If you’ve gone shopping for a television set any time in the past couple years, you’ve begun to see a proliferation of Smart TVs, or TVs with Wi-Fi connections and apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Vudu.
The price is a little higher (anywhere from 10- to 25-percent higher than the comparable “non-Smart” TV that doesn’t have Internet access. But with a higher price, you get some convenience — and the ability to enjoy much more entertainment without doing anything extra.
But many claim that getting a Smart TV over a regular TV paired with a set-top box, like Roku or Apple TV, is not a wise decision. We’ll see if we can measure the pros and cons of buying a Smart TV in this article.
Pros of Getting a Smart TV
You Don’t Have to Buy an OTT Box: Over-the-top boxes, like Roku, Chromecast and Apple TV, can run anywhere from $35 up to $100 and higher.
Apps like Netflix and Hulu Offer More Choices: You only need to connect your Smart TV to your Wi-Fi, then login to your accounts at Netflix and Hulu, and you are quickly able to watch all of their TV shows and movies.
Music Apps: Many Smart TVs also have Pandora and Spotify, allowing you to listen to your favorite music channels on those sites. Some are also able to connect their Smart TVs to their Amazon Music, allowing you to listen to MP3s you’ve purchased.
Social Media: See what’s going on with your friends and the people you follow on Facebook and Twitter.
One Less Remote: Using a Smart TV means you don’t have to use your remote for Roku or Apple TV. If you have a Smart TV in the bedroom, one remote is much easier to make room for — and not lose behind the end table.
Web Browser: Look up sites you want to watch, and in some cases, go to the network websites and watch TV shows from their sites. (I struggled to do this, however, using CBS.com’s media player with my Samsung Smart TV. It just kept freezing up and struggling.)
Play Games: Many Smart TVs have Angry Birds or other games you can play right on your TV.
Clean Look: Mounting your TV to the wall or putting it up on your dresser or a shelf isn’t so bad. But if you also have to find room for a Roku box and added wires, then you’ll have to either hang it or have it within the remote’s view. So much for having a clean look.
Cons of Getting a Smart TV
Smart TVs Cost More: You’re paying an extra 10- to 25-percent for a TV because of the Smart features, yet an OTT box could be had for much less.
Stinky Software: Figure that the television manufacturer is creating the software that enables the Smart TV to connect online. When was the last time you bought software or computer hardware from Sony, LG, Samsung or Toshiba? As you could imagine, a television by Dell probably won’t be as good as one from Samsung, so why would we think they could create user-friendly software?
Social Media Apps are Already on Your Phone: Most people have their smartphones with them at all times, so having Facebook or Twitter on your TV is unnecessary. This doesn’t even mention the fact that those apps are very wonky and not user-friendly on TVs. Plus, whose account do you connect to — yours or your partner’s?
Web Browsers: Speaking of Bad Apps – nothing is more annoying than typing out things using a remote control. So looking up websites or posting on Facebook is just a chore. Granted, you’ll have to use a remote to type on an OTT box, too, but just be aware that web browsers on your TV are still not good ideas.
Updates?: There are some Smart TVs out there, including some high-end ones, that have a specific amount of apps on them — and that’s it. There’s no way you can add more apps to it, so you’re stuck with whatever they chose for you (i.e. whichever companies they previously made deals with).
If you do buy a Smart TV, make sure you can add apps. Figure you’ll hope to get at least five years out of this TV before it seems outdated — now think back to how many great apps have come along in the past few years that you wouldn’t have if you had a Smart TV without the ability to add apps.
The good news is — even if you buy a Smart TV and it becomes outdated, you can always make it a Dumb TV (or at least, not Smart), and buy an OTT box for a relatively small amount.
Getting Smarter All the Time: Replacing a Roku box you bought two or three years ago for $50 for the new Roku Streaming Stick will cost you another $50. That $100 total might be the difference you would have paid for a new Smart TV, but at least you’ll get the most recent technology, with the most recent apps already installed.
Also, some of these OTT boxes have smartphone apps that allow you to use your phone to change what you are watching or pause it.
OTT Boxes Do What You Want the Best: A Roku box is built by Roku people that are working to make sure your streaming online experience is perfect. The TV people have a lot more to worry about with high-definition TVs, which means the “Smart” part is really a secondary concern.
At this point, it does seem like there are more cons than pros, when deciding to buy a Smart TV. It’s still a great piece of technology, and maybe it’s something best for a guest room, or your bedroom. But for your main entertainment area, like your living room or home theater, you should get a Roku, Apple TV or Chromecast – or at least get a video game station like Playstation 3 or 5 or an Xbox 360 or Xbox One.