This holiday season, if you’re looking for a new TV, why not go smart? A new crop of Smart TVs is vying for position as home media hub, with the TV itself connecting to the Internet and aggregating all your favorite media services and more without the need for an outboard media device, like Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV. (Of course, if you are not in the market for a new TV, these devices are instant ‘Smart’ gratification.) All you need to get started is a Smart TV and home Internet connectivity. We figure 55-inch TVs are what a lot of our readers have at home already, so in the interest of the upgrade, we’ll focus on larger models (60-70 inches) here.
Smart TV Apps
Smart TVs are mimicking the app model, allowing you to access the slew of entertainment apps you’ve come to expect on all your devices–Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu, and others. Social-media apps like Facebook, Skype, and Twitter can also be accessed right from your TV. Some TV apps even let you shop the shows you are watching. Pick and choose other apps that you like from the TV manufacturer’s app store for a customizable experience.
Smart TV Networking
Because Smart TVs are connected to your home network, they include streaming capability, allowing you to stream media from your smartphone, tablet, or computer to the TV. Look for the ability to access networked devices and to play family photo slideshows, videos, and music. TV cameras allow you to do things like Skype with friends and family anywhere in the world on your Smart TV.
Samsung Smart TVs
Samsung has a wide line of Smart TVs with a lot of cool features. For one, voice control allows you simply ask your TV “What’s on tonight?” or state “Show me action films on now,” to bring up desired content. Samsung also lets you mirror content on your mobile device on your TV. Some people don’t want to buy Smart TVs because they are worried technology will surpass the model they get, meaning they’d have to upgrade their TV sooner than later. Samsung’s external Evolution box eliminates that possibility. Right now, (Samsung UN65F9000 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV) is $4,500, a savings of more than $3,000. Sure, not a lot of Ultra HD content is available right now for 4K, but when it is, you’ll be ready. The non-4K model of the same size (UN65F8000BF) is $3,200.
Panasonic Smart VIERA TVs
Panasonic Smart VIERA TVs have the benefit Panasonic’s lauded picture quality plus all the latest and greatest smart TV features a person could ask for: voice command, apps, networking with other devices, and a really cool electronic pen that allows you to write on the screen (select models). For example, if you have a photo onscreen, write a message on it and then save and share it with friends. Panasonic’s TC-P60VT60 series plasma is one of the best-reviewed TVs around in terms of picture quality, the 65-incher goes for $2,500. Right now you can get their 65-inch 4K set (TC-L65WT600) for $4,999 ($1,000 off).
LG Smart TVs
LG also has a full line of Smart TVs, and a couple unique features in addition to the usual apps, content, and networking/sharing capabilities. For one, it has a Magic Remote that lets you use clicks, gestures, scroll, or voice to command your system. It’s also compatible with other home entertainment devices, allowing you to eliminate ancillary remotes. Alternately, an LG app turns your smartphone or tablet into a remote control. Right now LG’s 65-inch 4K model (65LA9650) is also $4,999, and the 60-inch model without 4K (55LA9650) is $2,899. LG doesn’t have a 65-inch Smart TV model for sale that is non-4K.
Sharp Smart TVs
Sharp also has some interesting models, including all the usual Smart TV features and then some. A wallpaper mode that lets you display works of art or any other image you choose with low power when the TV is dormant. Meanwhile, Netflix Second Screen lets you browse and select a movie or show from the app on your smartphone and play it on your TV. Sharp doesn’t make a 65-inch Smart TV, but they make a 4K 70-incher (LC-70UD1U) $6,000, a savings of $1500. The non-4K 70-inch (LC-70LE857U) is $3,300 and the top-of-line 60-incher is $2,300, LC-60LE857U.