Smart TVs have come a long way in recent years. With built-in streaming apps, web browsing capabilities and voice control assistants, today’s smart TVs offer a whole new level of convenience and entertainment. This comprehensive guide will explore everything you need to know about the latest smart TVs on the market and how to choose the right model for your needs and budget.
An Overview of Smart TV Capabilities
A smart TV is more like a computer than a traditional television set. While you can still watch cable or satellite programming, a smart TV also gives you access to a wide range of streaming services, apps, web browsing and voice control features. Here’s an overview of what makes them “smart”:
Most smart TVs come pre-loaded with popular streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock and more. This allows you to access on-demand movies, TV shows, documentaries and other content directly through your TV – no need for an additional streaming device.
With built-in web browsers, smart TVs allow you to access websites and online content directly on your big screen. Shop online, read news articles, check sports scores and more. Some models even support tabbed browsing for easy multitasking.
Smart TV app stores give you access to entertainment, social media, music, gaming and utility apps optimized for the large screen experience. Stream music, play games, video chat with friends and more.
Using integrated microphones, many smart TVs can be controlled with your voice. Change channels, search for content, adjust volume and settings just by speaking. This hands-free control makes navigation quick and seamless.
Smart Home Connectivity
High-end models allow you to connect other smart home devices like security cameras, video doorbells, thermostats and lights. View live feeds, control settings and access features through a central smart TV dashboard.
Key Smart TV Manufacturers
There are a handful of major players when it comes to smart TVs. Here’s an overview of some of the top brands and what they offer:
The Korean tech giant makes some of the most advanced and highly-rated smart TVs on the market. They offer sleek, slim designs packed with features. Samsung smart TVs use the company’s own Tizen operating system and work seamlessly with Samsung smartphones.
Known for OLED and NanoCell display technologies, LG smart TVs provide stellar picture quality. Their webOS platform offers a streamlined interface and fast performance. LG TVs also integrate with other LGThinQ connected home devices.
With top-notch processors and displays, Sony smart TVs deliver lifelike visuals and responsive operation. The Android TV platform gives access to Google Play apps and built-in Chromecast allows easy streaming from mobile devices.
Offering high-performance at a more budget-friendly price point, Vizio smart TVs use the SmartCast OS for voice controls, streaming and apps. Known for Dolby Vision HDR and robust audio.
Fast-growing TCL offers feature-packed Roku TVs with strong picture quality at wallet-friendly prices. The intuitive Roku TV platform is among the best for streaming and apps.
Display Technology Advances
Picture quality is a top consideration when choosing a smart TV. Key innovations in display tech allow today’s models to deliver more realistic, immersive viewing. Here are some of the latest display terms you’ll see:
4K and 8K Resolution
With four times the pixels of 1080p HD, 4K UHD provides a major boost in clarity, detail and image sharpness. 8K models quadruple 4K resolution but are still limited in content availability.
OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays provide perfect black levels thanks to self-illuminating pixels. This allows for infinite contrast and vivid colors. Ideal for high-end viewing.
Quantum dot LED TVs, marketed as QLED by Samsung, use nanoparticles to enhance brightness and color. Provides dynamic, wide-ranging contrast closer to OLED.
Mini-LED backlight systems contain thousands of tiny LEDs for improved contrast and black levels compared to standard LCD/LED TVs. Provides OLED-like performance for less cost.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
HDR expands the TV’s color range and contrast for ultra-realistic imagery. Formats include HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision which tailor performance on a scene-by-scene basis.
Smart TV Operating Systems
The software platform your smart TV uses has a big influence on its usability, voice control, streaming options and app selection. Here are the primary operating systems found on today’s models:
Developed by LG, webOS provides a fast, intuitive interface optimized for big screens. Offers universal search, voice controls, smooth streaming and a full app store. Used on LG TVs.
Roku’s acclaimed interface is now built-into select smart TVs like TCL and Hisense models. Provides easy access to thousands of streaming channels, apps and an iPhone-like voice remote.
Google’s Android TV platform powers Sony smart TVs along with some models from Hisense, Xiaomi, Toshiba and others. Gives access to Google Play, built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant voice controls.
Amazon’s Fire TV OS comes built into low-cost smart TVs from Toshiba & Insignia. Offers robust voice features with Alexa, easy streaming, and a focus on Amazon Prime content.
Designed specifically for Samsung TVs, Tizen is fast, intuitive and works seamlessly with Galaxy phones. Supports voice control through Bixby along with a full app ecosystem.
Exclusive to LG smart TVs, webOS emphasizes simplicity and speed. Fast load times, fluid multitasking and access to LG’s app store. Includes built-in support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voices services.
Key Features and Capabilities to Look For
With so many options on the market, it can be tough deciding which smart TV is right for you. Here are some of the most important features and capabilities to consider:
Video Streaming Support
At a minimum, make sure any smart TV you’re considering supports the major streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu and more. Many models include subscriptions or discounted rates for certain services.
For the best clarity and future-proofing, a 4K UHD display is recommended. This will allow you to stream and view most content in Ultra HD resolution. Avoid purchasing an HD-only (1080p) TV if possible.
To experience video content as directors intended, opt for a TV with HDR. This will provide more vivid colors, better contrast, and expanded brightness. Dolby Vision HDR offers the most well-rounded performance.
Integrated Voice Assistant
For hands-free control of your TV via voice commands, be sure to get a model with either Alexa, Google Assistant or in Samsung’s case, Bixby built-in. This allows for simple voice navigation and searches.
If you plan to game on your smart TV, look for features like Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and 120Hz refresh rates for smooth, lag-free gaming.
Number of HDMI Ports
You’ll want sufficient HDMI inputs to connect all of your home theater gear and gaming consoles. Most smart TVs have 3-4 HDMI ports, but more is always better for maximum flexibility.
A fast, capable processor ensures quick load times for apps, smooth streaming, and snappy response when using voice commands or switching between inputs. Look for chipsets from MediaTek, Qualcomm, or Samsung/LG’s in-house silicon.
Voice Control Showdown: Amazon Alexa vs. Google Assistant vs. Bixby
One of the most useful smart TV features is the ability to control your TV using just your voice. But not all voice assistants are created equal. Here’s how Alexa, Google Assistant and Bixby compare when it comes to smart TV voice control capabilities:
- Seamless smart home device control
- Feature-rich skills system adds capabilities
- Easy access to Amazon Prime content
- Simple TV control via Fire TV interface
- Some limitations navigating non-Prime apps
- Universal content search across apps
- Smart home control via Nest ecosystem
- Access to Google knowledge graph
- Advanced artificial intelligence capabilities
- Limited built-in smart home device support
- Deeply integrated with Samsung TVs
- Intuitive for TV functions like settings and inputs
- Universal search across Samsung content
- Seamless smart home control via SmartThings
- Still catching up to Alexa and Google Assistant in intelligence
While all three assistants allow for essential TV control and content searches, Alexa excels at general smart home integration while Google leads in AI smarts. For controlling the TV itself, Bixby offers the deepest menu navigation.
Finding the Right Smart TV – 6 Things to Consider
Ready to upgrade your home entertainment? Keep these key factors in mind while searching for the perfect smart TV for you:
1. Screen Size
Consider the size of the room and optimal viewing distance to choose the ideal screen size. Bigger is better for immersion but make sure to get the right fit.
2. Display Quality
Prioritize display features like 4K resolution, advanced LED backlighting like OLED or QLED, HDR support and refresh rate for top-tier picture performance.
3. Operating System
The software platform impacts streaming, apps, voice control and ease of use. Evaluate webOS, Android TV, Tizen or Roku TV to find the best OS for your preferences.
4. Built-in Speakers
While many rely on soundbars, ensure the built-in speakers provide sufficient quality and volume for standalone usage. Dolby Atmos support is a plus.
5. Ports & Connectivity
Look for ample HDMI inputs and both wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) and wired ethernet to accommodate all your media devices.
Set a budget and look for best-in-class models at each price point. Consider value-packed TVs from TCL and Hisense for budget buys with premium features.
Carefully weighing these factors will help you identify the perfect smart TV to create your ideal entertainment oasis.
Top 7 Smart TVs of 2023
Based on the criteria detailed above, these 7 options represent the best smart TVs across various price points and feature sets:
1. Samsung QN90B Neo QLED 4K Smart TV
With next-level contrast and colors from Mini-LED backlighting, the QN90B is one of the finest 4K smart TVs available. Gorgeous quantum dot display and powerful smart hub powered by Tizen OS.
2. LG G2 Series OLED Evo 4K Smart TV
LG’s brightest OLED yet, the G2 Series delivers stunningly realistic images thanks to the new OLED Evo panel and advanced picture processors. The fast webOS platform completes the package.
3. Sony Bravia XR A95K QD-OLED 4K Smart TV
Cognitive XR processing meets advanced QD-OLED display technology for Sony’s most innovative TV. Offers incredible contrast with pure blacks and bright, rich colors. Powered by Google TV.
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4. TCL 6-Series Roku TV 4K Smart TV
With mini-LED backlighting providing OLED-level contrast, the 6-Series Roku TV punches far above its weight. The Roku TV interface makes streaming a breeze. Outstanding performance and value.
5. Hisense U6H Quantum 4K Smart Google TV
Boasting quantum dot color and full array local dimming, the U6H offers impressive picture quality for the money. Google TV puts top-notch smart features at your fingertips.
6. Amazon Fire TV Omni Series 4K Smart TV
Amazon’s 4K Omni TV features hands-free Alexa and video calling along with the Fire TV OS tailored for streaming. Plus Dolby Vision HDR support.
7. Vizio V-Series 4K Smart TV
For the tightest budgets, the Vizio V-Series packs smart streaming features into an affordable 4K TV. Stream from your phone or tap into built-in Apple AirPlay/Chromecast.
Still have some questions about smart TVs? This FAQ tackles some commonly asked questions:
What smart TV apps allow live TV streaming?
Many smart TVs support live TV streaming apps like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, and DirecTV Stream. These replace cable and give you access to live channels all in one app.
Can smart TVs get hacked?
Like any connected device, smart TVs face some cybersecurity risks. To minimize risks, use strong WiFi passwords, avoid clicking suspicious links, keep your TV software up to date and don’t enable features you don’t use. Most smart TV hacks target older models.
Is a smart TV worth it if I already have streaming devices?
With built-in streaming and voice control, smart TVs offer a cleaner, simpler viewing experience compared to juggling multiple devices. Smart TVs eliminate the need for additional gadgets and consolidate controls into a single interface.
Do smart TVs have tuning issues like satellite/cable boxes?
Smart TV tuners integrated directly into the display panel tend to be higher quality than external cable boxes, providing a more reliable signal with less compression artifacts. This allows for smoother video free of distortion.
Can you use smart TVs as a PC monitor?
Select smart TVs support screen mirroring from your computer either wired via HDMI or wirelessly with protocols like Chromecast, Miracast and Apple AirPlay. This allows you to extend your PC screen to the TV for work or entertainment. Just be aware of limited browser support.
How often should you upgrade your smart TV?
While smart TVs typically last 5-7 years, major advances in 4K, HDR and streaming support mean upgrading every 3-4 years ensures you have the latest features. Processor and memory improvements also keep newer TVs performing smoothly over time.
The Future of Smart TVs
Smart TV innovation continues at a rapid pace. Here is a preview of some of the exciting advances coming down the pipeline:
- 8K resolution will become more mainstream bringing even crisper images.
- Next-gen HDMI 2.1 connections enable higher resolutions, frame rates and bandwidth for uncompressed video.
- OLED and mini-LED will get even brighter and more efficient. Micro LED promises amazing future picture quality.
- Smart TV cameras support new video chat and virtual assistant capabilities.
- Improved processors and AI will make smart TVs faster and smarter.
- New LED designs like Samsung’s Sero TV pivot for mobile viewing.
- Cloud gaming integration allows instant access to Xbox, PlayStation and other cloud-based gaming services.
Whileenhancements like voice control have already made smart TVs an indispensable part of our homes, the technology continues to rapidly evolve. As display quality, streaming capability and smart home connectivity all improve in the years ahead, our television experience will become more immersive and intelligent than ever.