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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.

best-smart-tv-2016-vizio-p50-smartcast

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.

best-smart-tv-2016-TCL-S3800-Roku

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 Too low to display

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.

best-smart-tv-2016-vizio-m43-c1

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 $555.99

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 Too low to display

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 $3,997.00

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

  1. Bryan Wolfe
    November 30, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Still not very impressed with "smart tvs." easier to buy a Chromecast or Apple TV.

  2. iRikal
    November 1, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Investing in a "smart tv" is inadvisable. The problem is not from the technology itself but on the support the manufacturer will provide you. As an example, SONY decided not to update it's "older" TVs to make them compatible to the new Youtube policies and as such, the app on the TV becomes obsolete. This is what happens when you purchase software on a hardware designed for something totally different.

    I say the dumbest TV with the best resolution is worth much more than the smartest TV that will become obsolete anyway. If you want to get some smarts on your TV, buy a Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Google TV or Apple TV. That way, no matter what, you are much more likely to have your apps working for longer.

  3. JP
    January 5, 2016 at 6:03 am

    There are options to wirelessly share a tablet screen to you tv for you about $20 or so. That should alleviate the desire for a smart tv and make way more sense.

  4. Spider
    April 24, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Thanks for this article. I feel guilty just having talked a friend into buying a smart TV, and was about to buy one myself. The article has made me think of buying a HD LED straight TV instead and rather spend the money for the "smart" bit on a larger screen. I have a 10 year old HD ready Sony Trinitron CRT that is too heavy and takes up too much space, and is also a heavy power consumer, so a standard flat LED HD TV combined with my laptop will do the job nicely.

  5. TheCRTProductions
    December 11, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Back in 2005 our old black TV stopped working and we got a new 32" TV, it is a standard definition, 4:3 ratio screen CRT TV that doesn't connect to the internet, doesn't have useless apps, has great picture quality (like I say, quality and resolution are two separate things), and it works fine still. We won't be upgrading any time soon because the TV has lasted almost a decade and I wouldn't doubt if it lasts another. I'm not old, i'm still in high school, and I don't see any use whatsoever in a smart TV. By reading these articles it sounds like they last about 2-4 years, we can't afford that. Plus why would I want to watch a 240p Youtube/ Dailymotion video on a 1080p 3D smart TV? I'd rather watch regular satellite TV with real TV shows.

    • James Bruce
      December 14, 2014 at 9:28 am

      What YouTube videos are you watching at 240p?!

      The screen ratio is a pretty big thing. Personally, I don't watch broadcast TV - only movies, in 1080p - so 4:3 CRT would never work.

      But really, you're absolutely right - don't upgrade if you don't need to. Solid advice for any gadget purchase!

    • TheCRTProductions
      March 27, 2015 at 5:49 am

      I normally watch long (20- 40 minute) Youtube videos from people like Spocktra50 or Shango066 in 360p because I live in the boondocks

    • TheCRTProductions
      March 27, 2015 at 5:52 am

      And also I usually watch TV on a converter box, which you can set to crop the signal to a 4:3 ratio, which works with all stations (some already broadcasting like that) except for FOX. And my converter box has USB functionality so if I were to find a 1955 Motorola 21K32 by any chance and get it running, hypothetically I could download and watch some Jerry Sludger on it.

  6. Ihearthim
    April 11, 2013 at 2:27 am

    Wow, great article. I was contemplating on buying a 47" Smart TV but I'm glad I read this article. I would've liked the internet options on the TV so that I can have less hassle with connecting devices to the tv but since the Smart TV's don't have an upgrade function, I will def pass! Thanks for helping me save lots of big bucks! All I want is a bigger tv, an upgrade from what I currently have. Time to go tv shopping again. Thank you again ;)

  7. dsfjsdk dsf
    February 25, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Forgot to mention: Super cheap option - use a Apple TV, Boxee, etc. They give you access to Netflix, Hulu, etc, and if you jailbreak the Apple TV/install extra software on the others, you get web browsing too, I believe (don't quote me on it).

  8. dsfjsdk dsf
    February 25, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Short Answer: You do NOT need one. Either put the saved $ toward a better regular TV, or buy/build a cheap PC and hook it up to your regular TV. The latter option ensures that you end up with ALL the capabilities of a PC (duh), with more powerful components and decent web browsers and peripherals. I checked out several of these "smart" TVs months ago. Horrible controls (trying typing on them, or using their pointers). This "smart" nonsense is the same as the "3D" crap. I've seen many 3D TVs - minimal 3D effects for maximum price tags. Pathetic attempts of the TV industry to gouge their customers instead of actually improving/innovating their product lines. Why the hell are TVs still 1080p, for example? Work on that issue, and the money will come as well.

    • James Bruce
      February 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      I have an active 3D TV and love it, though I've tried a few passive screens and the quality is absolutely appalling. Completely agree - smart TVs are probably a waste of money if you have literally any other modern device in the house.

      I think a big push of this years CES was ultra HD though, wasn't it? 4k pixels! Do you really think we need a higher resolution? I'd rather look at more engaging ways of diplaying content... VR headsets, wrap around projectors, that kind of thing.

  9. Luis Gorospe
    January 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Oh! I need one. Does it's come free?

  10. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    January 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    No. I don't even use TV anymore since I got my computer, aside for occassional news (I get my daily dose of that from newspaper). Aside of smartphone connectivity and USB compatibility I don't think I need any feature the Smart TV genre touts. If you have computer with working internet connection then you're all set. No need for Smart TV. You don't need your whole life connected to the internet.

  11. Faustin
    January 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    these are just decorations. It costed me a fortune to get a Samsung 32" and the only feature I was after was defective! A computer coupled to a creative mind is better of all!

  12. susendeep dutta
    January 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Smart TVs are just unintuitive in the first place and most part are just half baked or useless in other demographics of the world.Their menus are difficult to navigate using remote.

    I just want to refrain from buying any flat panel TVs as they are very bad for SD quality cable transmission.The will show every defects and have contrast level which are no problem in older CRTs.

    Moreover,what makes me refrain from buying these LCD/LED TVs is that all manufacturers are in the practice of panel price fixing which results in high prices of such TVs.I find these unreasonable.

    If it's better not to support any such companies for such type of practices,then I would like to choose a 27" CRT over flat TVs.

  13. dragonmouth
    January 9, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Just what I need - a TV that will tell me that I've watched too much of it.

    • Donovan Burns
      January 10, 2013 at 5:25 am

      It could pause your program until you do some yoga.

    • Scott Macmillan
      January 10, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      HaHa!!!

    • Chescatatum
      January 26, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Great article James. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Samsung Smart TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

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