What is a smart TV?
Originally called “connected TVs,” these sets were later branded as “smart TVs” by companies such as Samsung and LG. The term has come to denote any TV that can be connected to the internet to access streaming media services and that can run entertainment apps, such as on-demand video-rental services, internet music stations and web browsers.
How do smart TVs connect to the internet?
A smart TV uses either a wired Ethernet connection or built-in Wi-Fi to connect to a home network for internet access. Most models today have built-in Wi-Fi, but check that it does before you buy. For streaming movies, some sets support the latest and fastest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. If you plan on cutting the cord, the faster Wi-Fi hookup will help.
How does a smart TV compare to set-top boxes such as Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV?
You do not need a smart TV to get streaming Netflix movies or YouTube videos on your screen. Many streaming sticks and set-top boxes can stream those services and more to an HDTV. The leading models are from Amazon, Apple, Google and Roku.
For example, the Roku Streaming Stick, which costs just $50, delivers thousands of channels and apps. Those include nearly every major service, as well as hundreds of more obscure channels, ranging from Kung-Fu Theater to Victory Westerns. In fact, Roku offers more options than any other set-top box or any smart TV on the market. So if you don’t need to buy a new TV but do want smart-TV services, a separate, inexpensive streaming-media player is the prudent choice.
In addition, set top-boxes, such as the Roku Ultra, offer 4K content.
If you live in an Apple household and want your iTunes collection on the big screen, you’ll need an Apple TV, which is the only device that can deliver that iTunes connection. No smart TVs have apps for iTunes. The latest, 32GB iteration of Apple TV is $149 and includes Siri support for finding programs. However, it does not offer 4K Ultra HD support and has a limited number of streaming services.