Is a smart TV the smartest choice for streaming video?


By Jim Rossman

A friend shopping for a new TV asked what’s the best way to watch Netflix: through an app on the TV or a set-top box like Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV or Roku?

There are plenty of ways to watch streaming content on your TV, and there really isn’t one best answer for everyone. Each person’s situation is different.

You should start out by assessing your current setup.

If you don’t have a smart TV, what (if anything) are you using now to watch streaming content? Do you like it, or are you looking to replace it with something easier or better?

Smart TVs, set-top streaming boxes, game consoles and even connected DVD players are ways to integrate streaming content to your TV.

Since the person asking this question is shopping for a new TV, let me give you my thoughts on smart TVs.

Should you buy one? It depends on your comfort level with technology.

There are some people (hi, Mom) who have been known to get lost in the buttons of their TV remotes. Then they have to call their sons to get the input changed back so they can watch TV.

For people who are NOT the most tech savvy, a smart TV is probably the easiest way to watch Netflix or other streaming content.

Smart TVs have streaming apps built into their operating systems. You power on the TV and access Netflix or other video services through the TV’s interface directly.

The streaming choices are likely a bit limited on smart TVs compared with the offerings on Roku and Apple TV boxes, but the big streaming services will be there. The ease of switching from your cable box to the streaming content makes smart TV a decent choice.

If you’re more worried about content and are confident in your abilities to connect streaming boxes to your home network and your TV, a set-top box like Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku or Apple TV offers nice streaming interfaces with hundreds of video sources (apps) you can add as you like. Some even offer video gaming.

These boxes also offer features like voice search, Bluetooth audio and even Siri on the new Apple TV.

Finally, in the category of “you might already own it so why not use it,” connected DVD players and some game consoles can stream video to your TV.

While they work well enough, their streaming functionality is likely not the reason you bought those boxes, and their interfaces might not be as refined as some others.

It all boils down to your comfort level — both technically and financially.

If the new TV you want has streaming built in, don’t be afraid to buy it.

But if you want the most content choices, see if the TV is available without the smart features and grab an Apple TV or Roku.

As a compromise, I’ve seen and tested TVs with Roku software built in, and they’re very nice.

Those might be the best of both worlds: easy to use, with a dedicated Netflix button on the remote and all the Roku video channels at your fingertips.

If you have questions on smart TVs or streaming, feel free to send me an email.

Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at [email protected]. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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