Roku TV needs to up its game if it wants to stop Google TV’s TCL takeover

The new Android TV interface
(Image credit: Google)

TCL has officially announced details of its first screens to run on the Google TV operating system. New and improved versions of its 5-Series and 6-Series line of televisions (which previously ran on Roku TV) will be on display at CES 2022, and they’ll only use Google TV.

While TCL will also be showing off new Roku TV displays too, we can’t help but feel like the writing is on the wall for the operating system – on TCL screens at least. Google TV offers multiple benefits over Roku, and it might not be long before it supplants its rival as TCL’s primary smart TV platform of choice.

According to comments TCL made to The Verge, it has no plans to abandon Roku TV right now, but if Roku wants to save itself from Google TV’s domination it might want to up its game soon.

What puts Google TV ahead for us?

We really like the Roku TV OS. Its simplistic design is easy for everyone to understand, and its customizable options mean that you can design the homepage to suit your preferences. For those that always forget what’s hooked up to HDMI 1 vs HDMI 2, easy to apply labels instead allow you to rename each port in the OS so you can navigate between them with ease. But beyond the accessibility, nothing about it blows us away.

What makes Google TV stand out for us on the other hand is its emphasis on shows and films over subscription services. Rather than presenting you with just a list of Netflix, Disney Plus and the like, Google TV learns your preferences and gives recommendations of what you might want to watch. If you aren’t content with what the algorithm suggests, you can also create your own watchlist as you browse on the system to create a selection of shows that appear on the homepage.

Additionally, those who support other Google platforms (such as Stadia and YouTube TV) will find they can quickly and easily access these services through Google TV. What’s more, thanks to a far-field microphone built into the display – and optional webcam support – you’ll be able to video call through apps like Google Duo.

Roku has a pretty sizeable install base to boot, both on its Roku streaming devices and multiple television ranges, but without these kinds of standout features it risks being somewhat sidelined by one of the biggest TV manufacturers out there.

TCL will still be releasing Roku-powered TVs for now (with plans to offer Roku and Google options across all of its ranges). But Google OS is clearly attracting the attention of manufacturers, and the new 5-Series and 6-Series models show that TCL isn't so wedded to Roku that it won't explore other alternatives on its most popular sets.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.