Nearly all TVs on the market are smart TVs. But some TVs have far better smart features than others, integrating motion and voice control with dozens of apps to make your TV a nice little entertainment hub. Others are limited to arrow keys and a handful of apps. That’s why, to help those interested in getting the best smart experience possible, we’ve reviewed and compared the best smart TV platforms on offer by major manufacturers. For recommendations for TVs themselves, take a look at our list of the best TVs for overall picture quality.
What is a smart TV?
Simply put, a smart TV is a TV that can connect to the internet. Some have web browsers built in, and most have access to apps that let the TVs access popular services like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus.
Keep in mind that these features, even at their best, tend to be inferior to dedicated devices like Roku boxes, Fire sticks, or Apple TV. Smart TVs’ integrated smart functions are often buggy and slow compared to stand-alone solutions.
Whether or not you want your TV to have apps, nearly all TVs released in 2015 are smart TVs. Only entry-level TVs with poor picture quality have no smart functionality at all. If you want a good TV, you’ll need to get a smart TV.
Samsung’s smart offerings took a bit of a step back this year. There are fewer apps now that the platform has moved to the Tizen OS, but on the whole, the OS feels familiar and fairly intuitive to use.
The remote is sleek and works very well, though the lack of buttons could make finding your way around tricky at first. Samsung’s navigation guides (found in the menus) are useful in figuring out how to get around with voice and motion control.
The browser is pretty quick, though it was not able to handle all the HTML 5 tests we ran it through. An LG TV, by comparison, handled those just fine.
Sony’s Android TV interface is nice and clean, and the apps that are present work well. Unfortunately, the selection is still pretty limited, though most of the popular apps are now available.
The included remote isn’t very good, and the touchpad remote is also pretty poor. For most people, the TV Sideview app for iOS and Android will likely be the best way to control and navigate the TV. You also get Google cast functionality, which is pretty useful.
You have a couple of different options for browsing the web on this TV, including Opera and Google Chrome,
If you want an attractive smart OS and don’t mind the relatively few apps, a Sony smart TV is a good choice. For more on Sony's various TVs, check out our reviews of Sony’s 2015 lineup.
Vizio’s smart TV platform is pretty limited. It’s fine for accessing the basics – things like Netflix, Hulu Plus, or YouTube – but there’s not much selection beyond that.
The remote doesn’t have advanced features like motion control or voice input, but the M and P-series remotes do have a QWERTY keyboard on the back. All the Vizio remotes do have buttons for launching Netflix, Amazon Instant, and iHeart Radio, which let you skip the app launcher and get directly into those three apps.
They’re nothing fancy, and you won’t be blown away by the amount of things you can do, but Vizio’s smart features at least get the job done. For the picture quality of Vizio’s TVs, take a look at our full coverage of Vizio's 2015 lineup.
Not all television brands have the same applications and functionality; it varies a lot. Some brands, like LG, have a full third party app store where you can even buy games from independent developers. Others come with only a limited set of official apps. You do not necessarily need a lot of applications, but make sure the ones that you are planning to use (like Netflix) are there.
Samsung Tizen Apps (Currently 270 [1080p] & 282 [4k] apps; full list here)
LG WebOS Apps (Currently 412 apps, full list here)
Android TV Apps (Currently 92 apps)
Yahoo Connect TV Apps (currently 105 apps)
Here is a table comparing the main apps across all smart TV platforms, including Apple TV and Roku. This is not the full list, so if you want an app not listed here, go check out the official lists linked above (if available).
Standalone boxes offer a few advantages compared to a smart television. For example, you can play games on an Xbox or PS4 console, and Roku and Apple TV are more stable than the built-in smart OSes.
Still, while an independent device will always be better than an all-in-one, it might be overkill to purchase one. A smart television is more than enough if you only want to watch Netflix movies.
Samsung and LG are leading the pack in term of smart TV features. Vizio has the most basic platform, although the most common apps are there. Keep in mind that the software is still young on all smart TVs, so some apps are buggy, and not user friendly.
Can I connect my Apple iPad to a Samsung Smart TV?
It depends what you mean by that. There is an iOS app, called "Samsung SmartView," which will allow you to control your Samsung TV. If you want to mirror your iPad or iPhone screen via AirPlay, you'll need to pick up an Apple TV. You can find those at Best Buy, Apple stores, or other electronics retailers.
Can I get rid of cable if all I want are the local channels? Will I need an antenna or a converter box? I have a Samsung Smart TV.
If all you want to watch is broadcasted local channels, yes you can get rid of cable. You will need an antenna, but do not need a converter box. Converter boxes are for old, analog-only televisions. Check out this for the list of available channels in your area.
Why are flash players not supported on smart televisions? I ask because we tried watching shows on myabc.com but it said "This device doesn't support Adobe flash player," which is needed to watch the shows.
It depends on which brand of smart TV. Some do support flash. LG's WebOS, on the other hand, doesn't.
I do not plan on buying cable for my new place, but do plan on purchasing a Smart TV. With that, I understand I must purchase Internet. If Netflix is already programmed in the TV, do I still have to purchase Internet AND pay for a Netflix subscription?
Yes, you need Internet + a Netflix subscription + a player (in your case, this will be the smart TV).
I have a 60" Vizio Smart TV. Is there any way I can give it Bluetooth capabilities?
I ask is because of the following scenario:
I want my Samsung Bluetooth Wireless sound bar and subwoofer to pair wirelessly to my Vizio Smart TV. Is there a way to do this? I am currently using a Y cable to connect the two.
If your TV doesn't have Bluetooth built-in, then no, or at least not easily. If you really want it though, there are some aux/digital audio to Bluetooth transmitter which could work.
I cannot watch Amazon Prime videos with my Hisense Smart TV, why?
The web browser in a television like HiSense doesn't support every website. More importantly, your TV's browser doesn't support Adobe Flash, which is what Amazon uses to play in a browser. Also, Amazon has not yet released a standalone app for HiSense Smart TVs.
I do not have internet at home. If I buy a Smart TV, will I be able to use it without an internet connection? A shop said they had to take one customer's TV back to update it before returning it to the customer.
If you do not have an internet connection at home, you will not be able to use Smart TV features; your TV will only behave like a normal TV. You can update the firmware without an internet connection though, via a USB key. Go to the manufacturer's website and put the new firmware on your USB key, then plug it in your TV. The TV should have an option to update itself from a USB key.
We just bought a Samsung smart TV and we do not know how to type in the website that we want to search, because we do not know if it requires a keyboard plugged to the back. Does the remote have any features that would enable us to do the search?
The TV doesn't require a computer keyboard, but using one makes it easier to navigate the menus. You can still use the on-screen keyboard, but it is harder to use.
I am so far behind on the new TVs, but now it is time for me to catch up to the rest of the world. My projection TV has finally run its course and I am now on the market for a new TV. This may be a dumb question, but bear with me, since I know nothing about Smart TVs. From what I gather from some of the questions above, if I purchase a Smart TV that has WiFi capability, I will no longer need the cable box/DVR I have for my "dumb TV" through AT&T Uverse?
It depends on what content you watch. A smart TV does not replace all the content available through traditional cable. Most shows can't be found on services like Netflix or Hulu, so you will have to verify that the things you want to watch won't be missing if you decide to cut the cable.
I plan on purchasing a new TV and want to surf the internet with the browser. What type of television or television plus gadget do I need to do it efficiently? I would like to use a wireless keyboard for efficiency.
If you plan on surfing the web often on a smart TV, you definitely need to buy a wireless keyboard and mouse. This is supported on most (but not all) smart TVs. Some higher-end TVs come with a fancy remote. While this is better than navigating with a standard remote, it is nowhere near as good as the mouse/keyboard combo.
I am shopping for new TVs and had a question. What is the advantage of getting a smart TV over getting a Google TV set-top box and connecting it to a dumb TV? It's a lot cheaper to get a dumb TV and a set-top box over a smart TV, so I was wondering if there is any advantage. Also, if you have a smart TV, can you connect a set-top Google TV to it for enhanced functionality? How does the WiFi from my DVD player (I have a DVD player with WiFi access), my Google TV box, and a Smart TV merge together?
Besides having one less box to worry about, there is no real advantage to a smart TV compared to a dumb TV + a smart box. On that subject, though, do not forget that the manufacturers put the Smart TV functionality in their best TVs, so you kinda indirectly get better picture quality. Yes, you can use a Google TV box on a smart TV. The WiFi won't merge; they are just separate devices. You will have to choose which one will display on the screen.
I have a lot of digital content on my laptop's iTunes (music, videos, etc). Could I get it all into a smart TV smoothly, or do I need an Apple TV for that? I mean: would I be wasting my money buying an Apple TV + a Smart TV?
You are better off using an Apple TV. It is possible without it, but it is less straightforward. iTunes does not have a DLNA server feature, so you would need to download a separate server application to have your media streamed to your Smart TV.
Best Buy recently advertised a Samsung UN60JS8000FXZA on sale witch I presume to be a step down from the JS8500. Do you know anything about this new version? It is $1900 at Best Buy.
You can see the specifications here. It is very similar and has a few omissions like 3D, 20 watts speakers firing down vs 40w speakers firing to the front and a change in design (it is thicker). We don't have plan to review this one but we would expect it to have a similar picture quality to the JU7100, but with a wider color gamut.
I am in the market for a new TV. I currently have cable with DVR. I will only watch TV on it, but I want to subscribe to Netflix or Hulu. I have a laptop that I could connect to the new TV. What is the most efficient and least expensive way for me to go?
The least expensive way is definitely to get a dumb TV and connect your laptop to it. If you don't want to plug in your laptop each time, you can also buy a Chromecast for about $30. It is very limited, but it does support Netflix and Hulu.
How can I take full advantage of my Smart TV's potential? I have satellite internet.
You will need to connect your Smart TV to the internet. To do this, you will need to have a router. Depending on your actual TV model, you will either need to connect to it via WiFi, or via an Ethernet cable. Once this is done, you should be able to go to your Smart TV menus and access the Smart functions.
I bought the Toshiba Smart TV, as it was a good price. Is it still possible to buy an Apple TV and use that with the Smart TV to have more options? Also it gets 'stuck' - the remote is awful to use. Could that be my internet connection, or the TV?
Yes, you can even use an Apple TV on a dumb TV, in the same way you can use an Xbox with any TV. As for your problem, it lies with the TV. Smart TV apps, mostly on TVs with limited options like Toshiba, are not very stable, and are quite buggy. The Apple TV is much more stable.
I have a 2012 Panasonic Viera hooked up to the internet via Belkin router. The icons on the TV (Netflix, Twitter, etc) don't highlight when you toggle over them. Any thoughts as to why that may be? How might I fix the problem?
It looks like it couldn't connect to the internet. Is it connected via Ethernet or Wifi? If Wifi, make sure you entered the correct password. Additionally, you can verify if the router actually sees your TV by logging in to your router (for Belkin, it is usually http://192.168.2.1/).
Wireless internet signal is weak in my girl cave. I can barely access my iPad. I just purchased (yet to be delivered) an LG Smart TV with WiFi. Could this take the place of a Netgear or Belkin router so that I can use my iPad?
No. Smart TVs cannot act as a wireless router. You should get a WiFi repeater to increase the signal strength.
If I buy a Smart TV, do I have to connect to the internet? I just want to watch TV on it, but I do want 120Hz for sports.
Yes, you need the internet if you want to use those features. There is no video source of 120fps for sports (or TV for that matter). The best is 60i, but you can turn on motion interpolation on your TV if you want it to be converted to 120.
I have a very weak internet signal as I live out in the sticks. Will a smart TV work properly with a weak signal?
By weak signal, do you mean a slow internet connection or a weak WiFi signal? A slow connection could be a problem, because streaming video requires quite a bit of speed. If you mean a weak WiFi signal, you can just buy a repeater or connect it via an Ethernet cable.
I plan on buying a smart TV for my parents. They do have Internet and a WiFi network. They also both have smartphones that they like watching videos on. Would they be able to stream or connect to a smart TV from their phones and how does that work?
It depends what phones they have and which TV. If they have iPhones, they need an Apple TV. For Android, it depends which model, because there isn't any standard way to do it.
I am thinking of buying a Smart TV. I don't have a media player or DVD player at home. Would it be better to buy a "dumb" TV and a media player than to buy a Smart TV that wouldn't let me play DVDs and Blu-ray discs?
Yes, a dumb TV + media player is a great combo. There are also many Smart Blu-ray players that offer the same functionality as a smart TV.
Can a smart Blu-ray player (or any Blu-ray player for that matter) work with an old-style tube TV? I want to upgrade TVs at some point, but for now this is all I have. My regular DVD player is broken and I was going to buy a Blu-ray to replace it with.
Yes, but verify that the Blu-ray player outputs the good connection for your TV, because your TV doesn't accept HDMI.
I am thinking of getting a smart 3D television. Could you please tell me which extras I have to buy with it, such as NOW TV, NETFLIX, etc? I subscribe to Sky - do i need to carry on with Sky, or just retain a basic package?
It all depends on what you want to watch. You will never get as many channels if you cut cable, but it might be enough for you. A good place to start is with Netflix only (+ internet connection) and to add from there.
I use the internet by plugging mobile phone into my PC and sharing the connection. Can I also do this on a smart TV?
Most likely not. TVs only accept an internet connection via WiFi or an Ethernet cable. They cannot access internet via USB (which is probably how your phone works). However, if you really want to, you could plug your phone into your computer and then your computer into the TV via Ethernet. You will just need to set the computer to act as a router.
I have a Philips smart TV that depends on the manufacturer's server availability. When the server goes down, if I press the smart TV key it shows a message like "Server not found. Try later." My question is, does another smart TV brand have this same dependency?
It is the first time that we have heard of such an issue, so it is probably not common (although we have not tested any Philips TVs yet).
Buying a 50"-60" smart TV to replace an old model. I want to access photo files from my desktop, so any smart TV should do that, right?
I need Adobe flash player, so your info says LG is not an option.
I want to surf the web. Is Vizio still not an option?
Apparently, I should look for a deal on Samsung, unless something has changed. Thanks!
Every smart TV can access pictures from your PC, but you need to enable DLNA on your PC. You can't surf the web on Vizio TVs. Indeed, Samsung is your best choice, but Sony TVs should also support your needs (although they are slower and more difficult to use).
I have a smart TV and am considering buying an Apple TV. One apple employee told me I should definitely do it, because then all the billing for Netflix, etc. is through iTunes. Another employee didn't know what the advantage would be having of Apple TV with a smart TV. What do you think?
Don't do it just for Netflix, because you can already do that. The main advantage of the Apple TV vs a smart TV is to access the iTunes database of movies/music as well as interactions with Apple devices (like iPhone or iPad). If you do not own any Apple devices or do not plan on using iTunes, it is not worth it.
I am planning to buy a Samsung smart TV. My internet service is from Verizon DSL. I have a modem connected to my telephone. Will I be able to use the smart TV capability? If not, what is the better way to go? I want to use the wireless connection mainly for streaming (Netflix, Hulu etc.)
You need to have a wireless router. Your Verizon modem might have a wireless router built-in already. Call Verizon to verify.
I am looking to purchase a Samsung smart TV. In the event I find its streaming capabilities are inadequate, will an aftermarket streaming device such as a roku integrate with the internal device, or will there be compatibility issues?
No compatibility issues at all. Roku works via HDMI, so it is compatible with every TV.
I am now using a dumb TV with a converter box and I plan to buy a Samsung smart TV, sized 46" or larger. Will I be able to get more channels on the smart TV than I'm getting with the dumb TV and converter box? I do have broadband internet.
Not really, but you could subscribe to Netflix if you want to stream TV shows and movies.
My condo association requires that we pay for cable. It comes through a cable box supplied by the company. I want to buy a smart TV because I need a new tv anyway to watch Netflix and so on. Since I am still paying for cable anyway, will I be able to use the cable box with my smart TV just like 'normal' for the channels the cable company offers?
I have a Sony smart TV and also have Apple TV. When I try to watch Netflix on the Sony, it constantly "hangs up" and needs to be restarted. I do not experience the same problem when using Apple TV, which is connected to the Sony. Both use the same wireless internet connection. Why is there a difference in how well Netflix works on the two devices?
It is because of different software. Apps on smart TVs are always more buggy than third party devices like the Apple TV.
My internet is supplied by my cellular service provider through a mobile hotspot. Is there any way that the hotspot can be used to connect my smart TV to the internet so I can use the apps on the TV? Or should I just use the hotspot for my laptop and connect to the TV using an HDMI cable?
I have a smart TV, model 40S51U. I have Comcast Internet, both wireless and a land line. I have connected the TV via wireless and tried playing Netflix (have a subscription) but it did not work. Then, I connected the TV to the land line Comcast cable, I played a movie on Netflix but the TV kept re-buffering. Is it possible that the speed of the Internet provided by Comcast is not strong enough? Or is the TV not operating properly?
Your TV is fine. It is most likely that your internet speed is not fast enough.
I am buying a Smart TV soon. I have a 4 year old dumb TV in the basement with Dish Network programming. I want to get rid of Dish. Can I connect the dumb TV to my new Smart TV for programming or will I have to maintain a satellite?
No, and a smart TV isn't a full replacement for Dish.
Samsung does not support Flash on its smart TVs. I have had a 55" 3D WiFi model for a few years and could never update the version of Flash it came with. There was a firmware update, but that did nothing for updating Flash. They told me the same thing they told everyone else: they did not know when or if anything would be released to remedy this issue, and there is no alternative, software or otherwise, to bypass this issue. It seems all manufacturers installed Flash v10 and never considered upgrading it, or thought that Flash and websites would never be upgraded, or BOTH. This makes the already cumbersome browser basically useless.
Thanks for sharing your experience with this. Adobe is the company that would need to release a compatible version of flash, and it seems they aren't interested in doing so. This year's Samsung TVs are also currently incapable of playing Flash content.
I have an LG smart TV. It is connected to our WiFi service at work, allowing us to access the internet. However, when we access the CNBC website in order to stream live, the speed is so slow we can't get to even sign on. Is there a way to fix without having to install a cable provider on site?
Do you have similarly slow streaming with your work computers? Are those connected to WiFi, or by Ethernet? This sounds more like a network problem than one caused by the TV. Running a wired connection from the router to the TV would probably help get it working better.
Is there anyway to get the same apps available on an android smartphone on either a dumb TV with a Roku or on a Smart TV? I can get more free TV episodes with my android phone apps/Google Play Store than I can with my Roku (MTV and CBS shows without a full access subscription).
You might be able to by purchasing an Android TV box (available here). Just keep in mind that not all Android apps are available for Android TV, so you should make sure that the specific apps or services you're looking to use are supported.
I have an LG Smart TV and want to start downloading and watching downloaded TV series and movies. Am I better off getting Apple TV or Netflix? I also have an iPad and an iPhone.
It really depends on where you want to get your content. Apple TV is really great if you want to access the iTunes content database. Netflix has another business model (subscription based instead of a la carte). Netflix is cheaper if you plan on watching a lot of stuff, but the selection is not as wide as with iTunes.
I'm in need of a new TV and would prefer to purchase a dumb TV (due to privacy issues) and connect a smart Blu-ray player for Netflix and Hulu. Which is the best LED dumb TV and best Blu-ray player to purchase?
Only low-end TVs do not include smart functionality. You will not get great picture quality from them. If you are worried about privacy, just don't connect the smart TV to WiFi. But doesn't connecting a smart Blu-ray player go against your privacy stance? They have essentially the same software as is found on the TVs.
Wanting to put a TV in my toddler's room. We have xfinity Comcast cable/internet throughout the house and a WiFi network, too. We really didn't want to find the land line of cable in his room and run it to his TV, which will be mounted on the wall. (A lot of work we don't want to do) Can I purchase a smart TV and watch our cable through it?
I have a Panasonic TV with a Sony Blu-ray player for my internet connection. I used it to watch webcast videos, but now I cannot access them. What changed, and how do I restore the capability?
We've seen a few complaints recently that say Sony smart devices have lost functionality, mostly about apps that have disappeared or stopped working. To try to fix this, you could try resetting your Blu-ray player to factory default settings. This will delete all of your saved preferences and settings, so make sure you take note of any that you want to continue using. Once the reset is complete, try watching your stream like you normally do.
If that doesn't work, you should contact Sony support directly for their assistance.
What about 2015 Sony TVs with Android providing smart functionality, like the x850C?
Those TVs have not yet been released, so we haven't had a chance to review their smart capabilities. The 2015 Sony line launches toward the end of May, so we'll have something on the smart features shortly after that.
Not a question, but for people to have info before buying. No update for the smart TV's Flash capabilities. This is from the support.
Roswell: Hi, thank you for reaching out to Samsung technical support. How may I assist you?
Berry: adobe flash needs updated ....how and were to get it
Roswell: I understand that you are looking to update the adobe flash player.
Berry: yes plz
Roswell: On which device you are looking to update the flash player?
Berry: 1 sec plz
Roswell: Go ahead.
Berry: smart tv samsung mode or s/n number do you need
Roswell: I am sorry, the flash player and TV default browser cannot be updated to latest version.
Roswell: They are both default features on TV which will have no updates.
Berry: what os is the tv using?
Roswell: We cannot assist you the details without the model code of the TV;however, TV comes with Samsung proprietary OS.
Berry: will the new smart tv's have the updates on it? or be able to update?
Roswell: No, it is the same with all Samsung TVs.
Roswell: Samsung TVs will come basic version of the flash player, you can access only few sites which are supported to the flash player version of the TV, the Web browser has limitations.
Berry: have a good day
This is a typical limitation, but thank you for confirming that this is the case again this year.
We currently have a dumb Sony Bravia TV and use a combination Wii box and verizon router to access Netflix. It is often difficult to access Netflix or we get bumped out of a Netflix show in the middle of watching. Would a smart TV alleviate this problem?
It depends on what is going wrong with your setup. If the issue is with the Wii, then using a different device (like a smart TV) to access Netflix might help. If the problem is with your internet connection itself (do you have issues on other devices?), then a smart TV won't help.
If it turns out the Wii is the problem, you might want to purchase a streaming device (Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku box, etc) instead of a new TV. It will be cheaper, and the smart features are stabler than the ones in smart TVs.
My smart TV does not have web surfing capability how can I get it to surf the web?
If your smart TV doesn't have this capability you will need to use an external device. If you have a video game console chances are that it may be able to browse the internet. You can also connect a computer to your TV and use a wireless keyboard. And then there is some Android boxes that will give you that functionality but are usually more complex to use.
I called 5 TV companies and no Smart TVs support flash player. Why did someone say it depends on the TV company if they support flash player or not? Tell me the Smart TV that has flash player.
It depends because sometimes a TV launches with Flash support, but loses it. This happens when Flash is updated and there is no update made to the TV's Flash capabilities. Of the TVs we reviewed this year, none can play Flash.
I love the specs of the Samsung JS8500 and your review has been pushing me to that TV. But I was really hoping for a 60" screen, as that would be the perfect size for my room. I saw that Best Buy has this JS8000 in 60", and noticed that your reply to another question was that it lacks 3D and has worse sound, which is fine with me, as I don't need either. But is the picture quality really more like the JU7100? If that's the case, would the smaller JS8500 have any better picture at 10' away?
We can't really tell since we haven't reviewed one yet. But according to this, it does have an inferior panel. If you care more about the picture quality than size, the JS8500 is probably a better buy.
I am dropping cable for Direct TV. In packaging the TV and internet, what should I be checking on to ensure high quality? I saw an answer here for internet speed. What is the minimum speed required?
Any HD package will be fine for TV. For internet, 5 megabits per second is enough to watch HD streaming on a smart TV. If you have a 4k TV or plan to buy one, you will need 25 megabits per second to be able to stream 4k content.