Most TVs sold today are considered smart TVs, also called connected TVs. Smart TVs represent the convergence of computers and entertainment with integrated internet and an array of free and paid apps.
This buying guide will help you determine what smart TV to buy based on your needs, budget, and preferences.
What Is a Smart TV?
A smart TV incorporates an operating system, allowing users to access streaming content without plugging in an external device. Smart TVs are popular with people who enjoy watching the latest shows on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms.
You can access, manage, and view online and network-based content with a smart TV. Almost all TVs sold today are considered smart TVs, and many manufacturers, including LG, Vizio, and Samsung, sell smart TVs.
Sony XBR-X900C Series 4K Ultra HD TV
Sony XBR-X900C Series 4K Ultra HD TV. Image provided by Sony Electronics
Top 6 Things to Consider When Buying a Smart TV
Before deciding on a smart TV, there are six key factors to consider when shopping:
What Size Should My Smart TV Be?
Size and resolution have a significant effect on a TV’s price tag, so it’s essential to carefully consider the size you want when buying a new smart TV.
To determine the best smart TV size, measure the room’s dimensions where you’ll place the TV, and then decide which display size provides the viewing experience you want without overpowering the room.
Smart TVs come in an array of sizes that varies by manufacturer. The most common sizes are 42 inches, 50 inches, 55 inches, 65 inches, and 75 inches (measured diagonally). Anything over 65 inches moves you into a much higher-priced category. There’s also an extremely high-end market that caters to those who want 80-inch or 85-inch smart TVs.
Even if you’ve measured your TV room, you might find it difficult to picture exactly how your smart TV will fit. You’re not alone. Samsung, Sony, LG, and TCL have augmented reality apps that allow customers to view how a TV will look in a room. Best Buy also offers an AR viewer so you can check how your new equipment will fit.
LG OLED G7P Signature Series 4K Ultra HD TV
LG OLED G7P Signature Series 4K Ultra HD TV. Image provided by Amazon
What Resolution Should a Smart TV Have?
Most TVs come in three resolutions: 1080p, 4K, and 8K.
We recommend getting a 4K resolution TV for the best overall usage. 1080p resolution TVs are fine, but they’re outdated by today’s standards, and you no longer pay any price penalty for getting the higher resolution.
8K resolution TVs are now where 4K TVs used to be: High-end with a high price tag. It’s probably not worth the investment just yet as the prices are high, and there’s not a lot of content (TV shows or movies) in high enough resolutions to see any difference in picture quality.
4K, also known as Ultra HD, is an excellent middle ground as it’s a high-quality resolution with many affordable options available. Plus, many streaming services and apps offer 4K content, so you can take full advantage of what they offer.
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Should a Smart TV Have HDR Support?
Most of the best smart TVs will come with a picture-improving technology called HDR (high dynamic range).
HDR brings out a high level of detail in the darkest and lightest parts of a picture and improves the range of colors. You may encounter various HDR formats like HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR 10+, and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), but as long as the display has some HDR support, you’re good to go. Differences between the formats are minimal.
What Refresh Rate Should a Smart TV Have?
Smart TV displays offer 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rates. This measurement refers to how many times the image resets per second. The more times it refreshes, the sharper the image stays, and the less motion blur you’ll experience.
A high refresh rate is excellent when watching sports, but be careful when watching movies at higher refresh rates. Films displayed that way can take on a look that does not mimic what you’d see in the movie theater.
You’ll likely keep the refresh rate set to 60Hz for most content, even on a higher-end TV.
What Integrations Should a Smart TV Support?
One of the most compelling features of a smart TV is its ability to integrate with other smart devices in your home and utilize voice commands. For example, Android TVs from Sony have Google Chromecast and Google Assistant built-in. So, if you have a smart home with many Google devices, an Android TV would allow you to control your devices via the TV.
If you have Amazon Alexa-enabled devices throughout your home, such as Echo Shows or Echo Dots, buying a smart TV that integrates Alexa makes sense.
Consider your home, your other devices, and preferences when deciding if you should buy a smart TV that integrates with a particular platform.
TCL 28S3750 28-Inch Roku TV
TCL 28S3750 28-Inch Roku TV. Image provided by Amazon.com
What Apps Should a Smart TV Offer?
A smart TV’s primary purpose is to entertain, and your entertainment preferences will be a significant consideration when choosing a smart TV. Services like Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are widely available across many platforms, but not all smart TVs will support all apps.
All smart TVs will have some apps preinstalled, and most will have app stores where you can select and download additional apps. For example, Samsung smart TVs let you access the Samsung App Store, and LG TVs can access the LG Content Store. On the other hand, Vizio smart TVs have all their apps preinstalled. It adds new apps via updates, but you’d have to cast or screen mirror content from unsupported apps.
Check any smart TV you’re considering purchasing for its installed and available apps to ensure your favorites are onboard. Or, consider a device like a Roku stick to help supplement accessible apps.
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Who Should Buy a Smart TV?
Anyone buying a TV these days should consider a smart TV. While standard TVs may be less expensive, smart TVs are more affordable than ever and give you more bang for your buck. You may even have trouble finding a 4K TV that doesn’t have “smart” features.
Better picture quality and expanded features, internet connectivity, apps, smart home integrations, and more make smart TVs a consideration for anyone looking for a new TV.
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What Should I Do After Buying a Smart TV?
Bringing home and setting up your smart TV isn’t as easy as plugging in a standard TV, but it’s still straightforward.
Select the perfect spot for your new smart TV while considering power outlets and access to a strong WI-Fi signal or how to connect the TV over Ethernet.
Add an antenna or cable connection, if needed.
You’ll need to set up an account for controlling and managing apps, features, and upgrades. During initial setup, familiarize yourself with how to find, select, and install apps and work with your model’s settings.
Most smart TVs have accompanying mobile appsYou’ll likely need to download your smart TV’s companion app at some point during or after setup.
Choose and organize available apps, set up a content library, and choose programs you’d like to record. You may also need to log in to your streaming accounts.
You may also need to set up additional devices, such as game consoles, media players, etc.
When you’ve set up the basics, fine-tune your experience by adjusting the color, brightness, and menu appearance, and explore your smart TV’s unique features.
Woman watching on her smart TV
More Tips for Buying a Smart TV
There’s no real “best” smart TV to buy because it’s all about what you want and your personal preferences. Keep the following in mind:
Make sure you know where you want to put the TV and that you have access to power, cable connections, and more.
Beware of fireplaces and other heat sources that could damage your components.
If you’re wall mounting your smart TV, consider going up a screen size since the TV will be flat against a wall and farther away from your seating area.
Check if a TV supports your favorite streaming services before purchasing.
Make a note of anything you might need to connect to the TV. Despite smart TVs being able to stream myriad content, they won’t have a DVD or Blu-ray drive installed. Ensure the TV has enough HDMI ports if you want to attach anything to the TV.
Pay attention to your smart TV’s sound quality and determine if you need a soundbar or another speaker.
If you’re looking at smart TVs in a showroom, note how bright the screen appears in a brightly lit room.
Monitor your potential smart TV for seasonal sales (such as Black Friday) and price fluctuations to get the best price.