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How We Decided
  • 88 Models Considered
  • 16 Hours Spent
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 97 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Smart TV Sets

    Some TV connoisseurs talk about about “cutting the cord” to regular cable by investing in a media streaming device.

    Then there are those who prefer to carry their independence a step further by ridding themselves of boxes altogether. If you’re one of these people, you may wish to consider a smart TV.

    If you want to learn more about smart TVs, we’re here to help. At BestReviews, we interview experts, conduct extensive market research, and test products in our lab. We never accept “free” manufacturer samples because our goal is to provide honest, unbiased reviews you can trust.

    Our mission is to arm our readers with the information needed to make the best use of their money.

    So dim the lights, curl up in your favorite chair, grab the remote, and browse our smart TV shopping guide.

    If you’re inclined to make a purchase, please see our top five list, above, for our best smart TV recommendations.

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    Want to get rid of the boxes and cords in your entertainment center? You have two options: you could purchase an HD antenna and stick to basic channels, or you could get a smart TV.

    LED vs. Plasma

    Debate continues as to which kind of television is the best, LED or plasma. LED TVs shine light from behind the screen and illuminate the pixels to create an image. Plasma TVs use cells that take an invisible ultraviolet light produced by a neon or xenon gas and turn it into red, blue, or green light we can actually see.

    When it comes to smart TVs, however, there’s really only one good option: LED.

    Due to cost, lifespan, and weight issues, plasma TVs have lost their momentum in North America. As a result, most manufacturers make LED smart TVs only.

    Yes, it’s still possible to purchase a plasma smart TV if you have your heart set on that technology. But buyer beware: plasma production has slowed considerably over the past two years, which means service and replacement parts will be harder to find down the line.

    Matthew
    EXPERT CONSULTANT

    Matthew has led IT departments and tech teams in a variety of industries. Currently, he works in the sports gaming industry. He has written reviews and been involved with electronics procurement decisions for a number of players at the business and individual level for over a decade. In his spare time, you may find Matthew playing frisbee, golf, or reading a good novel.


    Matthew  |  IT Professional, Product Manager

    Mounting & Stands

    Every TV in our product matrix comes with a stand and mounting instructions.

    While we can’t personally advise you how and where to mount your TV, we can tell you that the Samsung and the LG models include extra mounting fixtures that would aid in securing it to your wall.

    If you’re simply using a stand, the TCL Roku Smart and LG Ultra have the most durable attachments, as they utilize a V-frame stand on each side of the TV for balance.

    The VIZIO’s stand has been known to snap when standing on a poor surface, so an alternate TV mount may be required for this product.

    EXPERT TIP

    Manufacturers tend to boast about TV viewing angles. The idea is that you can still see the picture from the farthest angle. While this is a cool technology, it does little to enhance your viewing pleasure. Never accept this as a reason to buy a TV.


    Matthew  | IT Professional, Product Manager

    Inputs

    Most of today’s smart TVs are solely HDMI-compatible. This is good because HDMI offers a better picture and clearer sound than old-school RCA connectors and HD cables. But depending on the TV you purchase, you may or may not have an adequate number of inputs.

    Potential buyers should keep in mind that the Samsung, TCL, and LG in our product matrix include four HDMI inputs apiece. The others only include two.

    LED TVs generate a lot of heat when left on for long periods of time. The Sony Smart LED is currently the most advanced in terms of heat reduction, but it still produces a fair amount.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    WiFi Capability

    Almost every television is equipped with a WiFi receiver which should be able to pick up most WiFi modems and routers within 30 feet. (An exception on our shortlist is the Samsung, which does NOT include built-in WiFi and works primarily from a direct connection to the internet.)

    Of the remaining models, only the TCL Roku Smart comes with a dual-band system that works with different types of WiFi signals. The TCL would likely stay connected to the web in the event of a WiFi fluctuation. It also has a greater chance of reconnecting immediately to the signal if it’s lost for some reason.

    If you intend to have a smart TV in your home that uses WiFi, it’s best to have a router or modem that operates on a dual-band system to ensure you’re connected to the web at all times.

    EXPERT TIP

    For those who don’t have WiFi at home — or have issues connecting devices that are situated far from the modem or router — always check to see if there’s an Ethernet port on the TV you wish you purchase.


    Matthew  | IT Professional

    Operating System

    Each television uses a built-in operating system, or OS, to help you navigate through your options. However, no single OS exists for all smart TVs. Each model has its own functions, capabilities, and pre-loaded apps.

    For example, the Sony Smart LED TV includes software that helps you utilize the functions of Playstation 4, even while the system is on standby. The VIZIO includes Vudu, a streaming service that many other TVs don’t use.

    Ultimately, the OS impacts the way a TV functions very little, though some systems (like the LG) can be sluggish and even freeze up at times. The issue with the LG is that occasionally, if it’s been programmed to do too many things at once, system errors occur. The OS needs adequate time to process all of the commands, especially when overloaded.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some smart TVs have issues with content from online media sites such as YouTube, Twitch, and DailyMotion. If you’re a fan of these sites, check the software capabilities before buying a smart TV to make sure you’ll be able to get the content you love.

    Apps

    Most smart TV systems can download third-party apps such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Crackle, and Hulu. Manufacturers do this because millions of people subscribe to these services already, and it makes it easier for people to use their TVs when the apps are already built in.

    None of the televisions listed above will reject these apps. In fact, most already include their services as part of their programming. All that’s required is login info.

    Sound Quality

    Most smart TVs lag behind in the audio department. You won’t find surround sound elements in a smart TV — at least not without a secondary system hooked up to it. However, the audio capabilities are still satisfactory for most people.

    A smart TV projects its audio through small speakers that usually sit around the frame of the monitor. According to customer surveys, the only model on our shortlist that had any real issues with audio was the TCL.

    At the time of this writing, TCL is the only company that has a working deal with Roku, a popular streaming media player system. TCL’s OS uses their menu software and layout, as well as the same multi-channel services. If you like Roku, the TCL Roku Smart could be the right choice for you.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Remote Controls

    Each remote control includes its own set of controls. Some have been simplified for easy use, and others have been programmed to give you total control. Below is a short guide as to what each remote can do —

    • Samsung: The Samsung’s remote exudes a sleek black design and features “Home” and “Microphone” buttons. There is also a thumb dial control with two option buttons at the bottom.
    • LG: This TV includes a rounded, multi-button controller with access to a 3D TV option. DVR controls and a microphone are also included.
    • Sony: This remote sports a square black design with multi-button functions. There’s a thumb dial and a Netflix button, as well as a set of color adjustment buttons along the bottom.
    • VIZIO: This TV’s remote is long and boasts multi-button functionality. The middle of the remote  includes a square menu button and access buttons for Amazon, Netflix, and iHeartRadio.
    • TCL: Owners of this smart TV use a small, rounded remote with a D-Pad menu button. Simplified DVR options and streaming media buttons reside at the bottom.
    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most smart TVs have switched to complete HDMI and you may need to purchase adaptors for tech compatibility.

    Microphones and Voice Commands

    As noted above, some smart TV remote controls have built-in microphones. This allows voice-to-text within the OS, which makes searching for items by name or finding menu options quite convenient.

    Smart TVs like the LG and Samsung even allow you to control basic functions (lowering the volume, switching to a different channel) by voice. However, these functions aren’t foolproof; at times, the TV may have trouble “understanding” what you’re saying.

    Gaming & Other Devices

    Every OS includes the option of going directly to a device (Blu-ray player, video game console, cable/satellite system) from the home screen. Once you’ve set everything up, you’ll be able to switch between systems with ease.

    However, if you ever disconnect a device, the TV will recognize that you’ve removed it, and it won’t save your settings. In order for the system to recognize the device again, you’d have to reset your OS options.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A smart TV with a small number of HDMI inputs isn’t a “lesser” TV. After all, one of the major perks of owning a smart TV is the fact that you don’t have to deal with lots of extra devices.

    Price

    Smart TV prices range from $2,000 to $6,000. In general, the larger the smart TV, the higher the price — as is the case with most regular TVs.

    If you want a really large screen, consider the LG. With a screen of 75 inches, it costs far less than some other big-name brands, and it offers many of the same options.

    If you don’t mind a smaller set, consider the TCL Roku Smart, which has 4K capability. The VIZIO Smart LED is also a great smaller choice.

    If you regularly experience connectivity issues with video game consoles, music systems, and the like, it may be unwise to gamble on a smart TV.

    FAQ

    Q: Will my TV require updates?

    A: Yes. The software requires regular updates so it can better interact with your media. All smart TVs should automatically update when connected to the internet, but check your system’s options menus to make sure.

    Q: Do smart TVs ever crash?

    A: Yes. Just like a computer, your TV comes with a hard drive, programming chips, memory, and processing power. Some apps may cause a smart TV to freeze, shut off, or even go blank for a period of time. This is a good reason to keep your software updated.

    Q: Are smart TVs vulnerable to viruses?

    A: Usually not. However, malware could become an issue if you download an infected app from an untrustworthy source or link your TV to a hard drive with a virus on it.

    Q: How is a smart TV different from a streaming device?

    A: Aside from the fact that one is a TV and one is a box, both operate under the same principals with their software. However, you cannot hook up external players to a streaming device like you can a TV; you would need to switch between inputs to use everything.

    Q: Can I get local channels on my smart TV?

    A: Only if you have cable, satellite, or an HD antenna connected to it. Smart TVs don’t automatically pick up local programming.

    Q: Can I browse the internet on my smart TV?

    A: It depends on the manufacturer. Some smart TVs have browsers; others don’t.

    BestReviews contributor Matt Ham is a technology expert and CEO of The Computer Repair Doctor. He contributed his advice, opinions, and expertise to this review. To learn more about Matt's work, click here.

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