As we move towards an increasingly connected world, we see the word “smart” prefixed to a lot of day-to-day objects. From smartphones and smart speakers to smart bulbs, refrigerators, luggage, and everything in between, almost everything can now be “smart.” One of the first devices to get such a treatment were our televisions, and we’ve seen the smart TV significantly grow in size, video quality, and capabilities over the past few years.
But what is a smart TV, and which is the smartest? What should you be looking for?
What is a smart TV?
A smart TV is basically a television that can be connected to the internet. Every smart TV can connect to a Wi-Fi network and most also come with a built-in ethernet port. Using a smart TV has a lot of advantages. The main benefit is access to media-streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Youtube, and many, many more.
Smart TVs usually have a web browser built-in as well and most can also connect to your smartphone or tablet and let you stream content directly from it. Smart TV capabilities and features have grown a lot over the years, with many now offering some form of voice control, built-in AI assistants, and more.
Smart TV platforms
The boon and the bane of technology is choice. It’s no different with the smart TV either, with various platforms and TV manufacturers to choose between. While some, like LG’s WebOS, are OEM specific, others, like Android TV, can be found on smart TVs by different manufacturers. Picking the right platform can be a complicated affair, so let’s take a look at some of the best platform options currently available and the smart TVs that support them.
LG’s WebOS began with a simple smart TV interface with a bar of supported apps at the bottom of the screen. While LG has maintained that minimalistic approach as far as the UI is concerned, that is certainly not the case when it comes to its features and capabilities.
The app support is excellent, with easy access to all your favorite content from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Youtube, along with a host of other entertainment, news, sports, and even recipe apps. With the right TV, WebOS supports 4K and HDR content, Dolby Vision, and even 360-degree videos. You can also cast content from your phone (requires Miracast-compatible smartphones) and use the cursor-based LG Magic Remote to navigate through everything.
LG’s Smart TVs also comes with built-in Bluetooth support, letting you enhance the audio experience by connecting it to Bluetooth speakers and sound bars. Exciting new features with the latest 2018 ThinQ Smart TV series include the availability of Google Assistant built-in and compatibility with Amazon Alexa devices, allowing your smart TV to function as a hub for your smart home.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to LG smart TVs running WebOS, with prices for a 4K UHD smart TV running anywhere for as low as $399 to as high as $8,999. Our picks below feature the new AI ThinQ series, but you can a similar 2017 smart TV (without the AI features) for cheaper, and even cheaper if you opt for lower resolution displays. Here are just a few options:
- LG 8000 Series 4K LED – The 2018 LG 8000 4K is LG’s current range of LED smart TVs. You get all the AI features that are a part of the new ThinQ series. The size range is from 49″ to 75″, priced starting at $699.99 and going all the way up to $2,299.99. Check out the LG 8000 series smart tv range here.
- LG 9000 Series 4K LED – It isn’t a whole lot different between the 8000 and 9000 series. With the latter, you get more brightness, superior black uniformity, better audio quality (2.2Ch 40W speaker system with the 9000 compared to 2Ch 20W with the 8000), and better placement of HDMI and USB ports. The 9000 Series is only available in 55″ and 65″ sizes, priced at $1,199.99 and $1,799.99 respectively. Check out the LG 9000 series here.
- LG C8 Series 4K OLED – The C8 series 4K is LG’s more affordable OLED smart TV range. Like all the other options on this list, this is part of the new AI ThinQ series. The size ranges from 55″ to 77″ and is priced starting at $2,299.99 and goes all the way up to $8,999.99. Check out the LG C8 series here.
- LG E8 Series 4K OLED – Like the 8000 and 9000 series, there isn’t too much of a difference between the C8 and the E8 range. You get better audio quality with the latter, a superior design, and slightly better video quality as well. The E8 OLED smart TV is available in 55″ and 65″ sizes, priced at $2,999.99 and $3,999.99 respectively. Check out the LG E8 series here.
Samsung Tizen OS (aka Smart Hub)
Samsung’s smart TVs run on Tizen OS, but with the company’s recent SmartThings push, you won’t find much mention of Tizen anymore. Instead, you’ll see Smart TV or Smart Hub as the platform that Samsung’s latest 2018 smart TVs feature.
Like LG’s WebOS, simplicity is the name of the game here, with everything available in a horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen. The app selection is also as good, with access to Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, and even Google Play Movies, and many more. You also get 4K and HDR content with supported apps. You can control everything with the Samsung OneRemote and the latest range of smart TVs come with Bixby voice control as well. You can also use Bluetooth or Miracast to play media from your supported phone.
You can also use your Samsung smart TV as a hub for all your other connected devices via the SmartThings app. The app serves as a singular point of control for all the Samsung smart devices. Once everything is set up, you can even get notifications from other smart devices on the TV, like a Cycle completed message from your Samsung smart washing machine.
Samsung has numerous options available in its smart TV range. Featured in our picks below are the 2018 models with Bixby voice control and Smart Hub features. Older versions may or may not get the update, but they will be slightly cheaper than the latest devices. Our top picks include:
- Samsung Q9F QLED – This is the current top of the range smart TV series that Samsung has to offer and features a beautiful, near bezel-less design. It’s definitely pricey, but Samsung does have financing options available. The Samsung Q9F Smart TV is available in 75″ and 65″ sizes, priced at $5,999 and $3,499 respectively. Find out more here.
- Samsung Q7CN QLED – This is Samsung’s 2018 range of high-end curved TVs that provide a truly immersive experience. The features are the same as the other two series listed here, with slight differences in things like audio quality that make this curved TV a bit cheaper. The Samsung Q7CN Smart TV can be found in 65″ and 55″ iterations, which are priced at $2,499 and $1,799 respectively. Find out more here.
- Samsung NU7100 4K – This is Samsung’s affordable range of smart TVs. You don’t get the fancy quantum dot screens, voice control via Bixby, or the OnRemote. The audio quality from the built-in speaker setup isn’t as good as the other two either. But it comes with SmartThings connectivity. If you aren’t looking for all the bells and whistles that Samsung has to offer, this series is an excellent choice as well. The available sizes range from 40″ and go to 75″ with a price point starting at $429, going all the way up to $1,799. Find out more here.
Unlike WebOS or Tizen OS, Android TV isn’t limited to a particular TV manufacturer. Instead, it is a smart TV OS that is available with multiple hardware partners and comes in the form of set-top boxes as well.
App support is as expected, providing access to all your favorite streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, as well as Google Play Movies, TV, and Games. Most Android TV devices also come with built-in Chromecast support, allowing you to also cast content from your phone. You can also control everything using your voice, with Google Assistant built-in with the newer versions of Android TV.
Android TV hasn’t taken off as well as Google would have liked, but it does have some major hardware partners like Sony, TCL (in Europe) Vu Official (in India), and Sharp. The good news is that Google continues to add more partners every day. One of the best ways to get Android TV on your television is to get a set-top box, with the Nvidia Shield TV one of the most popular options in this regard. Here are our top choices for the best smart TVs to get with Android TV on-board:
- Sony A8F series OLED – The A8F series is Sony’s latest line of OLED smart TV’s. Sony also brings PlayStation Vue support to their Android TVs, allowing access to live TV streaming with annual contracts. The A8F is available in 55″ and 65″ variants, priced at $2,799 and $3,799 respectively. Find out more here.
- Sony 900 series LED – OLED TV’s are quite expensive, but Sony’s LED smart TV is pretty good as well and far more affordable. You get all the software features as mentioned above and the 900 series is available in a lot more size options. The size starts at 49″ and goes all the way up to 85″, with a price range of $1,099 to $5,299. Find out more here.
- Nvidia Shield TV 4K – Nvidia Shield TV is a full featured set-top box with Android TV and Chromecast 4K built-in, and also comes with a TV tuner and USB support. You also get excellent gaming performance with a slew of Shield-exclusive games available. The Nvidia Shield TV is priced at $179 and an extra $20 will get you a console-style gaming controller as well. Buy the Nvidia Shield TV now.
Roku has grown into one of the most popular media streaming hardware makers around. Starting with devices like streaming sticks and set-top boxes that can be used to connect to any TV, a lot of televisions now come with Roku TV as the built-in OS.
Roku TV features one of the most comprehensive lists of supported apps that include all your favorites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, as well as a few off-beat options as well. You also get access to some live TV streaming via the apps of some major networks and channels. Everything is easily controlled with the remote, but Roku TV also comes with voice support to make searching for things easier.
There are a lot of smart TV manufacturers that now have products with Roku TV built-in, like TCL, Hisense, Sharp, and Philips. All these OEMs offer smart TVs that are at the lower end of the price spectrum, so if you’re looking for an affordable option, these are your best shot. Our top picks include:
- TCL 6 series LED – The TCL 5 series is the company’s best 4K smart TV series around. You get all the features mentioned above and it also comes with a TV tuner if you aren’t looking to cut the cord completely. The TCL 6 series is available in sizes of 55″ and 65″, starting at a price point of just $599 and going up to $969 respectively. Find out more here.
- TCL 4 series LED – The 4 series is the even more affordable 4K smart TV range from TCL. You don’t get as many features and options as the 5 series or 6 series though, like HDR Dynamic contrast support and Dolby Vision, as well as the lack of the enhanced remote with voice control. However, the 4 series is priced starting at just $279 for the 43″ version and going up to $599 for the 65″ size. Find out more here.
Vizio SmartCast may be a proprietary smart TV OS available only with its own TVs, but it comes with a lot of great features that makes it an amalgamation of all the smart TV platforms we’ve seen above.
The UI and ease of use follow along the same lines WebOS or Tizen, with Vizio favoring a horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen over a grid layout. You get all the app support you’d expect. But SmartCast also comes with Chromecast built-in, allowing you to cast content from your smartphone. You can also mirror your smartphone entirely. An excellent phone remote is coupled with voice control via both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, along with control via Google Home and Amazon Echo as well.
Vizio may not have as many smart TV options as Samsung or LG, but what they do have on offer are excellent options. Some of the best smart TVs from Vizio include:
- Vizio P-series – Vizio’s P-series features a beautiful bezel-less design and utilizes Ultrabright 1000 (maximum 1000 nits of enhanced brightness), Ultra Color Spectrum, and support for 4K and HDR to allow for excellent picture quality. The Vizio P-series is available in 55″, 65″, and 75″ sizes, priced starting at $799 and going up to $2,099. Check it out here.
- Vizio E-series – The E-series is the more affordable option when it comes to Vizio’s 4K smart TV offerings. When compared to the P-series and M-series, you lose the bezel-less design and display features like Ultrabright drop to 400. However, the software onboard remains the same. The Vizio E-series is available in sizes starting from 43″ and going up to 75″, with a price range of $349 to $1,549. Find out more here.
Should you get a smart TV?
You should definitely get a smart TV if you are in the market for a new one. While some of the options listed above are quite expensive, you can get an excellent smart TV for less than $500 as well. The price difference between a regular and smart TV is almost non-existent at this point. Something to also keep in mind is that while all the options above are 4K UHD TVs, you can get one for even cheaper if you are okay with a Full HD screen.
Of course, if you already have a regular TV and aren’t looking to upgrade just yet, you can still jump on to the cord cutter lifestyle with the use of media streaming devices like Google Chromecast, Roku Streaming Stick+, and Amazon’s excellent range of Fire TV products.
There you have it for this quick look at smart TVs and what your options are. If there is another smart TV platform that you believe deserves to be on this list, do let us know in the comments section below!
For more advice on finding the right TV, check out the following guides: