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Roku Plus Series QLED 4K TV review: Roku’s first TV shows promise, but other displays deliver better picture at the same price

A Roku Plus Series 4K TV pictured on an entertainment console in a living room with a soundbar underneath it.The Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV is one of the company’s very first TVs built in-house.

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  • The Roku Plus Series QLED 4K TV is the flagship model in Roku’s first lineup of in-house TVs.
  • The Plus Series looks and feels a lot like other Roku-branded TVs made by companies like TCL.
  • The TV uses Roku’s convenient interface and offers fiery HDR, but it doesn’t stand out from competitors.

It’s an interesting time to jump into the TV business. Brands like Samsung, Sony, and LG still hold the mountain top with breathtaking TVs at premium prices. But down below, companies like TCL, Hisense, and even Amazon have planted their own flags, leveraging evolving technologies to corner the budget market with surprisingly capable and stylish TVs.

Roku has been a software player in the budget space for years, lending its intuitive smart TV interface to multiple partners (including TCL and Hisense) to help third-party “Roku TVs” reach great heights. Now the company is taking on those same partners by building its own in-house Roku TVs, including the new flagship Roku Plus Series QLED.

As you might guess, Roku’s Plus Series feels strikingly familiar inside and out. You might even confuse it with one of those competing midrange TCL or Hisense models at a glance, save for the Roku logo at the bottom. 

But while there are some kinks to work out, the Plus Series is a solid start for Roku’s new venture. It’s not the best-performing 4K TV in its class, but if you’re a fan of the company — and you find it on sale — it’s worthy of consideration.

What works:

  • Impressive HDR punch
  • Intuitive Roku smarts
  • Great remote and app
  • Minimal blooming

What needs work:

  • Notably poor off-axis viewing
  • Mediocre motion handling
  • Heavy-handed local dimming
  • No VRR or 120Hz support

The TV’s design is basic, but setup is simple and painless

A close-up shot of the bezel on a Roku Plus Series TV.The Plus Series’ design looks a lot like other similar TVs from TCL and Hisense, but Roku’s logo is of course upfront and center on this model.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

There aren’t many surprises putting the Plus Series together, and its build is a lot like TCL’s popular 5- and 6-series TVs. 

The plastic back feels a little flimsy, and it takes some work to grind the stands into place with the included screws, but the front looks the part, with slim metallic bezels around the top three sides and a thicker plate at the bottom with the Roku logo. One appreciated design cue is that the feet are pushed in more than some models, such as Amazon’s Omni QLED, making it easier to fit a 65-inch model on a medium-sized TV stand.

Before you get too deep into setup, you’ll likely want to connect the Roku app (make sure it says “official” in the app store) which lets you quickly tap in passwords for streaming services, along with plenty of other handy features.

Some of your streaming apps (AKA “channels”) may not need a password at all if you’ve already got a Roku account, which is always a nice luxury that saves a few minutes. Otherwise, answering a few quick questions, including your preferred services and Wi-Fi info, launches the TV into action and you’ll be up and running in minutes.

Image performance is bright and colorful, but motion handling and off-angle viewing are lacking 

A scene from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2” on a Roku Plus Series 4K TV.Scenes from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” pop with HDR contrast on the Roku Plus Series TV.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

Let’s start with the good stuff. The Roku Plus Series checks most of the boxes you should look for when it comes to picture features in a midrange TV. Most notably, it’s got quantum dots for expanded color, and full-array local dimming to produce better black levels than budget TVs with standard backlights, like Roku’s cheaper Select Series

Local dimming allows the TV to brighten and darken in specific zones across the panel. With this setting set to High, you’ll get solid black levels and very little blooming (when bright objects cause halos against a black screen), making it easy to get a cinematic vibe with the lights off. The TV’s dimming can be a little heavy-handed, with some delayed reaction on the lower settings, but it looks best when kept on High.

The Plus Series also offers impressive HDR (high dynamic range) punch with support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HDR10. The TV gets pretty bright even in SDR mode, and when fed good HDR content, like fireworks popping in the night sky, vibrant nature shots, or bursting explosions, it rises to the occasion with searing highlights.

Similarly, “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” is a good showcase for the TV’s color performance. Some scenes can look a little muted, but the TV’s QLED display digs into the rich golds and pastels on Ego’s home planet with aplomb. Even subtler details, like Yandu’s deep red eyes and blue skin call your attention — especially if you’re upgrading from an older HD or pre-HDR 4K TV.

A scene from "The Mandalorian" on a Roku Plus Series TVLocal dimming and quantum dots produce good color and black level performance for a TV in this class.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

There’s also good upscaling here for non-4K content, especially 720p, and impressive screen uniformity across colors. There is a small amount of banding when running heavy uniformity tests, as well as some dimming at the TV’s very edges, but you have to really look to find them. Expansive skylines and even torture tests like hockey still look great, with very few dirty-screen distractions.

But, as a budget TV, there are some notable downsides to the Plus Series’ performance. Going back to sports, the TV’s 60Hz panel leads to motion handling that’s mediocre at best. There’s also a fair bit of judder, evident when you see cameras pan across bright landscapes. Oddly enough, the TV doesn’t include motion smoothing to adjust for this. I can’t really stand motion smoothing for most content anyway (it creates a weird “soap opera” effect), but it would be nice to have the option for sports.

The TV also has particularly poor off-axis viewing, which causes colors and contrast to degrade when sitting to the side of the display. This is a problem with pretty much all of its major competitors, but even given that expectation, it’s still surprising how bad it gets from far off angle, giving more muted TV shows an almost Sepia look, wild west style.

Though Dolby Vision support is great, the default preset is too dark

A shot of Bo-Katan in “The Mandalorian” on a Roku Plus Series TV.The “Normal Dolby Vision” preset (pictured above) looks good, but the default “Dolby Vision Dark” preset crushes shadow detail when watching content from the TV’s built-in apps.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

The Roku Plus Series supports Dolby Vision, which is an advanced HDR format used on a lot of streaming services and 4K Blu-ray discs. Though this format allows for more fine-tuned HDR picture quality than standard HDR10, the Plus Series seems to have a minor issue with Dolby Vision playback. The problem occurs when using the TV’s built-in apps with the “Dolby Vision Dark” setting. 

DV Dark is supposed to be the most like the Movie Mode we used for the majority of testing, and it activates automatically when you watch Dolby Vision content. However, when streaming from onboard apps like Netflix and Disney Plus, it looks far too dark, giving dim shows, like “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and “The Mandalorian, a “Game of Thrones vibe in all the wrong ways. 

You can correct this by switching to the “Normal Dolby Vision” setting. After a few more adjustments in the Normal DV preset, like moving local dimming to High and color temperature to Warm, the problem is basically fixed, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re finding trouble with especially dim Dolby Vision images.

It should be noted that this issue with the DV Dark preset does not occur when watching Dolby Vision discs with a 4K Blu-ray player connected to the TV, so it might be a glitch tied specifically to the TV’s Dolby Vision software. As such, it’s something that Roku could likely fix in a firmware update.

The TV is missing advanced gaming features like VRR and 120Hz support

We wouldn’t exactly call the Plus Series a gaming TV, but it does offer a few features that are helpful for avid gamers. The addition of ALLM across all HDMI inputs will automatically reduce input lag for newer gaming devices. You can also manually select the built-in Game mode to reduce input lag for older gaming consoles and PCs.

One feature that’s missing is VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), something you’ll find in rivals like the TCL 5-Series and Amazon’s Omni QLED. The feature is designed to match the TV’s refresh rate with fast-paced games to prevent screen tearing. Like those rivals, the Plus Series is also limited to a 60Hz panel rather than a 120Hz screen, so it can’t support gaming at higher frame rates on consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

Roku’s smart TV interface is intuitive, and the remote offers hands-free voice control 

A shot of the Roku menu on a Plus Series 4K TV.Roku’s operating system offers easy access to tons of apps.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

Roku’s intuitive and simplified smart interface is what got this whole train running, and the Plus Series obviously takes full advantage. 

While the Roku OS has been increasingly pushing its own Roku TV content over the years, it’s mostly a brand-agnostic experience, without any one service or content maker holding court. It carries virtually every app in existence and allows you to lay them out at your discretion.

Apple AirPlay is available for streaming, and both Amazon Alexa and Google Home are supported via third-party devices, alongside Roku’s built-in voice assistant. Roku voice search is intuitive, and works across services, showing you where to find movies and shows from your subscriptions. 

Navigation is smooth and app loading is speedy, as you’d expect from a new model. There aren’t a lot of differences here (if any) compared to what you’ll find in third-party Roku TVs with the latest software, but there are some advantages to going with Roku directly. Roku says new software features will roll out to its own TVs first, for example. 

A close-up of the Roku Voice Remote Pro.The Roku Voice Remote Pro has hands-free voice control with a dedicated mute switch.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

In addition, Roku’s Voice Remote Pro comes included with the Plus Series, offering customizable buttons, a rechargeable battery, and hands-free “Hey, Roku” voice commands (with an easy-access mute). Best of all, a remote finder lets you ping the remote with your voice or, if it’s out of reach, the Roku app.

The app is an integral part of the Roku experience for power users, offering everything from a virtual remote and keyboard to deeper TV calibration settings. It’s easy to pair the app with multiple Roku devices, and you can even set it up to stream audio from your phone over Bluetooth.

Speaking of Bluetooth, one of our favorite new features is the ability to pair the TV directly to wireless headphones. It takes a bit longer than pairing earbuds to your phone, but it works great, with minimal lag. Again, this feature is available with some newer Roku-powered TVs from other brands, but models with a few years on them don’t support it.

One other excellent feature carried over into the Plus Series from third-party Roku TVs is the ability to pause over-the-air (antenna) TV, with the data stored on a user-supplied USB drive. It’s something many flagship TVs don’t even have, and it can really come in handy for live sports.

Roku Plus Series 65-inch QLED 4K TV: Specs

Roku Plus Series TV Spec
Resolution 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160p)
Panel type QLED (LCD with quantum dots)
HDR HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Backlight Full-array local dimming
Refresh rate 60Hz
HDMI Ports Three HDMI 2.0, One HDMI eARC 2.0
Smart TV system Roku OS
Remote Roku Voice Remote Pro
Dimensions (without stand) 57″ x 33.1″ x 3.2″ (WxHxD)
Weight (without stand) 37.6 pounds

Should you buy the Roku Plus Series 4K TV?

The Roku Plus Series TV delivers solid performance, but it’s not worth buying at full price. For the 65-inch model’s $800 MSRP, you could land the more powerful Hisense U7H, which can clean the Plus Series’ clock from a picture performance standpoint.

That said, you’re highly unlikely to find the Plus Series at full price. Even before we’d begun reviewing it, the TV dropped down to $649 at Best Buy, which is much more reasonable. You might still prefer the more seasoned TC 5-Series or, if you’re into Amazon Alexa, the Fire TV Omni QLED, both of which can be cheaper at sale price. 

But Roku’s Plus series has its advantages, including revved-up HDR performance, making it a worthy option in this budding tier when it’s on sale.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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