Recently, I got to know that the Roku that I had bought as a gift for my Grandma wasn't compatible with her old picture tube TV, and Roku support asked her to return the device.
This confused me, as Roku devices are meant to be universally compatible with all TVs. Surely, that's not the case, is it?
So I decided to pay a visit and do a thorough analysis myself on whether Roku devices can be used with any TV and how to add compatibility if possible.
For Roku to work on older TVs, the TV needs to have an HDMI port to connect to the Roku. Roku moved on from implementing composite connection, but the 3910 Model of the Roku Express+ does come with a composite connection. Alternatively, use an HDMI to AV converter to connect a Roku to an older TV.
Let's now take a brief look at the many ways in which Roku fails to work on an older TV:
|Causes and Fixes
|Older TV doesn't have a HDMI port
|Opt for a HDMI to RCA connector. Resolution may be compromised.
|Roku not showing up on older TV
|Connection issue; check the ports and the cables for damage. Get them fixed or replaced if damaged.
|Roku content all blurred and indistinguishable
|Software issue; power cycle the device and reduce the resolution.
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Roku Needs to Be Connected to an HDMI Port for the Best Results
Most Roku devices, especially newer models, connect to the HDMI port of a supported TV.
This is because HDMI is the most popular and cost-effective input terminal for media devices, and is widely available across almost all newer generations of TVs.
There are more advanced solutions for replacing HDMI connections, such as the thunderbolt ports from Apple. But they are mostly brand-locked and not as widespread as HDMI.
Also employing any such contraptions can mess up the channels on Roku.
HDMI ports also have been around for a very long time, giving them ample time to sink into the technology culture and adapt to be compatible across all sorts of output display devices.
That being said, it is still a technology that is constantly being worked on and improved upon, with newer standards of the tech being released on a consistent basis, like HDMI 2.1a.
But the fact that they maintain the same layout as previous standards of HDMI results in proper backward compatibility leading to widespread use and cost cuts over time.
Therefore, Roku adapting to solely using the HDMI standard for their devices is a welcome decision.
But from a consumer's perspective, this can be a harsh standard to stick to, considering some users hold on to their TVs for decades.
Unfortunately, that's just how tech evolves over time, and catching up to the latest trends is necessary for companies to stay afloat and boost innovation for future products.
Select Roku Devices Can Work on TVs Without HDMI Ports
This can seem to be disregarding everything mentioned above, but Roku didn't always solely rely on HDMI for its connections.
The 2018 model or the 3910 Model of the Roku Express+ comes with a composite connection, which uses the traditional three-color RCA cables to plug into the TV.
This is perfect for anyone with older TVs, as they are almost sure to have this older-gen technology to connect devices, just like older satellite boxes and even consoles.
Surprisingly, Roku still stock up this model from time to time, but at a very hefty price. But used ones seem to be available at a fraction of the selling price.
This might seem like a very good deal considering the age of your TV, but unfortunately, there are a few glaring downsides to this.
It is a very old Roku device, so the performance with Roku can be a bit spotty. Expect lags regularly, even during UI navigation and streaming.
Also, due to the hardware limitations of a composite connection, the maximum quality you can stream content is the standard definition or 480p.
All HD content from streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video will be downscaled to 480p, affecting the viewing experience drastically.
And so, do expect issues with such streaming platforms as Netflix on Roku.
But for an older TV that only supports a composite connection, the screen quality is already maxed out at 480p, as HDMI connections are needed to play HD content.
So this won't be that big of a deal for most users of older TVs and therefore this quality drop won't be a huge drawback.
How to Use Newer Roku Devices on TVs With No HDMI Ports
Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a way one can use a newer generation Roku device on older TVs that only use a composite or RCA connection.
This can be achieved by using an HDMI to AV composite converter, which as the name suggests, converts an HDMI connection to an AV composite connection.
An HDMI to AV composite converter is a quite popular device that can be easily purchased from Amazon, by a variety of sellers.
Make sure that it is an HDMI to RCA/AV converter and not the other way around, as that is a drastically different product.
Using this, you can easily plug in your Roku to your older TV by simply following the steps below:
- Connect your Roku device to the HDMI to AV composite converter like TaiHuai HDMI to AV converter.
Use the HDMI cable that came in the Roku box to connect to the HDMI to AV composite converter. If you are using a Roku Stick, plug that directly into the converter.
- Connect the other RCA cable end to your TV.
Make sure to connect the three color-coded cables to the old TV according to their colors.
- Connect the HDMI to AC composite converter to a 5V 1A power source using the cable that came with it.
You can use a power adapter rated to charge at 5W or a USB port from a nearby device to power the HDMI to AC composite converter.
- Turn on the TV and make sure the input is set to AV.
Do note that the hardware limitations that exist with using a composite connection are still relevant in this case.
The videos will still be downscaled to 480p and the colors can seem off, compared to connecting the Roku to an HD-ready TV.
Also, the picture quality can seem worse compared to using the 2018 model or the 3910 Model of the Roku Express+, as the signal goes through the converter box.
But this is still a method that can be used to enjoy a Roku device on an older TV nonetheless.
Roku Not Detected on Older TV? How to Fix
If your Roku is not being detected by your older TV even after plugging it in, chances are that the issue lies elsewhere.
That being said, you can follow the steps below for troubleshooting fixes regarding such an issue.
Check The Hardware
It is possible that the AV composite ports may have incurred time-induced damage, and thus can be a reason why your TV isn't showing the Roku's signal.
Check whether there are any visible signs of wear on the ports. Clean the ports and check the connection again.
Connect another system with a composite AV connection, like a satellite box, and see if that works fine.
If the other system doesn't show up, then it is the fault of the ports. In that case, visit an authorized service center and get the ports replaced.
If the other system does show up, then the issue lies with the Roku device or the HDMI to AV composite converter used.
In the case of the Roku, do a similar hardware check and check for any visible wear on the hardware. Try connecting the Roku to an HDMI-enabled output device or TV if possible.
If the Roku still doesn't work, then contact Roku and get the device checked for any service. If there is a manufacturing defect, get the unit replaced.
If the Roku does work, then it is safe to say that the HDMI to AV composite converter is to blame for all this.
Try connecting with different cables. If the converter still doesn't work, get the unit replaced.
Perform A Power Cycle
A power cycle or a hardware reboot can usually help refresh the system and get it to work as intended.
In some cases, especially in cases of aged technology like your older generation TV, the internal components can hold a bit of residual charge that needs to be depleted.
This can at times, result in an imbalance of charges in the system leading to issues within the system.
A simple and effective way of getting around this is to perform a power cycle.
In order to perform a power cycle or hardware reboot on your older-generation TV, follow the steps below:
- Unplug the TV from the power socket.
- Let it sit idle for a minute powered off.
- During the minute-long wait, long-press the buttons on the TV for 10 seconds or so to deplete any charges inside completely.
- Plug the TV back into the power socket.
- Let it sit idle for a minute powered on.
This performs a hardware reboot on your older TV.
A power cycle can be performed on any electronic device, including Roku by following the same steps.
You can perform a power cycle test to get rid of issues such as fast-forward not working on Roku as well.
Change the Resolution Manually
Now, at times, the operating resolution of your TV or Roku may not change automatically.
If that's the case, the Roku output may seem a bit blurry and indistinguishable.
You can easily check for the same by changing the resolution of your TV Roku manually.
Most older TVs do not support the cutting edge 4K and 8K displays of the nonce and also the razor-fast frame rates.
And so, it is impertinent to set the resolution to a more inferior quality, say 720p or lower.
Some yesteryear TVs support 720p but it is generally recommended to opt for a lesser resolution if you're experiencing issues with streaming.
You can change the resolution of your TV from the Settings menu under the Display option (on most models).
To change the resolution on a Roku, follow these steps:
1. Open the Settings tab and navigate to the Display Type tab.
2. Either manually select a lower resolution or ensure to select Auto Detect.
If Auto Detect doesn't work, ensure to manually change the resolution.
Restart the Roku and the TV and check for the issue now.
And there you have it, a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about using a Roku on an older TV.
Included, too, is a brief troubleshooting guide to enlist you in case of issues like if Roku doesn't work on your TV.
With that said, it is always better to invest in a better, newer TV if you prefer to avail of the services of streaming platforms like Roku.
Picture tube TVs and old-gen flatscreens have had their time! Now may be a good time to look to newer tech, possibly as an investment!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can Roku work on a smart TV?
Roku can work seamlessly on any smart TV as long it has a free HDMI port to connect to. Roku will occupy the input channel of that particular HDMI port to work as intended.
Can you use one Roku for multiple TVs?
A Roku device can connect and stream content to only one TV at a time. Connecting multiple TVs to the Roku will simply result in the content being mirrored across all TVs
Is Roku a subscription-based service?
Using Roku OS on Roku is completely free of cost, but to use third-party streaming services like Netflix and Hulu you might need individual subscriptions according to the service.
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