Why Buy a Smart TV?
Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video: these video streaming services have changed the way we watch TV. Gone are the days of scheduled TV programs. Laptops, smartphones and tablets have changed the way we consume media. Smart TVs bring the power of the internet to your TV. You can browse the web, get real-time news updates and watch your favorite TV program, whether it's live or on demand.
Our favorite smart TVs have beautiful HD picture quality as well as modern web features. The best smart TVs we reviewed are the Samsung H7150, the Sony W series and the Panasonic AS650. Our expert reviews can help you decide which model to purchase. Be sure to read our articles on smart TVs as well.
Smart TVs: What to Look For
When you compare smart TVs, a large list of preloaded apps is a necessity. Also look for a great display. All of the TVs we reviewed have HD resolution, but the screens vary widely in black levels, color depth and refresh rate. Having plenty of connections is important as well if you want to connect extra peripherals. We ranked the best smart TVs based on the following criteria.
You want a smart TV to have a large feature set. The number of apps is important because apps allow you to you stream content. You’ll want to find TVs that feature your favorite apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video for video streaming. Other apps like Pandora, Facebook and YouTube are also fun. In case you want to download an app that isn't preloaded, you'll want access to an app store. Customizable home screens are nice too because you can set your favorite apps for easy access.
Some smart TVs have 3D viewing capabilities and come with 3D glasses. A few of the TVs let you live remotelessly with voice or gesture controls. Using simple voice commands or hand gestures, you can change channels, ask for recommendations or turn your TV on and off.
Display & Audio
Having a plethora of features doesn’t do much good if the picture is weak. The best smart TVs have vivid displays with vibrant colors that don’t wash out. Deep black levels separate dark and light colors so you can really see the contrast in scenes. Some lower-end smart TVs have mediocre displays, but the top TVs have amazing displays so you can really immerse yourself in the home theater experience. Most built-in speakers are lacking in power, so we recommend adding an extra sound system. However, some TVs have 15-watt speakers – instead of the standard 10 watts – to add extra depth to your viewing.
If you subscribe to streaming services, you might not need to connect many devices to your TV. Cutting the cable (or satellite) cord is an increasingly popular practice. However, most homes still have cable or satellite services, Blu-ray players and video game systems hooked to their TVs in addition to streaming services. You will need connections to add these devices to your TV. Most peripheral devices are high definition now, so you will need HDMI ports; the more the better. USB ports are important for certain multimedia devices like flash drives for viewing photos. Component and composite connections are helpful for non-HD devices.
Help & Support
When you purchase a TV, it's nice to know the manufacturer has your back. In case you have a question about your TV or encounter a warranty issue, it’s important to have customer support options like live chat, email or toll-free phone help. The industry standard for TV warranty is one year.
Smart TVs are really multimedia centers that stream your favorite shows and movies right to your home theater. They can cut down on extra devices, and they keep you connected while you are away from your computer. Internet TVs can even let you surf the web while watching your favorite program. Use our side-by-side comparison and in-depth reviews to find a TV that fits your situation and your budget.