If you have an older, lower resolution TV, and you’re thinking about buying a Roku device, you’re probably wondering whether or not it will even work.
Does Roku work on any TV?
No, Roku does not work on just any TV – it must have an HDMI port! If you have an older, lower resolution TV, your Roku should automatically down-convert to the best available resolution. On rare occasion, some old, 720p TVs cause an “invalid format” error and cannot be used with Roku.
The good news is that most TVs on the market today have at least one HDMI port, so you’re most likely fine there.
Minimum requirements for Roku
In order to get your Roku working, there are a few basic requirements that must be met.
- As just mentioned, your TV must have an HDMI port.
- You also need a wireless internet connection that you can connect your Roku to.
- This just means you need WiFi. A common misconception is that your TV needs to be a smart TV in order to work. That’s not true. In fact Roku is what actually makes non-smart TVs, smart.
- If you do have a smart TV, Roku will still work.
If you have met these basic requirements, then most likely your Roku will work no problem!
But, there are always a few exceptions…
Lower resolution TVs
TV resolutions today are crazy good. There are affordable 2K and 4K (Ultra HD) options everywhere!
But it wasn’t all that long ago that “High Definition” (720p) was all the rage. Launched in 2001, HD was the ultimate buzz word. If your TV didn’t have it, you were missing out.
Today, the story is quite different. It’s rare to find a TV that’s 720p anymore. But of course, they do still exist.
Roku devices came out in 2008, nearly 7 years after the introduction of 720p. By then, TVs had already started to move on to 1080p resolution and beyond.
So it’s no wonder that Roku devices occasionally run into compatibility issues when being used with older 720p TVs.
I’m not saying that if you have an 720p TV, your Roku won’t work. There is a high probability that you won’t run into any problems at all.
Roku devices should automatically adjust and down-convert to the best available resolution that your TV has to offer.
But sometimes that doesn’t happen if the device’s resolution setting isn’t set to Auto.
Manually change Roku resolution settings
If your Roku device is giving you trouble on your older TV and the format isn’t quite right or something is just off, I recommend you try the following.
Go to HOME and then SETTINGS. Scroll down to DISPLAY TYPE and click OK.
You’ll see several display options appear:
- Auto detect
- 720p TV
- 1080p TV
- 4K 30 Hz TV
- 4K 60 Hz TV
- 4K HDR 30 Hz TV
- 4K HDR 60 Hz TV
Typically, this setting defaults to “Auto detect”. I would go ahead and manually change this to whatever the resolution of your TV is.
If you’re not sure what your TV’s resolution is, you can play it safe and select 720p TV.
See if that does the trick. Occasionally this won’t work ,or you’ll see an “invalid format” error appear.
If that’s the case, definitely try the work around that I describe next.
Use a newer TV to lock Roku resolution settings in place
It is possible that your Roku device settings were previously hard set to a TV resolution that your current TV doesn’t support.
And if you’re unable to force the device to cycle through available resolution settings using the step above, then you should do the following.
Disconnect your Roku device from the TV you’re having trouble with and connect it to a newer TV. Now you should be able to set your Roku resolution settings to 720p (or whatever resolution your TV has).
Again, to set the resolution press the HOME button on your remote, then select SETTINGS > DISPLAY TYPE.
Then select the correct video resolution that will work for the old TV you wan’t to use the Roku with.
Now disconnect the Roku from the newer TV and reconnect it to the older TV. It should work now!
The problem is that if you only have the one older TV, the stick won’t even show up and so you can’t get to the menu to change resolution.
So there is a workaround, but it’s a pain and won’t work for everyone
A word on VGA connectors
Don’t try using an HDMI > VGA connector – you will most likely have cropping issues at 720p invalid format as the resolution is incompatible.
Simple as that.
I’ve read enough complaints from folks who didn’t have an HDMI port on their TV and tried and failed to use a VGA connector as a work-around.
I’d just avoid this altogether and get a TV that actually has an HDMI port or just don’t use Roku.
Will a 4K Roku work on a non-4K TV?
Yes, a 4K Roku will work on a non-4K TVs just fine. And similarly, you don’t need a 4K Roku for your 4K TV either. In both cases you just won’t get 4K resolution, but your Roku device should work no problem.
Honestly though, if you don’t have a 4K TV, I wouldn’t buy the more expensive 4K Roku. You’re paying for the higher-resolution option that you can’t even use.
As long as your TV has an HDMI port and you have an available WiFi network, you should be able to use your Roku device on your TV without any problems.
That said, some older 720p TVs can run into resolution compatibility issues. While your Roku should automatically down-convert to the best available resolution, that doesn’t always happen.
Luckily there are a few work-arounds you can try.
One is to manually change the Display Type settings on your Roku. The other is to use a newer TV to hard set the resolution settings before reconnecting it to your older TV again.
I don’t recommend trying a HDMI > VGA converter if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port. I just have not heard a lot of success stories and you’re likely to have formatting challenges.
On rare occasions, some old, 720p TVs cause an “invalid format” error that simply cannot be overcome and likely cannot be used with your Roku.