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TCL Roku TV defines what we want from television usability. Its straightforward setup process and menu system was inviting in the beginning and discovering its smartphone apps was a treat at the end.
Downloading the iOS 8 and Android apps makes keying search terms into this smart TV easier thanks to an equally smart QWERTY keyboard. There are some basic menu icons on the app when they're needed too.
It's not just software that shows the TCL Roku TV's keenness for modernizing input devices. The minimalist remote is simple and to-the-point, reflecting the design we love from the Roku 3.
A red power buttons sits at the top, followed by the back and home buttons and a five way cursor input. App-driven buttons include skip backward, options and three playback controls.
Shortcuts to Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Rdio and Vudu are handy as long as you're a member. Otherwise, they're an easy way to accidentally open these apps.
Previous Roku remotes have featured Netflix, Pandora and Crackle in these spots, so it's really a crapshoot every time there's a new Roku device. There's also no headphone jack for remote listening like on the Roku 3 remote. Some people found that an extremely useful perk.
Radically, the TCL Roku TV moves the volume rocker and mute toggle to the side of this tiny remote. I couldn't find out how to turn the volume up when I first installed the TV.
But once I figured it out, it made sense. It's a lot like a smartphone. What makes even more sense is that the on-screen volume bar is vertical. After all the volume goes up and down, not right to left. I like that logic.
Just because the TCL Roku TV is inventive with its volume rocker and on-screen bar doesn't mean it sounds any better than a budget television.
The two 8-watt speakers were worse than other TVs we have tested. It was harder to hear softly spoken movie dialogue and turning up the volume didn't always help the situation.
In fact, due to the lack of front-facing speakers, I got shushed by my girlfriend during a hard-to-hear movie scene. Thanks, TCL Roku TV. Time to invest in a soundbar. At least I can now say "I bought it for us." On second thought, thanks, TCL Roku TV!
The headline to this TCL Roku TV review is its pick-up-and-press-play app ecosystem. But it's not a convincing story unless you consider the affordable price that makes it worth it.
It starts at $329 for the 1080p and 40-inch app streaming playground in your living room or, more likely for a lot of households, bedroom. As almost every TV expert advises, I'll tell you to always buy bigger - as long as you can fit it.
In this case, the 48-inch model not only adds eight inches, but direct backlighting to the LED. I found that the 40FS4610R had uneven backlight bleeding due to its edge-lit method of casting light on the screen. It's worth the price bump considering it's still a deal.