Buying Guides Entertainment

Don’t Buy a Smart TV: Buy a Roku Instead!

Dan Price 04-10-2017

There are lots of things to consider when buying a new TV The Best OLED TV: LG, Sony, and Panasonic Compared OLED displays for TVs are all the rage these days. Three manufacturers lead the way: LG, Sony, and Panasonic. Let's take a look at the best OLED TVs from these companies. Read More . Theoretically, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is which smart operating system you want to run. Some manufacturers have created their own OS, while others use Roku or Android TV.


However, I’m going to argue the case for you rejecting smart TVs Is a Smart TV Worth It in 2017? 6 Things to Check Before You Buy These days, almost every TV is "smart" in some capacity, but there are several important features to look out for! Here's why 2017 is the best year yet for purchasing a smart TV. Read More en masse in favor of a standalone device. Worrying about your TV’s operating system (or any of its smart features) is a waste of time. Instead, you should base your decision solely on TV-specific specs such as resolution, size, picture quality, and so on. Essentially everything other than its smart functions.

To gain access to those smart capabilities, it’s more sensible to buy an external streaming device like a Roku Express. Here are six reasons why.

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1. TVs Are Built to Last

Devious television manufacturers consistently make the same claim: set-top boxes are on the way out because your smart TV can handle all your streaming needs by itself.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason? Update cycles.

Roku devices have an average update cycle of 30 months. On the other end of the scale, a typical consumer’s TV replacement cycle is about 10 years.

roku devices

Whether you’re running a proprietary smart operating system or you have a Roku-based TV, you can be confident it will receive updates for a few years. But what happens beyond that?

One of two things will probably occur. Either the manufacturer will stop pushing updates to your set in a bid to make you buy a new TV, or your TV’s hardware will be unable to handle the increased requirements of newer smart operating systems and will slow to a crawl. The “smart” part of the TV will essentially become unusable.

At that point, you’re left with a choice. Abandon your otherwise perfectly functioning TV and upgrade to a newer model, or go out and buy a Roku box (or another streaming device) and forget your TV ever had smart capabilities.

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2. TVs Are Expensive

Of course, the discrepancies in update cycles wouldn’t matter if televisions weren’t so expensive. If you could buy a new TV for the price of a Roku device, this entire argument would be moot.

But you can’t. It’s hard to find a large, high-quality smart TV What's the Cheapest Smart TV You Should Buy? The price of TVs varies wildly. You can literally be looking at thousands of dollars separating the cheapest models from the most expensive ones. Read More for less than $650. The premium Roku model, the Roku Ultra, is only $99. You can pick up a Roku Express for $25.

And, contrary to popular belief, it is still quite easy to find non-smart TVs. You just need to do a bit of digging. Manufacturers don’t promote their non-smart TVs as heavily as their smart product lines. Why? Because they’re a lot cheaper.


The difference between the price of a smart TV and its similarly specced non-smart cousin can be several hundred dollars. Which is more than enough money to buy a top of the line Roku or another standalone streaming device.

3. TVs Aren’t Portable

One of the least discussed but most beneficial attributes of streaming dongles like the Roku Express, the Amazon Fire TV Stick, and the Chromecast Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku: Which Media Streamer Suits You? Media streaming devices are simply awesome. Those little boxes that connect to your TV can add a wealth of entertainment options to your living room. But which device is best for you? Read More is their portability. Even the slightly larger standalone set-top boxes can easily be thrown in a suitcase if you’re going to be away from home for a long time.

roku express streaming

Given we live in a world which is increasingly “on the move,” portability is a plus. It means that whenever you check into a hotel or visit a friend, plug in your Roku Streaming Stick, and you can have all your content and streaming subscriptions on the screen in a matter of seconds.

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If you’ve plowed all your money into a smart TV instead, you’ll be stuck watching rubbish local cable and endless Friends reruns. And as good as Friends is/was, there’s only so many times you can watch Ross and Rachel get together, split up, get together, split up, and get together again before getting bored.

4. Smart TVs Boast Fewer Apps

This issue might not be so pronounced on smart TVs that run Roku or Android. However, on proprietary systems like WebOS (LG) and Tizen (Samsung), it’s becoming a real problem.

In simple terms, there’s nowhere near the same amount of app availability on proprietary systems as there is on Roku, Android TV, or Apple TV.

netflix app

Sure, most TVs will offer Netflix and a couple of the other top-tier streaming providers, but beyond those headline apps, content can be very thin on the ground. For example, many apps that cordcutters rely on every day, such as HBO GO, Sling TV, Crunchyroll, and PlayStation Vue, are not available on Tizen.

In contrast, Roku offers around 4,500 apps in the official app store and several thousand more private Roku channels and apps 20 Private and Hidden Roku Channels You Should Install Right Now Here's how to add private channels to your Roku, alongside some of the best hidden Roku channels you can install right now. Read More that are accessible using unique codes. It’s hard to find a popular app that’s not available. The same applies to Android TV and Apple TV.

5. Smart TVs Are Underpowered

For some unknown reason, smart TVs are usually massively underpowered.

Take RAM as an example. Today, many mid-range smart TVs ship with 2GB of RAM at most. The top-of-the-range $1,000+ models might come with 4GB. Rewind by a couple of years, and 512MB was commonplace.

Contrast that figure with some of the leading set-top boxes. The recently-announced 4K Apple TV will ship with 3GB of RAM. The Android TV-based Nvidia Shield 7 Reasons the Nvidia Shield Is the Ultimate Device for Cord-Cutters The Nvidia Shield may just be the ultimate device for cord-cutters everywhere. Here are seven reasons why it beats the competition without much effort. Read More also comes with 3GB.

And what about storage? On smart TVs, less than 16GB is commonplace, and much of that is used by the OS itself. In contrast, Apple TV offers up to 64GB, and the Nvidia Shield’s Pro model has 500GB.

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6. Your TV Is Listening In

Let’s conclude with a word on privacy. If you follow the tech news, you’ll already be well aware of the Samsung’s PR disaster in 2015 when it emerged that the company’s smart TVs were listening to your background conversations.

But the potential problems run much deeper than that.

For instance, Vizio’s current smart TVs have a setting called Smart Interactivity enabled by default. It sounds innocent enough to ensure uninformed users never question whether it should be turned off.

However, in practice, the setting allows Vizio to track everything you watch, connect that information to your IP address, and then serve you ads on your other devices based on the data. It’s a savage breach of unsuspecting users’ privacy.

Samsung and LG have a similar setting, though it’s disabled by default. How much longer that remains the case is anyone’s guess.

Roku isn’t perfect. The company still shows you ads. But the ads are restricted to your Roku device, and if you disable Ad Tracking (Settings > System > Privacy > Limit Ad Tracking), Roku will not track any other metrics.

Be Smart and Stay Dumb

We’ve highlighted six key reasons why a dumb TV is the smart choice 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Smart TV What is a smart TV and should you buy one? Here's a detailed look at the biggest drawbacks of modern smart TVs. Read More for most people. You can save money, improve your privacy, enjoy better specs, and enjoy a wider variety of content.

This is the bottom line: buying a cheap Roku device every couple of years can keep your television up-to-date with the latest smart technology without needing to splash out on a whole new TV set.

Still not convinced? Check out our Roku overview Here's What Roku TV Is and How It Works What is Roku? A digital media streaming device, similar to Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. Here's why you should choose Roku. Read More to learn more about the platform.

Explore more about: Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Media Streaming, Roku, Smart TV, Television.

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  1. Sophia
    August 21, 2018 at 1:19 am

    You should not be promoting Roku at all as they have zero customer service and poor quality devices. I am letting everyone know - NEVER BUY A ROKU ANYTHING!

    • Russ
      November 16, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      I was wondering about that since know place I could find a way to contact them.

  2. BW022
    January 23, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    I'll add...
    7. You likely have (or will have) smart devices. Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC, laptop, or any ChromeCast or Miracast device (i.e. tablet or phone) is already likely many times smarter than the best smart TVs. Most can do things like web browsers, gaming, email, etc. which today's TV can't.

    8. Failure. Complex devices tend to fail in bits. Over 10 years of the TV, chances are its Ethernet, WiFi, or smart capabilities are going to fail before the TV. Are you going to replace a $1500 TV because a $2 Ethernet jack isn't working?

    This said.... nearly all TVs now are smart. It's a cheap marketing gimmick.

  3. Alan W.
    October 10, 2017 at 1:04 am

    You're absolutely right! I don't believe having all fancy applications on standalone Tv.
    I prefer a digital media box that's the mainly source of storages of every fancy applications to support TV.
    This gives both in good shapes and quality! Saved Time and Saved Money! Cheers!

  4. Reginal C.
    October 9, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Are you saying that you don,t need internet to use a roku tv device? Because if not it is no different than having a smart tv. How about addressing the high cost of internet service and whats being done about that. Cordcutting is not working either because as soon as you cut the cord your internet service will go up. Please do an article on internet sevice providers(Comcast).

  5. Taffpayne
    October 9, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Weirdest thing, all the embedded apps are for Smart TVs.

  6. Jagan G
    October 6, 2017 at 5:13 am

    It is very clear to buy a FHD or UHD TV without smart option. It will make save money and tension free environment. Thanks to the author to post the valuable information.

  7. Donald
    October 6, 2017 at 12:51 am

    I prefer a dumb tv then add my own streaming devices when I can get a dumb tv. If I have to buy smart tv I go with the tv quality and ignore ad turn off the smart feature.

    • Larry
      October 25, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      I like your post. "A dumb TV". LOL

  8. Jose
    October 5, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    I agree totally ! No to smart TVs

  9. Don
    October 5, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    One of the best features that no one talks about is the head phone jack on the ROKU remote.
    It is a game can plug a set of head phones into the remote, the tv automatically mutes, and watch shows without waking anybody up
    I don't know why all tv manufacturers don't do this.

    • Doug
      October 6, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      I like to have an earphone jack, which Best Buy's brand "Insignia" has. That was the sole reason I bought that particular brand and dumb-TV set ( and use with an HDMI cable to connect to my laptop for streaming).

      • Don
        October 6, 2017 at 1:47 pm

        Is the insignia earphone jack on the remote control, or on the tv?

        • Doug
          October 6, 2017 at 2:44 pm

          It's on the back of the TV, and the cord on my earphones is long enough for me to reach it, since I sit rather close to the TV. But I imagine one could get headphones/earphones with a longer cord

    • Ann
      June 11, 2018 at 6:36 pm

      I AGREE! Couldn't believe my friend's 70 inch tv didn't have a remote head phone jack. Teenagers kept "shushing" us from the next room. Wha?

    • Jim
      June 26, 2018 at 2:40 am

      Thanks for that. I wasn't aware.

  10. Matt
    October 5, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    The argument makes a good point, and most external smart device will visually out perform a native TV's system. Even an Nvidia shield will out perform the native Android TV in a Bravia; but usually the difference between a smart TV and non aren't as subtle as just an os. Usually more expensive TV's are such because of motion rate, contrast, color. As you get to larger sizes though, the difference tends to meet in the middle. I see many people buying large TV's that are missing motion because they don't want to pay for smart TV features and being frustrated the image looks like crap. Before discounting a tv because it's smart, simple compare specs without. It would be like stepping down to a car that didn't have power steering because you didn't want to pay extra for the Bluetooth radio.

  11. Lloyd
    October 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Instead of a smart TV, buy an Android tablet instead with an HDMI port. I bought a used Nvidia Shield K1 tablet and even though I have a Roku, I seldom use it. The tablet has nearly every channel the Roku has plus you can take your pick of web browsers to run. You can play some of the thousands of Android games and you can add a Bluetooth controller. Download VLC and it plays network media. Oh, and it's portable. Finish watching that Netflix movie you downloaded on it from any location.

  12. Pjmezz
    October 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Buy a Sony Bravia with Android TV...

  13. Karen g benson
    October 5, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    As sands pass thru the hourglass...when upside down or rightside the end its the samE..Roku..Or..Smart
    For if it's Stock U need to sell
    Its a matter for time?
    To tell
    Will the grain grow small
    Or SWELL?

  14. Tina Rodriguez
    October 5, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    I totally agree.

  15. Ali
    October 5, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    I bought a Samsung smart TV and the apps are somewhat limited. However, I already had a fire stick so anything the TV didn't offer, the fire stick does.

  16. Sam
    October 5, 2017 at 3:13 pm


    Did you tell them about how all the best picture TVs come with apps? For most people, it's fine going Element or TCL. But I want great picture, so they're gonna push the apps. It's accepted. And I run my apps through my XB1. not the TV.

  17. Julie Greco
    October 5, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    I agree totally. I'm not a TV elitist so, to those who said you can't get a mega definitely and clarity TV without smart built-in, oh well... It doesn't matter to me. I have two Roku devices. Roku 2 and Roku Express+. I love them. Prior to Roku I had a "smart Blu-ray player that only offered a few pre-installed apps - Netflix, Hulu and 4 others. Roku opened a whole new world of apps for me. I love them. I'm think of getting a new TV so this was a helpful article. Thanks.

  18. likefunbutnot
    October 5, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Another hilarious thing about Smart TVs: Their software gets orphaned. If Samsung decides they don't want to upgrade applications on a TV, you don't get an update. Things stop

    TV Remotes are typically very bad for user interface navigation. It can be hard to tell which buttons apply to which functions on a TV or A/V receiver remote. This can be confusing, especially for people who don't particularly understand technology in general.

    But I'm not fond of Roku boxes. Even the expensive models have a sluggish UI and they're pretty terrible if you want to use one for locally stored content. Those two complaints actually apply to most STBs to some degree or other, but Android-based boxes, whether FireOS or AndroidTV proper, have options to address most of the software shortcomings (though there's a caveat there as well; AndroidTV boxes don't get first party updates very often and often don't have full authorization for 4k content even if the hardware supports it).

    I also think that it's unforgivable that Roku went as long as it did without a Youtube client. I realize that it has one now, but that was a HUGE hole in its content library until just a couple
    years ago. It's not like Youtube wasn't a thing in 2013.

  19. Doug
    October 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I have a relatively new (Dec. 2016) dumb-TV and connect my Wi-Fi enabled laptop to its Wi-Fi by means of a six-dollar HDMI cable. With this arrangement I can stream any and all films and other sources that I can connect to by means of my laptop. Anything visible on my laptop monitor is visible on the TV. The only additional detail is to create an account with Netflix etc. Or maybe I'll just watch a few free films that are available here and there online.

    • Lloyd
      October 5, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      That's what I use my Android tablet for. Works great with Netflix and Amazon Prime Movies. The problem I have is Xfinity doesn't allow mirroring on tablets, so I can what live TV directly on tablet or mirror from a laptop only with them. Got rid of the cable box long ago.

  20. Bruce A Eisenberg
    October 5, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I have a 32 inch Roku TV in my bedroom that has more options in the TV controls just for the TV itself the speakers sound great mounted on the wall it was $129 in 2016 I'm So Satisfied With It the picture the sound the options I have a Roku Streaming Stick on my plasma 48 in 20 12 in my living room not smart TV and it was the smartest 30 bucks I ever spent I'll never buy another Smart TV

  21. Patricia Boykin
    October 5, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I agree, and thank you.

  22. iSayuSay
    October 5, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Problem is, any good tv with great picture quality, i.e OLED has already smart feature built in. You cannot buy them without the smart OS and everything. If you buy a dumb tv, then it may be a cheap with not so great picture quality.

    Maybe a few years from now when OLED is getting cheaper and the yield improved. I will buy a dumb 4K HDR oled tv and get a roku or apple tv for the smart needs

  23. Stephen Little
    October 5, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Hey everybody let's not to forget there are a lots of better monitor's out there to buy.
    I use one then have added my you view box
    And any of my other things form my microsoft computer link to android dongle to run the monitor. How's that.
    You can then upgrade and use any of them as and when you like.

  24. Jannavi T
    October 5, 2017 at 5:06 am

    I feel your advice is abs correct-bcause its my opinion also.Recently i wanted to buy a big tv and aftrr much sensible thinking bought a simple 50inch Tv -because1) economical.2) who wants iinternet on a tv when u have yr ipad or smart phone3) lots of economic solutions to making it smart in our own way !!!

  25. Alok Mishra
    October 5, 2017 at 5:03 am

    I hai have agrundig tv (crt) how can i wàtch y tube etc.onit

    • Bob
      October 10, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Does the TV have composite input jacks (usually in the back). If it does, a Roku Express has composite output (red and white for audio and yellow for video). I have an old Roku Express with composite output that I connect to the composite input on an old Magnavox CRT set and it works quite well. I set the set for "video input" and have a cheap RCA universal Remote (< $10US, that supports the Roku (IR - works for both the Roku and the TV) - follow the directions for setting the remote code and you are good to go). One point to keep in mind, inexpensive universal remotes don't always adequately support every function of the real remote, but just enough to get by.

  26. James P Heartney
    October 5, 2017 at 3:02 am

    I have a Roku TV which is a bit slow and underpowered, though once you have it booted up it's generally OK. One very nice thing about it is that the entire setup is controlled by the highly simplified Roku remote (including the OTA channels). Very nice having only one remote to worry about.

    Someday when the onboard Roku is obsolete, I could just plug another Roku into the back and use that instead. Not sure that'll still work with the one remote, though. Have to see.

  27. Dave
    October 5, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Buy whatever TV you want, and if you don't like the apps now or in 5 years, use whatever smart box you want and use the HDMI port. That's what it's there for. This isn't rocket science, and your article is a waste of data.

    • Pam Buckshon
      October 5, 2017 at 5:04 am

      Thanks for validating the author's point.

    • Pam Buckshon
      October 5, 2017 at 5:12 am

      I wish I'd seen this a couple of years ago when I bought my LG Smart TV. The poor old slower than slow operating system's IQ is more than a few points short and can't be updated to include the newer services (like Amazon Prime video). I was given an Android box which looked promising but.... that has to be operated by a keyboard because my LG remote is apparently "magic". I'll be picking up one of these Roku products right away thanks to your informative article, just needed a recommendation from a good source.

  28. Mike Richardson
    October 5, 2017 at 12:10 am

    I currently own 2 vizio smart TV's. But when I went to try the smart TV apps I found out that they were awful. So right now I own 2 separate roku boxes. A Roku 3 is currently connected to the TV in the living room. And a Roku premier+ on the TV in my bedroom. I am gonna replace the Roku 3 shortly with another premier+ or one of the recently announced new Roku boxes.

  29. Tony
    October 4, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    I bought a Roku TV gotta say I forgot what it was like to have true out of the box experience .

  30. Shaun
    October 4, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    I agree that a dedicated streaming device is better than most TV's on-board smart systems. However, good luck finding a TV with great contrast, motion, and color accuracy that isn't also smart. The fact of the matter is that non-smart TVs have poor picture quality. If that's not important to you that's fine. Go to Walmart and buy the cheapest TV you can find. Articles like this are written by people who clearly don't understand TV's.

    • Vin
      October 5, 2017 at 3:26 am

      That's true..there arentuch quality non smart tv devices out in the market and the moment you think of largenlr displays smart capabilities are in built

    • Matt
      October 5, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Nailed it.

  31. Martin
    October 4, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    I realized this when my Vizio's YouTube app reported it was "no longer supported" back in July. Wish I could have seen this article 3 years ago.

  32. Martha
    October 4, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    I have a smart tv and would never buy another one. The apps are terrible. I went out and bought a roku and love it.

  33. Dave
    October 4, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    You just dished out a whole lot of common sense. Thank you.

    • Pam
      October 5, 2017 at 10:00 am

      Just purchased a TCL ROKU Smart TV, could not be happening! ROKU personnel/support staff are professional, knowledgeable, helpful and patient! Hurray!!!