What to Know Before You Buy an Internet-Enabled TV

Woman looking at a sign near tvs while shopping for smart TVs

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There’s a lot of buzz about TVs that are internet-enabled or internet-ready and for good reason. Televisions have always been home entertainment devices, and the internet has increasingly become part of the American entertainment experience. Because of this, the marriage between flat screen and computer screen seems natural (as well as the smaller screens of tablets, phablets, and smartphones), but there are several things to consider before buying an internet-enabled TV.

TVs Aren’t Computer Replacements

Today’s internet-enabled televisions aren’t meant to replace your desktop or laptop computer. They're not even meant for hardcore web surfing. What they are meant to do is bring some of the web’s most-desired sites and most innovative features into your living room.

Depending on the manufacturer, an internet-enabled television may allow you to stream videos from YouTube, update your Twitter status, check the weather or stream high-definition movies from Netflix. In other words, web-based TV functions are mostly related to news and entertainment.

Know Which Features You Want

If you’ve decided on an internet-enabled television, the next step is figuring out what you want it to do. Many companies are manufacturing these TVs, and they have differing features.

For instance, Panasonic’s Viera Cast televisions allow you to stream videos from YouTube, view photo albums from Google Photos and stream movies from Amazon Video On Demand. LG’s internet-enabled TVs also stream YouTube videos, but they did not have Amazon Video On Demand until after 2014. They did, however, stream content from Netflix, which Panasonic sets cannot.

Because different TVs do different things, it’s important to choose one that suits your needs and as new models are always being put on the market, you should verify that whatever TV you are thinking of buying can support everything you want it to do.

Consider Other Devices

Internet-enabled TVs are great because they pack a lot of features into a single unit, but chances are your home theater setup will also include a Blu-ray player or other home entertainment device. Increasingly, add-on units are coming with internet functionality. For instance, a number of Blu-ray players are capable of streaming high-definition movies, displaying content from YouTube and playing music from Pandora. If this takes care of your needs, you may be better off letting your outside components do the heavy lifting.

Don’t Forget Connectivity

When buying an internet-enabled TV, remember that you have to connect it to the internet to access web-based content, and many sets require hard wiring with an Ethernet cable. Others connect wirelessly but require the purchase of an accessory (at additional cost). Because of this, you should know in advance how you plan to connect to the internet.

There are always solutions, but they can get costly. For instance, if you buy a television that requires a wired connection but don’t have an Ethernet jack nearby, you can use a powerline adapter. This works well but the adapters generally cost $100 or more.