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With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s a great time to buy a new TV. Most stores will start sales soon, where you can expect to get some exciting deals on new televisions. It helps to know which TVs to look out for, so you don’t get blinded by a good price.

Most televisions you look at now will be smart TVs. What is a smart TV? A smart TV is any television that can connect to and browse the Internet without needing external apparatus. You don’t need a smart TV 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Smart TV in 2016 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Smart TV in 2016 It's undeniable that smart TVs are now obsolete, and at this time, the choice to buy a smart TV would not be a smart thing to do. Here's why. Read More , to be honest, but that’s most likely what you will get. And you’ll need to know a few other common TV terms 8 Common Terms You Need To Know Before Buying Your Next TV 8 Common Terms You Need To Know Before Buying Your Next TV When you go out to buy a new television, you might be a little confused by the many options available, all the features they have, and the jargon you need to wade through. Read More as well.

What Is a Smart TV?

The concept of Smart TV has actually been around for quite some time. The first Smart TV related patent was filed in 1994, though it’s only in the last 5 years that we’ve seen features in commercial sets.

There is no one answer which can describe exactly what a Smart TV is. Generally speaking, Smart TV refers to a trend of integrating Internet-connected technologies into a TV set; a convergence of computer-like features.

More specifically, Smart TVs may have one or more of the following features, though not necessarily all – the term is used for marketing purposes, not as an international standard. Features vary by manufacturer and by age of the TV. My 4 year old Smart TV will have a lot less features than a new Smart TV bought this year, for instance, but they both adopt the moniker.

  • Video Playback Via DLNA/USB. This is a much base level feature for Smart TVs and has been for some years now, though format support varies, particular on older devices that would play video through USB, but were restricted to FAT32 formatted drives and AVI files only. With DLNA streaming 6 UPnP/DLNA Servers for Streaming Media to Your Devices 6 UPnP/DLNA Servers for Streaming Media to Your Devices UPnP devices are able to see and communicate with one another, and one of the best uses for this technology to stream media around the house. Read More , a server application on the network can often take care of transcoding to compatible formats, but this isn’t foolproof, and a server machine is needed somewhere to do the actual conversion.
  • Apps & Games; Angry Birds on your TV? That’s a thing now, along with catch-up and on-demand streaming such BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and YouTube.
  • PVR/DVR Functionality; the ability to schedule and record shows without using a separate device. You may also be able to search for media across a variety of sources, similar to TiVo or Roku 6 Reasons Why You Need A Roku [Opinion] 6 Reasons Why You Need A Roku [Opinion] Electronics can be evil. A short time ago I wrote an article about using the Xbox 360 as a media center. I concluded that it wasn’t the best choice. Sensing my betrayal, the 360 promptly... Read More .
  • Gesture & Voice Control; embedded Kinect or Wii Remote-like devices enable control of the TV from the sofa without using a traditional remote. Just wave your hand, or shout at the TV. I can’t comment on how effective these are as I havn’t tried them out, but if it’s anything like the Kinect then I expect it’s quite frustrating once the initial wow factor wears off.
  • Social Networking; because you can’t ever have enough Facebook. Some will also have Skype video conferencing.
  • Web Browsing.
  • Smartphone Connectivity; for streaming media and sharing content to the big screen.

what is a smart tv

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Once you know the basics differentiating between televisions, you can pick any of the models listed below. They’ll give you the best bang for the buck in their price range and features.

Best Value for Money: Vizio P50-C1 ($999) or Vizio P65-C1 ($1,999)

If your budget is $1,000 or your budget is $2,000, your choice is clear. Go with the Vizio P50-C1 or the Vizio P65-C1, respectively. Every reviewer thinks these are the best TVs in their price range.

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Both are full-array LED TVs, so the picture quality is substantially better than LCD-LED TVs in the same price. In fact, CNET praised it as the best picture quality they’ve seen at this price. Yup, better than models by Samsung, LG, and Sony. Most important among its many features: The TVs support 4K resolution with built-in upscaling Upscaling: How Does It Work and Is It Worth It? Upscaling: How Does It Work and Is It Worth It? Read More . At the moment, neither television offers HDR. However, a software upgrade promises to bring that soon. But perhaps most important is their “smart TV” tech.

Vizio has integrated a Google Cast device into the TV, and called it SmartCast! That’s right, you don’t need to buy a separate Chromecast Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway We're giving away a Google Chromecast, so read through our review, then join the competition to win! Read More . Plus, instead of a traditional remote control, you get a 6-inch Android tablet. Cast Netflix, Hulu, or whatever else to the TV and you’re good to go. It also means you can cast the tablet’s screen for apps that don’t support Chromecast, like Amazon Prime. Of course, you can use your own phone or tablet too.

The only thing to keep in mind is that the 50-inch model has 60Hz refresh rate. If you like the “soap opera effect” on TV (demonstrated above), you should ideally have a refresh rate over 100Hz. In that case, consider the 55-inch P55-C1 model for $1,099.

Built-In Roku: TCL S3800 40″ to 55″ ($250 to $613)

One of our favorite media streaming devices Roku Streaming Stick Review and Giveaway Roku Streaming Stick Review and Giveaway All the features of a full Roku experience, in a small form factor that plugs straight into HDMI - does the Roku Streaming Stick deliver? Read on to find out and win one for yourself. Read More , Roku, has teamed up with television maker TCL. The result is a series of TVs that have the Roku TV platform built in, and come with a special remote control too. You don’t need to attach any external streaming device.

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The S3800 series goes up to 55-inch sizes with Full HD resolution, and you don’t need 4K at that size. The 28-inch and 32-inch models are 720p HD resolution.

The TCL S3800 is all about ease of use. It’s the best way to cut the cord Cord Cutters: Ignore Set Top Boxes & Use A PC Instead Cord Cutters: Ignore Set Top Boxes & Use A PC Instead Ditching cable? Stay away from dedicated media center devices. Your spare PC makes for an excellent alternative because it's cheap to set up, more powerful, and forever flexible. Read More and still find life easy. The preloaded apps that Roku supports will give most services that anyone would want from their TV anyway. And it’s simple enough that your parents can use it.

You should know that the TCL series of TVs don’t have the best picture quality in this price range, even though it’s full-array LED. For that, again, Vizio is the king. If you’re okay with adding a media streaming device like the Roku, I’d suggest picking up a Vizio E series TV, which comes with built-in Smartcast or Google Cast technology.

TCL 40FS3800 40-Inch 1080p Roku Smart LED TV (2015 Model) TCL 40FS3800 40-Inch 1080p Roku Smart LED TV (2015 Model) Refresh Rate: 60Hz (Native), 120Hz Clear Motion Index (Effective) Buy Now At Amazon $269.99

Best Mid-Range: Vizio M series 43″ to 80″ ($510 to $4,500)

The Wirecutter, CNET, Reviewed.com, What Hi-Fi, and every other respectable TV reviewer agrees. The Vizio M series of TVs was the best mid-range television in 2015, and probably still is in 2015. Its successor, the Vizio D series, hasn’t received reviews that are as promising and unanimous.

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The Vizio M series has all the basics you could want of a modern TV. The picture quality is top-notch, again beating anything in its class. In fact, an M series TV of $500 would beat a Samsung or LG of $750.

The 2016 model has built-in Smartcast or Google Cast, like the P series, with a tablet remote control as well. You can still get a media streaming device The 8 Best Devices for Streaming Movies to Your TV The 8 Best Devices for Streaming Movies to Your TV There are several ways to stream media to your TV, and deciding which way is right for you can be overwhelming. Let us help you explore what's currently available. Read More for it if you want. It has 4K Ultra HD resolution, built-in Wi-Fi, 120Hz refresh rate, and five HDMI ports—not something you often see in mid-range TVs.

The Vizio M series is also one of the few TV lineups to get praise for its sound. It doesn’t get very loud, mind you, but it’s clearer and richer than others.

VIZIO M43-C1 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2015 Model) VIZIO M43-C1 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2015 Model) Refresh Rate: 120Hz (Effective) Buy Now At Amazon $529.99

Picture Quality > Features: LG 55EG9100 OLED TV ($1,397) [UK]

The LG 55EG9100 fails in many areas. For example, it does not have 4K Ultra HD support. The LG 55EG9100 does not support HDR. The LG 55EG9100 is curved, not flat, which seems gimmicky. The LG 55EG9100 also comes with WebOS 3.0, so you will probably need to spend more to get a Roku media streamer Which Roku Media Streamer Should You Buy? Which Roku Media Streamer Should You Buy? The current offering is split into five products – the Roku Streaming Stick, and the Roku 1, 2, 3, and 4. This article looks at what each product can offer, and tries to ascertain which... Read More . So why should you pay $1,400 for this TV?

best-smart-tv-2016-LG-55EG9100

It’s the OLED screen, my friends. It’s real, and it’s spectacular. I got to see a movie on this TV, and nothing–nothing–I’ve watched has come close to it. The OLED screen is so far ahead of even the best full-array LED TVs, it’s not even a comparison.

If you’re looking for the best picture quality possible without spending an ungodly amount of money, then this is the TV to get. If you’re trying to choose between a 65-inch 4K TV and this 55-inch Full HD TV, this is the TV to get. If you love your eyes and have the money, this is the TV to get.

LG Electronics 55EG9100 Curved 55-Inch 1080p Smart OLED TV (2015 Model) LG Electronics 55EG9100 Curved 55-Inch 1080p Smart OLED TV (2015 Model) Smart Functionality: Yes, webOS 2.0 Buy Now At Amazon $1,395.00

The Best TV Today: LG OLED E6P ($4,997)

LG has a monopoly on making OLED televisions right now. And OLED is the best display technology Everything You Need to Know About Television Technology Everything You Need to Know About Television Technology Before the days of mobile devices and laptops, our entertainment needs were mostly filled by one source, the television. Read More at the moment. So it should be no surprise that it makes the best TV you can buy today. And having a monopoly means you can charge whatever you feel like.

best-smart-tv-2016-LG-OLEDE6P

The LG OLED E6P is mainly about bragging rights. Spending $5,000 on a television set is a little crazy. But hey, if you have the money, go for it. This too runs LG’s WebOS, so you might want a media streaming device to go with it.

LG Electronics OLED65E6P Flat 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV (2016 Model) LG Electronics OLED65E6P Flat 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV (2016 Model) Smart Functionality: Yes, webOS 3.0 Buy Now At Amazon $3,996.99

Heck, even a Chromecast can make a smart media center How To Make Chromecast Your Smart Media Centre How To Make Chromecast Your Smart Media Centre At just $18, the Chromecast is an unmistakably great way to make your TV "smart", but it can feel a bit of a one-trick pony once the initial euphoria wears off. Read More . But if you’re spending 5K for a TV, I’m guessing you don’t really care about the additional expenditure of that streamer.

Should You Buy One?

If you’re in the market for a new TV, it’s actually going to be difficult to not buy a Smart TV. Regardless of whether you want the features or not, most new TVs are going to have some form of Smart TV functionality built in to varying degrees. It’s a similar situation to 3D – if you’re buying a good TV, then chances are it will also be 3D capable, purely because 3D features require good quality components.

That said, if you already have a TV that you’re happy with, the new Smart TV features are certainly nothing worth upgrading for. If you already have a computer, an Apple TV, Xbox 360 (all great media center devices), or an iPad – these perform the same job better, and your Smart TV isn’t going to offer anything new. If you don’t already have a PC or other device hooked up to your TV, then you will undoubtedly find some value in a Smart TV.

Do you have a Smart TV, and do you actually use some or all of the features? Why did you chose that manufacturer in particular? Are you going to buy a new TV this year, and do Smart TV features sound like something you might want? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.

Original article written by James Bruce. Updated by Mihir Patkar on Sept 20, 2016

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