I remember getting my very first smart TV about 8 years back. It was a 55-inch Samsung LED 3D TV. I felt like a caveman discovering the gift of fire for the very first time. To this day, the voice command and motion detection still astound me.
It’s unfortunate that 3D TVs were a passing fad. However, the last decade has seen more and more manufacturers producing smart TVs. While my 55-inch was stacked with features (most unnecessary), some brands have seen fit to adopt more minimalistic implementations.
By doing this, they’ve made Smart TVs more affordable, less complex and more accessible. After all, it was Bruce Lee who said: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
It was easier to pick a smart TV five years ago, but due to their popularity and their ubiquity, this is no longer the case. But not to worry, we’re here to make sure that next Smart TV purchase you make is an informed one.
If you’re not clued-up on the latest smart TVs, you don’t have to scour the internet for manuals riddled with over-complicated specs and jargon, just use this list and the buying guide at the bottom as a reference.
This is not to say that this guide is complete pabulum. We also ensured that we catered to Smart TV shoppers who may be a little savvier than the rest. We answer the important questions.
Since the global average size of flat-screen TVs is around 47 inches, we picked what we felt was a nice median by focusing on 43-inch TVs. You’ll notice that the TVs in this range tend to be LED TVs. We made sure we picked high quality LED TVs.
You’ll also find that many of the TVs in this list come in different sizes or versions so you can always pick your preferred size if 43-inches is not enough.
In our list variety is an important factor. We tried to include as many types and different manufacturers and Smart TV operating systems as possible. But picture quality was the most important factor.
You’ll find that all of the TVs in this list are 4k TVs. But enough jibber-jabber, let’s dive in shall we?
Globally, TCL isn’t as big a brand as Samsung or LG but they strike the right balance between price and quality with the 43S517. It uses a VA-Panel (Vertical Alignment) to deliver sharp text and deep blacks. The brightness that this TV has to offer isn’t really anything to brag about but it gives off some powerful and vivid colors through the use of Dolby Vision and HDR10.
We chose the TCL 5 Series over the 6 series because of the number of different sizes available. In terms of performance, there isn’t much difference between the TCL 5 and 6 either. Both models lack local dimming and they use the very same smart TV interface.
This TV is great for gamers. It has excellent input handling with very little lag. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support 120 Hz input or refresh rates from the Xbox One. It uses a 60Hz panel after all.
It uses TLC’s Roku smart TV OS with a very straightforward and simple interface. No performance is wasted on unnecessary animations and yet it’s still very smooth and fluid. It’s very intuitive and easy to use.
The biggest issue that we had with this TV is the ads on the main page. The TCL 43S517’s affordability can be credited to the fact that it’s subsidized through advertising. While they cannot be disabled, they can be ignored.
If you’re looking for an affordable low to mid-range TV, then we don’t see why you shouldn’t give the TCL 43S517 a try.
Samsung has been the biggest TV manufacturer since 2006 and it has been one of the first brands to make Smart TVs mainstream. So it was inevitable that you would find a Samsung Smart TV on this list.
However, the Samsung UN43RU7100FXZA (or RU7100 for short) didn’t’ make it on this list by the strength of the name it carries but through its own merits. The depth of the blacks this thing can deliver is awesome. Which makes it great for dimly lit rooms.
Gamers will love this TV. It has great input handling with low lag. It also has support for a wide variety of resolutions. It would work perfectly as a substitute monitor, especially with PC mode enabled.
While it delivers some truly stunning picture quality, even with Samsung’s Purcolor, it doesn’t have a proper wide color gamut and brightness levels are far too limited for our liking.
As with most Samsung Smart TVs, The RU7100 runs Samsung’s Tizen OS. But since this TV doesn’t have a microphone or a built-in camera, features that you’d find on higher-end Samsung TVs are not available here.
It still gives you access to a variety of pre-installed applications as well as downloadable applications from the Samsung store. The interface is sleek and easy to use and navigate.
Samsung supplies you with what seems like a standard Samsung remote, but with the addition of three quick access buttons to launch Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime (respectively).
While the RU7100 is more expensive than the aforementioned TCL 5 series, it still comes with some advertising that cannot be opted out of.
This is one of Samsung’s more affordable options. While it doesn’t give you the same perks as their more high-end TVs, it is still worth the purchase.
Not only is the Toshiba the best budget offering on this list but its’ also the best Fire TV. At this price, you can expect some very basic but decent 4K picture quality.
Just like the previous entries on this list, the Toshiba LF621 is capable of producing some deep darks due to a very high contrast ratio. Unfortunately, it’s missing some advanced features like local dimming. Which means it will struggle in brightly lit rooms.
Despite its HDR capabilities, it still fails at creating high color or bright highlights. It has decent input handling. You might experience some slight lag depending on the frame rate as well as the resolution you’re playing at.
What makes this TV stand out from others (besides its price), is its implementation of the Amazon Fire TV platform. The interface has beautiful soft edges for its tiled icons. It’s responsive and easy to navigate through.
It also integrates well with Alexa which allows you to go above and beyond just TV functionality. You can program and schedule by using voice commands. Unfortunately, you’ll need to have an Amazon Prime account in order to access some of the content and features.
Amazon also has some very intrusive advertising. It’s always trying to sell you a new product through suggestions and pop-ups.
However, this should not be enough to put you off from buying this TV if it is within your budget.
The LG 55SK9000PUA TV is a smart smart-TV. Its ThinQ AI has the Google Assistant integrated into it so you can access and control other smart home devices with the power of your voice. Which means it has the potential to work as a central hub for your Smart home.
But let’s discuss the picture quality. It has enough brightness and color to overcome glare in a brightly lit room. While it does have full array local dimming, blacks come off as grey when you view this TV in a dark room. This is highly disappointing.
However, the image integrity remains intake, no matter what angle you view the screen. It also has pretty decent reflection handling.
For the operating system, The LG SK9000 uses webOS, LG’s proprietary platform. It comes with an ample variety of pre-installed apps and you can download more from LG’s store. LG’s store has a decent catalog but it isn’t as impressive as Google’s or Samsung’s.
The interface is fast and responsive, although it is a bit convoluted. You don’t have to navigate the menu using the remote though, because it has some very sophisticated voice command, you can simply call out what you need.
The TV also doesn’t seem to run any ads. For gaming and use with a PC, the SK9000 has very low lag at nearly every resolution. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support 1440p.
The 55SK9000PUA is one of the most affordable 55-inch screens on the market. For its price tag, you’re getting a lot of value. It’s an ideal TV for streaming and gaming.
Not only can this be considered the best Samsung TV but it can also be considered the best 65-inch screen on the list. While it may lose some image quality when it’s looked at from an angle, it still delivers amazing color and picture quality when viewed head-on.
This is one of the best TVs to watch in the dark. Through local dimming and a high contrast ratio, it delivers some uniform and deep blacks. This TV shines at any level of room brightness (figuratively speaking).
It has an anti-reflective coating and high brightness levels to handle glare. The TV automatically switches game mode when a game is being played on a console. It has very low input lag. It also supports most common refresh rates and resolutions in game mode.
For the Smart TV OS, it runs the latest version of the Tizen OS which is praised for its wide selection of apps and services.
Although it’s very pricey, it’s one of the best LCD TVs on the market. It’s another Samsung master class in design and quality. If it’s within your price range and you have ample room space to fit it in, then I don’t see why you should not purchase this TV.
While we feel that the TVs in this guide are the best and they cater to all sensibilities and budgets, you may not feel the same way. That’s why we’ve included the following buying guide to help you identify a few important points to consider on your next Smart TV purchase.
You might think this is ultra-obvious but in terms of TVs, size does matter. This is not to imply that bigger is always better. Your choice of TV size should be based on the room size as well as the positioning of the TV in said room.
You don’t want to buy a 75-inch flat screen for a nine-by-nine bedroom. You simply wouldn’t get the best out of it. Bigger screens have bigger pixels so if you’re sitting too close to a TV, the picture quality drops and you’re bound to see the pixels.
If you want to know how big your TV should be, follow these simple steps:
This is the formula: Distance x 7.7 = Maximum Screen Size. If the distance is 9 inches, this will be the calculation: 9 x 7.7 = 69.3.
What this means is the ideal size of your TV should not exceed 69 inches. However, this is for HD TVs. 4K screens have more and finer pixels which means you can sit closer to them.
The formula for calculating the ideal size of a 4K TV for your room is Distance x 12 = Maximum Screen Size.
Since the most important aspect of the TV is the picture quality, you can essentially skip all the other jargon and pick a panel type. This will affect your viewing and image quality the most. With the current crop of 4K TVs, you’re likely to run into one of three types:
You may be wondering which one to pick? If you’re cash strapped and need a cheap TV under 49 inches, go with a traditional LED screen.
OLEDs may be more expensive, but they’re the current industry standard for picture quality. Due to very fast refresh rates, they’re also ideal for gaming.
But if you want a brighter display and have an ample budget, you can go for a QLED TV. Samsung is the only brand that manufactures QLED panels but we expect to see more brands license and use them in their TVs.
Most smart TVs come with a processor and some storage space. A smart TV is basically a computer. Most computers need an operating system (platform) to run. While most platforms are built on the back of a Linux kernel, not all platforms are the same. We thought we’d give you a heads-up on which ones to look out for. Here’s a quick rundown of the top five Smart TV platforms:
A: Smart TVs work just like regular TVs but what makes them ‘Smart’ is their in-built Central Processing Units, storage space, and onboard memory. They are amalgamations of simple computers, set-top boxes, and TV sets. What Smart TVs are known for most is their ability to connect you to the internet (via Wi-Fi and/or Ethernet).
They’re more than this. While you can run apps, stream video and music, browse the internet and view photos, that’s not the only thing that a Smart TV’s computational functionality is built for.
The majority of a smart TV’s central processing power is used on video processing, up-scaling and dealing with graphics.
A fine example of this is how most Smart TV brands lie about having 120 Hz refresh rates. They actually have 60 Hz and upscale it to 120 Hz. So a considerable amount of the Smart TV’s power will be dedicated to mimicking a 120 Hz refresh rate.
A: Yes, you can use Smart TVs without Cable. You can connect to the internet and stream content from there without subscribing to cable or dish. You can also hook a hard-drive or USB flash drive to your Smart TV and view content from there. Smart TVs give you more viewing options.
A: The main difference between a Smart TV and regular TV is Smart TVs work similarly to smartphones. They can run ads and connect to the internet and I’m sure someone’s found a way to make calls using their smart TV. You just can’t do that with a regular TV
A: It’s possible to use your smart TV without connecting it to the internet. Having internet connectivity isn’t a prerequisite to owning a smart TV.
Most Smart TVs have a wide variety of different input connections. Which means you can connect your Blu-ray player, your console, your PC, etc. Smart TVs can be used just like regular TVs.
It can be said that a smart TV is an integral part of any smart home. A good smart TV can act as a central hub to control and access your other smart home devices. An increasing number of brands have started making their Smart TV platforms more smart home friendly.
You’ll find that the majority of the TVs in this guide have Alexa and/or Google Assistant support. That’s something else you might want to consider if you’re out shopping for a Smart TV.
But this guide isn’t just for ehome aficionados looking to build a house that can compete with the Jetsons. If you’re just an average Joe looking for a good TV to game on or watch your favorite Blu-Rays in 4K, then you’ll benefit from the list as well as the tips in this guide.