How to Choose a Smart TV

Everything you need to know when shopping for a new TV

A Smart TV is a television which incorporates an operating system allowing users to access streaming content without having to plug in an external device. They're popular with people who enjoy watching the latest shows on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms. Almost all TVs sold today are considered smart TVs.

What Should I Look For When Buying a Smart TV?

Before deciding which features you want in a smart TV, there are two main factors that you need to consider when shopping: size and resolution.

What Size Should I Get?

Size and resolution have the largest effect on a TV’s price tag and really should be considered first. It's recommended you measure the dimensions of the room where you'll place the TV so you can then decide which size display you want.

The most common sizes are 42, 50, 55, 65, and 75 inches measured diagonally. Anything over 65 inches moves into a really high price category.

Despite having the measurements in hand, you might find it difficult to picture exactly how it will all fit in a room. You're not alone. In fact, both Samsung and Sony have an augmented reality apps which allows customers to view how a TV will look in a room.

You can find Sony's app in the App Store or Google Play Store; look for the Envision TV AR app. Samsung's is there, too; it's called Samsung TV True Fit.

Additional features to consider: Does it support HDR (more on that below). Does it already have a good set of apps pre-installed from the streaming services you use? While new streaming services are added to smart TVs regularly, there's no guarantee the one you use will be added if it's not already available.

Which Resolution Should I Choose?

Most TVs come in three resolutions: 1080p, 4K, and 8K.

It’s recommended that you get a 4K TV for the best all-around usage. 1080p TVs are fine, but they’re outdated by today’s standards and you no longer pay any price penalty for getting the higher resolution.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 TVs are now at the place where 4K TVs used to be found: High-end with a high price tag. It's probably not worth the investment just yet as the prices are so 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 a good 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 have to offer.

What Features Are Recommended?

Various Smart TVs come with picture improving technology like HDR or 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 find competing HDR formats like HDR10 and Dolby Vision, but as long as the display has some kind of HDR support, you’re good to go. Differences between the formats are minimal.

Some displays offer 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rate. This is refers to how many times the image resets per second. The more times it refreshes, the sharper the image stays as well having less motion blur. A high refresh rate is particularly good when watching sports game, but do be careful when watching movies at higher refresh rates. Movies displayed that way can take on a look that does not mimic what you'd see in the movie theater.

What really sets Smart TVs apart is how they integrate with other devices in a home as well as which apps they have. For example, Sony’s Android TVs have Google Chromecast and Google Assistant built in. So if you have a smart home with a lot of Google devices, you can control them with an Android TV. Other manufacturers integrate Amazon's Alexa instead.

So, Which Type of Smart TV Is Best?

Figuring out which is the best Smart TV is difficult, because it all comes down to what a customer wants and what room it will be in.

Make sure you know the location for the TV. It's rare nowadays, but some features could be restricted to larger, higher-end TVs (it's less the case now, but do keep it in mind). Check to see if the TV already supports your favorite streaming services as well.

Finally, make a note of anything you might need to connected to the TV since, despite smart TVs being able to stream many movies and TV shows, it won't have a DVD or Blu-ray drive installed, so check to make sure the TV has enough HDMI ports if you want to attach anything to the TV.

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