the Roku Channel offers a wide range of free movies and TV shows. The following is a brief overview of some of the most popular channels for different types of media:
TV Shows and Movies: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Disney, HBO Go, Apple TV+, Crackle TV, PBS, Hulu TV, etc.
News: Weather Nation, Fox News, CBS News, Sky News, The Blaze, etc.
Sports: NBA League Pass, NFL Now, WatchESPN, MLB.TV, WWE Network, etc.
Internet: Vimeo, Break, YouTube, etc.
Music: Pandora, Slacker, Spotify, etc.
Private Media: Plex Media Server (a platform to stream your private collection of media).
How to Add Channels to Roku
Installing additional channels to Roku is much like installing apps on your smartphone. To do so, you need to first enter the Roku Channel Store by going to Home Menu > Streaming Channels > OK. You can find thousands of options in the Roku Channel Store, most of which are free to install. You can either scroll through the popular channels displayed on the screen or you can click on ‘Search Channels’ to search for a specific channel. Once you find the channel you’re looking for, use the remote control to navigate to it and then click on ‘OK’. Once you do that, the channel will be available on your Roku Home Screen.
Roku OS has a wide range of features, most of which are easy to use. However, finding all the features may take a while. The following is a quick summary of Roku’s most popular and useful features.
Roku gives you access to thousands of channels, which is brilliant. But that also means your content is spread out across all of these different platforms and channels. If you had to search for content in all the individual channels, it could take forever — as is the case in Amazon Fire TV. Roku OS makes things a lot more convenient with its advanced universal search feature. You can enter the name or details of a programme and Roku will search for it on all of the installed channels to offer a collection. Do you only remember the actors in the show or a line of dialogue? No problem! With Roku OS, you can also search for programmes based on actors, directors, or famous lines of dialogue! While the OS isn’t powerful enough to pull results from the most discreet and niche content, it will at least let you browse through the most popular content using these features. With your remote, you can navigate this content. When you reach something you like, you can look for its synopsis, cast, and other details as well. With the Search Zones feature, you can also look for content within categories like Award Winners, Comedy, and other extremely specific categories.
Some Roku devices come with a voice-enabled remote control. In this case, you can use Roku’s inbuilt voice commands to search for programmes or perform actions. Some of the most common and popular commands include “play”, “pause”, “fast forward two minutes”, “increase volume”, etc. If your Roku device doesn’t include voice navigation, you can use the Roku app for voice navigation as well.
As mentioned previously, Roku doesn’t charge a subscription fee, but you do have to subscribe to the channels within the platform. But what if you don’t want to pay any subscription fee at all? Well, Roku OS also includes a feature with which you can look for free, ad-supported content. The Featured Free section gives you access to free content pulled from a wide range of sources like ABC, Crackle, The CW, and others. You can also view the Roku Channel, which is full of free, ad-supported movies and TV shows.
Do you generally entertain a lot of guests? Do you rent out your home on Airbnb and other such platforms? If so, giving guests access to your personal Roku accounts poses a lot of concerns. First, your guests gain access to all of your content information, which gives them an insight into who you are as a person. Second, guests can also modify your streaming platforms, which can mess up your personalized content recommendations. With Roku’s Guest Mode feature, however, you can give your guests a clean-slate Roku experience. With this feature, your guests will be able to access Roku as if it were brand new and add their own content and streaming services. You can also leave a message for your guests on the Roku Guest Mode home screen. Finally, when it’s time for your guests to leave, you can remotely end their session through the website or your mobile app.
Advanced Features for Roku OS 9.2+
Roku OS 9.2 was released in October 2019. If you have this version (or greater), you get access to the following advanced features as well:
Search for movies based on quotes from famous dialogues.
Set a sleep timer to turn the TV off at a specific time.
Use voice search to look for personally stored media content in the Roku Media Player.
The Roku App
You can install a free Roku app on your iOS or Android device to gain even greater control over your smart TV. You can use this app to access your Roku both at home and while travelling. The following are some of the best features available in the Roku app:
Access the Roku Channel.
Use as an advanced remote to control your Roku devices or Roku TV.
Launch channels and search for programs from the Roku app.
Add or remove channels from your Roku.
If you don’t have the latest Roku device, you can use the Roku app for voice navigation.
Use the phone’s keyboard through the Roku app for quick text entry.
Connect wired or wireless earphones to your smartphone and the Roku app to listen to the TV privately.
Cast your smartphone’s photos and videos to your Roku device and TV.
What Products Does Roku Currently Offer?
Are you curious about some of Roku’s devices? The following is a quick overview of Roku devices currently on the market.
Roku Ultra (2019)
Roku Ultra is currently the most advanced Roku device available. Released in 2019, this device has an enhanced internet memory and a stronger processor. The following are some of Roku Ultra’s best features:
It comes with a USB port, so you can play media from external hard drives.
With Optical Audio, you can connect your Roku to your home audio system.
The remote control has a voice assistance button, so you can search for programmes with your voice rather than text.
The remote control has a headphone jack for private listening.
It comes with advanced JBL headphones that you can connect to the remote control for private listening.
The device has a button that, when pressed, triggers a beeping sound on the remote so you can locate it. This is great for all those people who constantly lose their remotes!
Roku Ultra supports 4K UHD with HDR video.
Roku Express and Express+ (2019)
Roku Express and Express+ are entry-level Roku devices for those looking for something budget-friendly. Both support a maximum of 720p and 1080p video. They come with a standard IR remote that has channel shortcut buttons but no voice navigation. Roku Express+ costs $10 more than the Express because it also offers backward compatibility. Roku Express+ comes with A/V Cables, i.e., red, white, and yellow cables used for older TVs. As such, even if you have an older television with a 480i video, you can use the Express+.
Roku Premiere and Premiere+ (2018)
Roku Premiere and Premiere+, released in 2018, are extremely advanced Roku devices available at a brilliant price. Both Roku Premiere and Premiere+ are compatible with HDR and 4K video. Roku Premiere+ costs $10 more than the Premiere and it offers a more advanced remote control that includes voice navigation and volume control features. As such, the remote lets you search for titles by voice and control the TV’s volume.
Roku Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ (2016 and 2017)
Roku is generally known for their Roku boxes. However, they also have streaming sticks that you can simply attach to your TVs HDMI port. Both Roku Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ come with advanced remote controls with voice navigation and volume control features. The biggest difference between the two is that the Streaming Stick+ supports 4K HDR video at 60 frames per second and that it has a greater Wi-Fi range.
Hisense Roku TV Reviews (From the US Launch)
Roku is now collaborating with Chinese electronics manufacturer Hisense to bring the Hisense Roku TV R7 Series to Europe. While this Roku TV has already launched in the US, it has yet to launch in the UK. When it does, it will mark Roku’s debut outside North America. Based on reviews from the US launch, Hisense Roku TV is an extremely powerful, feature-heavy offering that’s also extremely user friendly. We’ve combed through all the reviews of the Hisense Roku TV R7 Series to give you an overview of its specifications and features.
Hisense Roku Specifications
Hisense Roku TV Sizes
Hisense Roku TV R7 Series is available in four models depending on their screen size — 43R7E, 50R7E, 55R7E, and 65R7E. The digits before the ‘R7E’ relate to the screen size so these Hisense Roku TV R7 have sizes of 43”, 50”, 55”, and 65” respectively. Each model in the Hisense Roku TV R7 Series provides 4K resolution and HDR videos via the HDR10 playback.
Hisense Roku TV Design
The Hisense Roku TVs are a series of extremely functional and budget-friendly TVs. This, predictably, means the design is fairly basic. The TVs feature slim bezels around the display along with the Hisense logo at the bottom middle. The back of the TV features a power port, a USB port, three HDMI ports, a headphone jack, an ethernet port, an optical output, and component ports.
Hisense Roku TV Remote
The Hisense Roku TV remote looks just like the remotes for all other Roku devices. It features a directional pad, home and back buttons, and volume controls. It also includes shortcut keys for channels like Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV. The biggest drawback is that it’s missing a microphone button for voice navigation.
Hisense Roku TV Best Picture Settings
Hisense Roku TV offers a pretty clear HD video quality and a wide range of picture settings to choose from. It incorporates the advanced ULED XD technology, which means there are two panels in one case, which helps deepen the blacks and brighten the whites for greater contrast and sharpness. When viewing HD/SDR content, you have the following picture setting options: Movie, Normal, Sports, Vivid, and Low Power. The black levels in the picture settings are quite strong. The Movie setting is suitable for those looking for a slightly washed-out effect as the visuals have a sepia-ish tint. Vivid is suitable for those who prefer loud colours with strong contrasts. You can also tweak the picture settings yourself. When viewing HDR content, you have the following picture setting options — Dark, Normal, and Bright. The visuals are stellar in each of these options with an exceptional level of detail while viewing 4K content. Out of the different settings, Normal and Bright offer the best visuals while Dark has a slight yellow tint.
Hisense Roku TV Sound Quality
Hisense Roku TV R7 offers a decent sound experience. However, it’s certainly not as strong as that provided by a dedicated soundbar or speaker. The bass is generally quite weak — explosions in movies or bass drops in music come across as quite underwhelming. The speakers generally shine through in the mid-range level because the dialogues are crisp and warm. The high-end, however, also comes across as quite weak and loses its depth. In terms of loudness, this TV is pretty loud, and most people will be satisfied with setting the volume in the 25% to 50% sound range.
Hisense Roku TV R7 Series Features
Hisense Roku TV R7 Series is pre-loaded with Roku OS, which means it has all of the features that Roku does. Roku is widely considered to be one of the best smart TV platforms and this is reflected in the smart TV, which is extremely functional, intuitive, and feature-heavy. We’ve already gone through a description of Roku’s popular and useful features in the previous section. However, the following is a brief overview of Hisense Roku TV’s features:
Universal cross-platform search for programs from all channels.
Availability of thousands of channels.
Advanced search options by title, actor, famous quote, etc.
Voice navigation through the Roku app.
Availability of free, ad-supported content.
The Roku Channel for a wide range of free movies and TV shows.
Guest Mode to offer a clean-slate Roku experience to new users temporarily.
Plex and Roku Media Player to view privately owned media content.
Casting phone to the Roku TV through the Roku app.
Using your smartphone as a remote control with voice navigation via the Roku app.
Hisense Roku TV R7 Series Compatibility
Does Hisense Roku TV Work with Alexa? Yes. You can control Hisense Roku TV with Alexa and Alexa-enabled devices.
Does Hisense Roku TV Work with Google Assistant? Yes. Hisense Roku TV is compatible with Google Assistant and enabled devices.
Does Hisense Roku TV Work with Siri? No. You can’t control Hisense Roku TV using Siri.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hisense Roku TV
Is the Hisense Roku TV HDMI Compatible?
Yes. The Hisense Roku TV includes an HDMI port.
Can the Hisense Roku TV Cast/Stream from a Phone?
Yes. You can mirror your phone on your Hisense Roku TV. You’ll need to install the Roku app on your phone and connect it to the same wireless network as the Roku TV. Once you’ve done that, follow these steps:
On your Roku TV, go to Settings > System > Screen Mirroring.
Select the ‘Prompt’ or ‘Always Allow’ option.
Access the Roku app on your phone, and it will automatically start searching for the Roku TV.
When you’re prompted, allow the device to connect.
Can I Connect a Soundbar to My Hisense Roku TV?
Yes. You can connect a soundbar to your Hisense Roku TV through the HDMI cable, headphone jack, or Bluetooth connection. Roku has also released two audio devices — a smart soundbar and a wireless subwoofer — that work on the Roku OS and can seamlessly connect to your Hisense Roku TV.
All things considered, Roku has certainly earned its spot as the world’s most critically acclaimed smart TV platform. We’re excited about Roku’s debut in the UK in the form of the Hisense Roku TV R7 Series. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly smart TV with a quality integrated OS, then you should certainly look forward to this Roku TV. But even if you already have a TV and aren’t looking for another, you can still give it a little boost with any of the Roku devices we discussed above.