Monday, April 30, 2012

Should you buy a smart TV?

The other day, a friend asked whether he should spend more to buy a "smart" TV.  These are the TVs that connect to the Internet and can run applications like Netflix, Pandora and Yahoo.  It's like having a little computer built in to your TV, and you can control it with the remote.  Nice, right?
My quick answer is "no, don't bother buying a smart TV".  Why?
  • TV manufacturers are hardware vendors, not software vendors.  Their software sucks.  It tends to be very hard to navigate through and isn't well thought out. Frequently quite buggy.
  • It's slow.  Don't just think "little computer", think "little, slow, old, tiny computer".
  • ...and the biggest issue, they don't get support.  TV manufacturers come out with new models about once a quarter. They are always touting the new big thing.  They quickly forget the old models and even though the Internet services are changing at an incredible rate, you get no updates. Given that a nice TV lasts for many years, you hate to see your software get antiquated after a year or two.
If you like the idea of a nice way of getting Internet services on your TV, here are three MUCH better solutions:
  • Roku - a little streaming box with tons of support. Very powerful and updated frequently.  The three versions range from $60 to $100.
  • AppleTV - a head to head competitor with Roku.  Tiny box.  Very powerful. $100. I like the Roku better, but AppleTV has the cool feature of being able to wirelessly display whatever is on your iPad 2 or 3 or your iPhone 4.
  • Tivo - It's the clear choice in DVRs, so it does a lot more, and costs a lot more than the other two boxes.   However, it's nice not to have to buy another box when Tivo already connects to all the online services.
So, just pay enough to get the quality of picture that you like, and don't bother with all the hype (and price) of smarter TVs.
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