Smooth and continuous ZnO films consisting of densely packed ZnO nanorods (NRs), which can be used for electronic device fabrication, were synthesized using a hydro-thermo-chemical solution deposition method. Such devices would have the novelty of high performance, benefiting from the inherited unique properties of the nanomaterials, and can be fabricated on these smooth films using a conventional, low cost planar process. Photoluminescence measurements showed that the NR films have much stronger shallow donor to valence band emissions than those from discrete ZnO NRs, and hence have the potential for the development of ZnO light emission diodes and lasers, etc. The NR films have been used to fabricate large area surface acoustic wave devices by conventional photolithography. These demonstrated two well-defined resonant peaks and their potential for large area device applications. The chemical solution deposition method is simple, reproducible, scalable and economic. These NR films are suitable for large scale production on cost-effective substrates and are promising for various fields such as sensing systems, renewable energy and optoelectronic applications.