Roku smart TVs from Sharp, Insignia will debut soon at Best Buy. But do we still need smart TVs?

Sharp and Insignia Roku TVs

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Roku is delivering on its CES promise to expand its partnerships with TV manufacturers, announcing today that new smart TVs from Sharp and Insignia (Best Buy’s house brand), with the Roku operating system built right in, will be available at Best Buy soon.

All four of the models announced today, however, are budget-priced LED models with resolutions that top out at 1080p and refresh rates of 60Hz. Roku had announced at CES that it planned to bring 4K content to Roku TVs in 2015, and that it had already built a reference design.

Insignia Roku TV remote Roku

The Roku TV remotes look very much like the ones Roku ships with its set-top boxes (but they don’t support voice search). 

Sharp is offering a 43-inch LED model for $380 and a 50-inch model that will go for $500. The Insignia models will be available with a 32-inch screen for $230 and a 55-inch display for $550.

All four models have the latest Roku OS, which includes the new Roku Feed feature that lets you keep track of movies that are currently in theaters or otherwise not yet available for streaming.

None of the new TV’s remote controls, however, support the slick voice-search feature that’s built into the revamped Roku 3 remote. If that’s a must-have, you can get it by using Roku’s Android and iOS apps (there’s a Windows Phone app, too, but it doesn’t support voice search). You can also “cast” Netflix and YouTube streams from these mobile devices to any of the Roku TVs. You can do the same with personal video, music, and digital photos.

The impact on you: In truth, this might not impact you at all unless you’re in the market for a new smart TV. Having bought one myself a couple of years back, I’m now personally dubious of the notion of needing a smart TV in the first place, given the frequency of new set-top box designs. I haven’t used the smart-TV features in my Panasonic Viera since I began reviewing the Roku 3, and I don’t anticipate going back to the Viera’s smart features ever again. It just seems sluggish and antiquated in comparison.

That said, I’d never consider dumping the TV just to get new “smart” features (4K resolution, on the other hand, is tempting). Unfortunately, TV manufacturers are probably boxed in at this point. Built-in streaming has become a check-box item, and critics will pounce if they go back to shipping “dumb” TVs—even though consumers would be better served by separate devices. 

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