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The 5 Best Smart TVs - Winter 2018
Reviews

Best smart TVs

Nowadays, finding a TV that isn't smart is very difficult. Only very cheap budget TVs, or old ones, will be without smart features. Generally, these won't have very good picture quality. Thankfully, they've grown to be a much better experience than they used to, so it's less problematic even if you dislike them. Not all smart TVs are built equal, though. Some platforms are much better than the others when it comes to speed, stability, features and supported apps.

We've tested 42 TVs in 2017 of which only one lacked smart features. Below are our recommendations for the best Smart TVs available during the winter of 2018.

What is a Smart TV?

In their most basic form, a smart TV is a television that is connected to the internet and provides web-related features. It can be a web browser, but their appeal usually comes from their ability to use online services such as Netflix, Youtube, and Spotify. If you've ever used something like an Apple TV, a Roku or a Chromecast, then you are already quite familiar with their capabilities as they are quite similar.

Unfortunately though, while they offer the same features, they tend to be a bit slower and less stable. This has become less of an issue in recent years, but most TVs still don't quite match the speed and reliability of something like a Roku set-top box.

Best Smart TV: LG B7A

Coincidentally, the best TVs we've reviewed also tend to have the best Smart features.

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
Show Help

Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2015
  • 0.9: Winter 2014
  • 0.8: Winter 2013
8.6
Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is General purpose. The TV will be used for a variety of content and usages. Movies at night, TV shows during the day, video games from time to time, etc.
Score components:
9.5
Movies
Show Help
What it is Movies in the dark. The TV will be used for watching movies in a controlled environment, directly in front, in a home theater way. Mostly only high quality content, like Blu-rays, UHD Blu-rays, streaming and a little bit of HDR.
Score components:
8.3
TV Shows
Show Help
What it is TV Shows in a bright living room. The TV will be used in to watch TV shows, in a bright room during the day, from multiple viewing positions at different angles. The content watched has an average quality: cable, streaming, SD channels, etc.
Score components:
8.4
Sports
Show Help
What it is Sports in a living room. The TV will be used to watch sports during the day, like football or hockey. Usually watched with a group, so from multiple viewing position.
Score components:
8.6
Video Games
Show Help
What it is Video games. The TV will be used to play video games, directly in front, in a controlled light environment. Usually fast games, like online FPS, where motion blur and input lag is important.
9.1
HDR Movies
Show Help
What it is HDR Movies and TV shows. The TV will be used to watch 4k UHD HDR content, with a wide color gamut and a high peak brightness. Either via UHD Blu-rays or HDR streaming.
8.5
HDR Gaming
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What it is HDR Gaming. The TV will be used to play HDR video games using consoles that support it or on current generation gaming PCs. Xbox One S, PS4 Pro, GTX 10 series and AMD RX series graphics cards.
8.2
PC Monitor
Show Help
What it is PC Monitor. The TV will be used as a PC monitor, from 2-3 feet away, either for productivity purposes or gaming. Sharp text is important, as well as a high resolution.
55" 65"

WebOS 3.5

Of the 42 TVs we've tested in 2017, the best Smart TV remains the LG OLED B7A. While the platform hasn't seen drastic changes since its inception, its small incremental updates have kept it to the top thanks to its great selection of apps, very easy to use interface and high responsiveness.

Central to its smart features is its motion-controlled remote that allows you to very easily point and selects elements on the screen. It's especially effective for inputting your login information into the many streaming service providers available on the WebOS platform, which can be a chore with normal remotes. Its voice controls aren't the best, but the general usability is so far above the pack that it easily compensates for the few shortcomings of the platform.

The LG B7 offers the best picture quality currently available thanks to its ability to display blacks perfectly, giving its picture an impressive amount of depth. While it does display ads in its app store, it's hard to find a better overall smart TV than the LG B7A.

See our review

Best Mid-Range Smart TV: Sony X900E

If your budget can't quite fit the more expensive models, mid-range TVs can still offer great picture quality and smart features for a more accessible price. 

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
Show Help

Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2015
  • 0.9: Winter 2014
  • 0.8: Winter 2013
8.1
Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is General purpose. The TV will be used for a variety of content and usages. Movies at night, TV shows during the day, video games from time to time, etc.
Score components:
8.5
Movies
Show Help
What it is Movies in the dark. The TV will be used for watching movies in a controlled environment, directly in front, in a home theater way. Mostly only high quality content, like Blu-rays, UHD Blu-rays, streaming and a little bit of HDR.
Score components:
7.9
TV Shows
Show Help
What it is TV Shows in a bright living room. The TV will be used in to watch TV shows, in a bright room during the day, from multiple viewing positions at different angles. The content watched has an average quality: cable, streaming, SD channels, etc.
Score components:
7.9
Sports
Show Help
What it is Sports in a living room. The TV will be used to watch sports during the day, like football or hockey. Usually watched with a group, so from multiple viewing position.
Score components:
8.3
Video Games
Show Help
What it is Video games. The TV will be used to play video games, directly in front, in a controlled light environment. Usually fast games, like online FPS, where motion blur and input lag is important.
8.4
HDR Movies
Show Help
What it is HDR Movies and TV shows. The TV will be used to watch 4k UHD HDR content, with a wide color gamut and a high peak brightness. Either via UHD Blu-rays or HDR streaming.
8.1
HDR Gaming
Show Help
What it is HDR Gaming. The TV will be used to play HDR video games using consoles that support it or on current generation gaming PCs. Xbox One S, PS4 Pro, GTX 10 series and AMD RX series graphics cards.
7.7
PC Monitor
Show Help
What it is PC Monitor. The TV will be used as a PC monitor, from 2-3 feet away, either for productivity purposes or gaming. Sharp text is important, as well as a high resolution.
49" 55" 65" 75"

Android TV 7.0

If you want something a little more affordable, a good alternative is the Sony X900E 4k LED TV. It comes packaged with the Android TV 7.0 smart platform which is rich in features and apps.

It isn't quite as intuitive or speedy as WebOS, but it still provides a good Smart TV experience thanks to its wide array of features. Google assistant integration, integrated Chromecast, web browsers are only a few of what's available on the Google play store. Unlike WebOS though, the Sony does not display ads in its interface.

The X900E is a good performing TV on its own too. It won't quite match OLEDs in a dark room, but it will display very deep blacks thanks to its local dimming feature. It's also good for gaming and sports thanks to its great handling of motion.

See our review

Alternative for Bright Environments: Samsung MU9000

55" 65" 75"

Samsung Smart Hub 2017

If your usage is centered around watching TV during the day where light from windows might produce a lot of reflections on your screen, the Samsung MU9000 is a better choice than the Sony X900E above. It's equipped with a better screen finish, and its smart features are even more intuitive than the Sony's.

See our review

Best Budget Smart TV: TCL S405

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
Show Help

Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2015
  • 0.9: Winter 2014
  • 0.8: Winter 2013
7.2
Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is General purpose. The TV will be used for a variety of content and usages. Movies at night, TV shows during the day, video games from time to time, etc.
Score components:
6.8
Movies
Show Help
What it is Movies in the dark. The TV will be used for watching movies in a controlled environment, directly in front, in a home theater way. Mostly only high quality content, like Blu-rays, UHD Blu-rays, streaming and a little bit of HDR.
Score components:
6.9
TV Shows
Show Help
What it is TV Shows in a bright living room. The TV will be used in to watch TV shows, in a bright room during the day, from multiple viewing positions at different angles. The content watched has an average quality: cable, streaming, SD channels, etc.
Score components:
6.8
Sports
Show Help
What it is Sports in a living room. The TV will be used to watch sports during the day, like football or hockey. Usually watched with a group, so from multiple viewing position.
Score components:
8.2
Video Games
Show Help
What it is Video games. The TV will be used to play video games, directly in front, in a controlled light environment. Usually fast games, like online FPS, where motion blur and input lag is important.
6.7
HDR Movies
Show Help
What it is HDR Movies and TV shows. The TV will be used to watch 4k UHD HDR content, with a wide color gamut and a high peak brightness. Either via UHD Blu-rays or HDR streaming.
7.6
HDR Gaming
Show Help
What it is HDR Gaming. The TV will be used to play HDR video games using consoles that support it or on current generation gaming PCs. Xbox One S, PS4 Pro, GTX 10 series and AMD RX series graphics cards.
7.6
PC Monitor
Show Help
What it is PC Monitor. The TV will be used as a PC monitor, from 2-3 feet away, either for productivity purposes or gaming. Sharp text is important, as well as a high resolution.
43" 49" 55" 65"

Roku

If you want an inexpensive 4k TV that still comes with great smart features, go for the TCL S405 LED TV. It comes with the very popular Roku smart platform which is very responsive and easy to use.

It won't have the bells and whistles of the more expensive models, but its picture quality is still quite decent. Most valuable is the performance of the Roku platform. Essentially, this TV comes equipped with a usually quite expensive Roku Ultra. Services like Netflix, Youtube, Hulu and Amazon Prime video are readily available and the overall interface is very quick and stable. As far as we know, Roku is also free of advertising. One of the coolest features of Roku is your ability to use your mobile phone as a remote, and even use the headphones connected to your phone to listen to your TV.

Like most LCD TVs, it does suffer from image quality degradation when viewed from an angle, and it isn't the brightest TV around. If you can live with these limitations though, there's hardly a better choice in this price range.

See our review

More Powerful Alternative: TCL P607

55"

If you're a fan of Roku but don't mind paying a little more for better picture quality and features, look for the TCL P607. It's a similar TV to the TCL S405, but it comes with a nice set of upgrades that help give it better HDR capabilities and one of the best gaming TVs we've tested. Do note however that the P607 is often out of stock on Amazon and that it is soon to be replaced by a newer model. We expect the new TCL 6 Series to come out a reasonable price point, unlike competing manufacturers.

See our review

Best Smart TV Platforms

LG WEBOS 3.5

LG Smart TV

9.0Remote
8.5Interface
8.0Apps and Features
7.0Remote App

Ever since its introduction in 2014, LG's WebOS has been a dominant force compared to competing Smart TVs. Especially at the time, it was slick, fast and intuitive. It's progressively evolved and has become even faster over time. Most of the changes have been fairly incremental, but it's matured into something that's very tough to beat. Even today, competing smart TVs are playing catch-up, which shows how far ahead it was 3 years ago. The app marketplace offers a selection wide enough to please just about everyone, but its biggest selling point is most definitely the overall performance and simplicity.

TCL ROKU TV

TCL Smart TV

7.0Remote
8.0Interface
8.0Apps and Features
8.0Remote App

As services such as Netflix exploded in popularity over the past few years, so did the devices that rendered them accessible on the average person's TV. Roku boxes are one of the most popular options, and they've recently implemented their platforms within TVs themselves. 

It is essentially the same as what you'd find on the boxes. Related apps, such as the remote found on Android and iOS are compatible with both. It's very simple to use and stable. The biggest downside compared to WebOS is its lack of a web browser, but that's a fairly minor loss.

ANDROID TV

Sony Smart TV

7.0Remote
7.0Interface
9.0Apps and Features
7.0Remote App

Found on Sony and LeEco TVs, Android is a well-featured platform. It doesn't have quite the polish of some of its competition, but it still offers access to all the apps one would need, and more. Since Android is a pretty open platform, it allows for quite a lot of tinkering. Unfortunately, TVs featuring this smart platform have a tendency to be under-equipped. This isn't necessarily a fault of the system itself, but it usually leads to slowdowns and stability issues. One of its best features is casting; from apps on your phone or computer, you can send videos or movies to the TV directly. This essentially negates the need to use the remote to navigate through the menus, which is great.

sAMSUNG Smart Hub

Samsung Smart TV

8.5Remote
8.0Interface
8.5Apps and Features
7.0Remote App

Samsung's evolving platform has seen some polish over the years. In 2017, it received a facelift turning it shades of white. Its biggest advantage compared to other platforms is its voice control. It doesn't have quite the depth that you'd get with the google search that you find on Android, but it recognizes commands very accurately. It also allows you to change settings directly through voice commands, so changing inputs or brightness levels is as easy as holding the microphone button and saying "brightness 20".
Unfortunately, it's quite prone to frame drops and other forms of slowdowns. Some settings are quite buggy too. It's pretty well featured but it's not quite as good as LG's WebOS.

VIZIO SMARTCAST

Vizio Smart TV

6.0Remote
7.0Interface
6.5Apps and Features
8.0Remote App

Vizio's updated their SmartCast platform slightly this year by adding an on-screen menu to access a limited set of web-based apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video without the use of a mobile device like a tablet or phone. Even with that, it's one of the most barebones options currently available since most of it is still centered around Google's Chromecast.

The same feature is available on Android, but it's also significantly more powerful when used as a standalone device, making Vizio's solution seem quite limited in comparison.

Which apps are on a Smart TV?

Unless you have very specific needs, most apps will be found on smart platforms from the major manufacturers. Android, WebOS, Roku and Samsung's Smart Hub all feature an app store where you can download and purchase a wide variety of applications, or sometimes even rent or purchase content directly.

Here is a table comparing the main apps across all smart TV platforms, including Apple TV and Roku. It isn't the full list, but it should cover most people's needs.

 
Note: While Vizio TVs cannot access most apps using the TV's own interface, most of them (Youtube, Vudu, Spotify and others) are available by casting them to the TV using a mobile device. They can easily be accessed using Vizio's SmartCast Mobile application, which also allows you to adjust the settings.
Table Last Updated: 12/14/2017. If you see any error, email us at errors@rtings.com.

Is a Smart TV better than a standalone box?

Game consoles like the Xbox One and PS4, if you consider them in the same realm, obviously offer the advantage of giving you access to a wide library of high-quality games in addition to smart features. Devices like Roku, Apple TV or Nvidia's Shield TV don't offer as big of an advantage. Their feature set is either very similar or exactly the same as modern TVs, but their main advantage tends to be stability and speed. It's less of a factor for the various Roku boxes, but Android on the Shield TV gets updates more frequently, is more stable and is, in general, more responsive and less prone to slowdowns.

This isn't too big of a deal though. If most of your usage is going to consist of starting the TV and launching apps such as Netflix and Youtube, then investing in a standalone device is unnecessary.

Conclusion

Not only does almost every TV include smart features today, most of them are pretty good. LG's WebOS and TCL's Roku definitely stand out for their quality, but most shoppers should be pleased by the features of any of them. If you're shopping for a TV, don't fret too much on their smart features since little of your time is going to be spent using them. Instead,  focus on the picture quality or other features that complement your usage. You'll get much closer to finding your perfect TV that way.

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