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June 27, 2018

The best smart TV is a dumb display and a streaming stick

by John_A

Smart TVs are wonderful for the first year or so of ownership. But support needs to last much longer given how expensive TVs are.

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The greatest trend of technology over the last 10, 20, even 50 years is consolidation: the smartphone combines an MP3 player, a digital camera, the cell phone, GPS navigator, and more. We’ve seen this consolidation happen in other parts of the consumer electronics world as well: TV’s that add smart functionality so consumers don’t need a separate streaming stick.

But while this is great when you first buy a TV — there’s nothing separate to plug in or route cables to — the experience can worsen over time.

Here are the upsides and downsides of smart TVs!

  • The good parts
  • The bad parts
  • So what’s the answer?

The good parts

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Less stuff

I believe that fewer gadgets are better. Having one less gadget on my network is good from a security perspective. Fewer gadgets mean I use less electricity, and less clutter is better for my mind. Any of these are good reasons on their own but put together, and combined they’re a compelling reason to use the smart functionality on your TV.

It’s darn near impossible to find a “dumb” TV

Unless you want to get a projector (cough) or just use a monitor, your options are limited — especially for 4K TVs. When a manufacturer spreads the cost of an operating system over millions of TVs — or gets Google or Roku to build that operating system — adding smart features doesn’t really cost anything, and makes it a more valuable purchase for most consumers. The market of people that just want a dumb display is niche, and niche markets don’t get served. If you have to buy a product with smart features, you may as well use them.

The bad parts

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Overall longevity

This is the big one, and it’s something I’ve been burned by. It sucks when your $200 phone stops getting updates, especially if the one update it did get introduced annoying bugs. It sucks 15 times worse when the same thing happens to your $3,000 TV. I had one of Sharp’s earliest Android TVs, and it was awesome for the first few months. I could launch Netflix, Hulu or other services right from the home screen, or Cast something from my phone’s screen.

Then an update broke my volume. Every few times I would turn the TV on, there would be no sound and the only solution would be to unplug the TV and plug it back in. Long story short, it didn’t get better, and I had to get the TV exchanged. Things get dramatically worse when the company who built your TV goes out of business.

In the long run, the operating system on your TV probably won’t get updates. This means the applications on the TV will likely stop working as the streaming service ends support for older operating systems. Which leads us to…

You’ll probably need another streaming device anyway

In a perfect world, all software services would be on all hardware platforms. In reality, companies can and do choose where they release their content, and all it does is making things worse for the consumer. If you can’t watch the shows you want to on your TVs operating system, you’ll need another streaming box to fill the gap. You may also have a console to play games anyway, so the smart functionality is redundant.

So what’s the answer?

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Like I said above, it’s hard to find an actual TV that doesn’t have an operating system, but that’s not the end of the story. You can get a projector or a monitor, but it’s easier and cheaper to just get a smart TV, never connect it to the Internet, and use the other gadgets you want through the HDMI inputs. This lets you find the TV that’s right for you, but doesn’t force you into a gadget maker’s ecosystem.

On the streaming stick side, the best answer for most of you will be a Chromecast: it’s inexpensive, works with every streaming service except for Amazon Video, and it’s dead simple to use. It’s even better if you have a Google Home, since you’ll be able to use your voice to control video playback on the Chromecast.

See at Best Buy

What say you?

How often do you actually use the smart features on your TV? Let us know down below!

Google Hardware

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  • Google Wifi review
  • Google Home review
  • Chromecast Ultra: all you need to know
  • Which Chromecast should you buy?

Google Wifi: Google
Amazon
Google Home: Google
Best Buy
Chromecast Ultra: Google
Best Buy

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