6 Best Smart Televisions | February 2017
- 1920x1080 display resolution
- built-in dual-band wi-fi
- sound quality is just so so
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- 120 hz native refresh rate
- quick start guide is included
- customer service is hard to reach
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- webos 3 platform is easy to use
- magic remote feature is included
- clearing image retention is a pain
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- android tv with voice search
- 4 built-in hdmi inputs
- motionflow xr 960 improves clarity
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
- immersive off-angle viewing
- supreme uhd dimming
- smart view app for mobile devices
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
Talk Back To Your TV
There were scenes in a television show from the 90's, called Saved By The Bell, in which the show's protagonist, Zach, would periodically break the fourth wall and speak directly to the camera. In doing so, he spoke to the audience and as a five-year-old boy watching the show, I wondered if there was a TV out there that would allow me to talk back to the actor. So, I asked my mother.
She laughed at the idea of a TV smart enough to allow a conversation to take place between its stars and its viewers. After all, these shows were pre-taped. Then the internet came along, and our TVs have gotten a heck of a lot smarter than ever before. In 2011, for example, a Japanese video streaming service, akin to YouTube, created live programs that responded to feedback from the live audience. It was reminiscent of one of those choose-your-own-adventure books.
If you had one of the smart TVs on the market at the time, you could have probably used it to interact with the broadcast the way I wanted to as a child.
That's because smart TVs are all about connectivity and recognition. For the most part, they function like any other high-end HD or UHD television. They have tremendous resolution, USB and HDMI ports to display the lion's share of available media in today's market, and they fill the room for a remarkably low cost.
Deeper in the systems of these TVs, however, is an interactive menu system connected to the internet that allows you to stream content from your favorite providers like YouTube and Netflix. You never have to switch input sources or buy additional hardware to clutter up your living room to make it work.
Some of these TVs also have the ability to recognize your voice and respond to specific commands so that your setup experience on the way to your videos is seamless and fast.
Resolved To Make A Decision
As you peruse the smart TV options available, you may be surprised by their large size, ranging from 65 to about 80 inches diagonally or more. The thing about a TV with good resolution is that it has to be particularly large for you to appreciate it without having to sit right on top of it.
Think of the pixels on your TV like the dots of paint in a masterpiece from the school of Pointilism. If you took a look at one of these paintings from across the room at a museum, you'd be plenty impressed by its level of detail and clarity. If you got up close to the picture, however, you'd see that it was composed of thousands upon thousands of little dots of paint, rendering the art virtually meaningless from a certain viewing distance, while being very meaningful from another.
That said, television resolution is limited by screen size. A 1080p HDTV is called that because it has 1,080 pixels stacked vertically in each column and 1,920 pixels running across the screen in each row, making a total of 2,073,600 pixels. A bigger TV necessitates bigger pixels, which reduces your overall resolution unless you can increase the pixel count.
4K, or UHD, televisions have literally four times as many pixels as a television with 1080p HD. If you want to go big with your smart TV purchase, it will behoove you to shoot for 4K quality where possible.
The other important factor to consider is the television's on-board menu system for your smart TV. The first smart TV I owned had a menu that I'm sure was coded by brilliant engineers. However, it almost felt as though it had been designed by one of the engineer's pet hamsters. I felt consistently like I was running around in a small wheel trying to get my settings in place and use the smart functions to my liking.
Of course, as with so much in technology, there's a trade-off here. In the past, Samsung has been lambasted for their shoddy menu and remote design, and they've even had legal troubles with some of their smart TVs listening in on their owners' conversations. The problem escalated to such an extreme that, for a few models, Samsung released a statement warning their owners not to discuss any sensitive personal information around their TVs. The trade-off was that Samsung has one of the most consistently crisp and enjoyable pictures on the market.
Long before anyone thought to make a TV that could act as its own content retrieval system, a startup out of Palo Alto, California in the mid-1990's developed a set top box for the average consumer that would allow their televisions to access the internet through their phone lines over a 56K connection. The service was called Web TV, and it came complete with its own keyboard and mouse to make surfing the web on your television that much easier. The invention was certainly forward-thinking, as increasing numbers of television companies today offer their clients internet-only packages for competitive prices, where just a few years ago the only way to save was to bundle with a cable television plan. More and more viewers are switching to online platforms.
Given this wave of online viewership and the corresponding boom in access points from Roku, Nyrus, and Sling Box to a dozen other video streamers, television companies began to incorporate internet connectivity into their HDTVs, creating the smart TV as we know it.