There are a lot of options on the market for streaming content to your television. We already brought you a breakdown of the differences between Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku – but we left out one option that’s a little different from all of those.
We’re talking about Smart TVs, the new HD televisions that integrate streaming functions. Manufacturers like Samsung and Vizio say that these represent the ultimate in convenient streaming: just turn on the television and choose from services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Video. But are these all-in-one setups really better than Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and their competitors? We’re breaking down the facts to find out. Here is why smart TVs are better than Roku and co. – and why they’re worse.
What’s better about smart TVs:
Plug and play
In our streaming stick comparison article, we often asked how simple the devices were to set up. Most of them were pretty easy, but you can’t beat the convenience of a Smart TV: right out of the box, the streaming capabilities are ready to go. There’s nothing extra to plug in, which means nothing can accidentally become disconnected. That makes smart TVs a godsend to the tech-illiterate. Do you need a late Father’s Day gift?
Save your ports
Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and the rest of the gang plug into your television’s HDMI port (the Roku also offers a converter cable that allows it to use the VGA jacks on other televisions). When your streaming capabilities are built in, that frees up one of your HDMI jacks for everything else you want to plug in: DVD players, video game systems, and more.
It just works
You won’t have to do much troubleshooting with your smart TV. Its uses may be more limited than those of the external options, but what it does do, it does simply and well. Again, this makes the Smart TV a simple and foolproof option for those who don’t want to wrangle with extra devices, no matter how simple those devices try to be.
Order some apps
Smart TVs don’t just have apps for Hulu, Netflix, and the like. They also offer apps for Facebook, Twitter, and other services. Some competitors offer similar options (Roku has apps, Chromecast can cast browser tabs, etc.), but smart TV apps are a simple way to turn your television into a giant smartphone whenever you feel like it.
What’s worse about smart TVs:
Smart TVs aren’t cheap. The latest Samsung 60-inch smart TV will set you back nearly $1,600. The same size television from the same brand can cost you about $600 less if you skip out on the “smart” part. While there are other features on the high-end model (4K Ultra-HD), you can count on those kinds of price bumps whenever you shop for a smart TV. When you compare the price increase to the $30 Chromecast, Smart TVs start to look pretty expensive.
You can’t take it with you
When you use a small device like a Chromecast or an Amazon Fire TV Stick, carrying it around is easy. That means that you have the ability to bring your streaming stick over to a friend’s house or toss it in your bag when you’re heading on vacation. When your streaming device is a 60-inch flatscreen, that just isn’t an option.
You get what they give you
While all of the streaming options support the major providers like Hulu and Netflix, some more specific content providers might not work on one device or another. The lower price of streaming sticks leads some users to buy more than one and swap them in and out as necessary, using whichever device is best for the service they want at that moment. Of course, nothing is stopping you from using both a streaming stick and a smart TV – but is that really cost-effective?
If you’re willing to do a bit of simple set-up, we think you’ll get more out of your Chromecast or Roku. The external devices can simply do more, and they cost less to boot. However, if you’re looking for a foolproof solution and don’t mind paying a markup for simplicity, you can’t beat a Smart TV. If you’re buying for a non-techy friend who just wants to use one remote for everything, Smart TVs are the way to go.
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