Does a Roku Work On Older TVs? (Yes, It Can!)

By Greg Martinez / September 1, 2022
woman watching with roku on older tv

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Do you still use an old tube TV? If so, you may wonder if you can connect modern devices to it, for the simple reason that most of today’s devices use HDMI, which your old TV may not have.

But worry not. It’s likely you can still connect your old tube TV with a modern home entertainment device like a Roku. Even if your old TV uses older RCA connectors rather than HDMI, you can still use an RCA to HDMI converter to connect a Roku device.

Below I show you how to use a converter to extend the functions and features of your old TV.

Can I Use a Roku with an Older Television?

One of the great things about Roku is its simplicity and connectivity options. And like most modern devices, most Roku models use HDMI interfaces.

First thing you should do is check the back of your TV to see if it has an HDMI port. If you don’t find one, you may well see red, yellow, and white RCA inputs such as in the picture below.

HDMI and RCA inputs back of TV

If your TV uses HDMI then you’re in luck – you can easily connect your Roku to it with an HDMI cable.

If not, it’ll likely use RCA connectors like the ones shown below. This system was invented by the RCA corporation in the 1930s and was ubiquitous until being eventually superseded (but not replaced, as they’re still in use) by other standards such as HDMI in the early 2000s.

RCA connectors (yellow, white, red)

Roku devices generally work with HDMI, so if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port and only has RCA inputs, then you’ll need to convert the HDMI output of your Roku to the RCA input of your TV.

There’s two solutions to this:

  • Get a separate RCA to HDMI converter like this one to connect both devices (in this case, any Roku model), or
  • Get a Roku Express+, which comes with RCA connectors

RCA vs HDMI

A quick aside about the differences between these two standards.

As you might imagine, the RCA standard comes from an earlier age before high-definition (HD) digital media. The RCA standard actually transmits audio and video signals as analog, and many modern audio/visual devices still feature RCA inputs due to their low manufacturing cost, reliability, and the fact that many consumers probably still have RCA cables stored somewhere in their basement.

When using RCA connectors you’ll need to connect multiple (multi-colored) cables when hooking up two devices, such as your TV and a sound bar.

HDMI, or high-definition multimedia interface, carries digital audio and high-definition video on one cable, and includes noise-reduction features combined with high transmission speeds.

When converting RCA to HDMI, keep in mind that the source device (like your Roku) will have to work with the maximum quality offered by the destination device. For instance, you won’t be displaying a 4K picture on the lower resolution of your old television.

How to Connect a Roku to Your Old TV

Follow the general steps below to watch Roku TV on your old tube TV that has only RCA inputs (using either an RCA to HDMI converter or the Roku Express+).

  1. If you’re using an RCA to HDMI converter, make sure it’s plugged in and switched to NTSC if you’re in North America.
  2. Connect the RCA plugs into your television and plug the other end of the cable into the Roku device.
  3. On your TV’s remote control, make sure to select AV mode to display the input of your Roku.
  4. Power on the Roku device. The Roku logo should appear on the TV screen.
  5. Pair the Roku TV remote with the device.
  6. Select your Roku’s language.
  7. Connect the Roku to your home WiFi network.
  8. Update the Roku’s software – this should follow without any action on your part.
  9. Confirm your TV’s screen resolution on the Roku and activate it by connecting to your Roku account.

This video summarizes the generic steps for connecting a Roku to a TV.

Final Thoughts

Being able to access thousands of movies and shows with a streaming device like a Roku will give your old television a new lease on life, and doesn’t require buying a brand new TV just to access streaming entertainment.

Make sure to see my other article on whether you need a Roku for each TV.

Frequently Asked Questions

I plugged in the RCA to HDMI converter but the TV still says “No” Signal. What should I do?

This may mean either a problem with the cable or the TV’s input source. Confirm the correct input source on your TV, and check the quality of the cable and change it if necessary.

My Roku doesn’t come with an RCA cable. How do I get Roku TV on my old television?

You’ll have to get an RCA to HDMI converter cable separately.

How do I get sound on my Roku TV? The sound suddenly went out.

Check the volume setting on both your TV and Roku remote controls. If you’re using external speakers, verify these are switched on and working properly. Sound problems may also be caused by an old version of software on your Roku or a hardware problem with your TV (less likely).

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