Buying a TV used to be simple. You would decide on a budget, look at how much space you had, and pick a TV based on screen size, definition, and reputation of the manufacturer. Then smart TVs arrived and made everything complicated.
All major smart TV operating systems (OS) are fairly similar and work with the same range of other apps and products. There are exceptions, like Roku’s temporary spat with Google which cut Youtube access from some users’ TVs, but for the most part, you aren’t going to miss out on anything huge no matter what brand you opt for.
However, three leading brands, Vizio, Samsung, and LG’s Web OS, have unique selling points that could make their product a perfect fit for you. Other smart TV systems, like Roku, Fire TV, and Android or Google TV, should also be considered before settling on an OS that’s right for you. There is also the television itself to consider; you can have the smoothest, most versatile OS in the world, but it will be torture to use if the TV it’s running on doesn’t have the power you need to run it.
Vizio smart TVs are on the lower end of the price scale. But that doesn’t make them bad; if all you want is a solidly built TV that works smoothly with apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube, you’re getting a bargain. The price point doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a low-definition television. A Vizio may be the right option if you want to experience 4K for less than $300, though Vizio has a tiered product range that includes some premium models. You can spend several thousand dollars on a Vizio if you opt for something from its premium range.
All Vizio TVs run an OS called “Smartcast,” which comes with both Chromecast and Apple AirPlay built-in. So, a Vizio TV is worth considering if you would like something that can easily play media from your phone, tablet, or notebook without any third-party hardware. You’ll also get access to thousands of apps, including those from the usual suspects (Netflix, Hulu, Youtube), and free live TV solutions. Smartcast also has an app that can turn your phone into a remote and is compatible with all major smart home systems.
A potential issue with Vizio TVs you should be aware of involves the use of ads. Banner ads are present on the device’s home screen, and some questionable apps like CourtTV come pre-installed. Vizio is also experimenting with ads that pop up while you’re watching live television on the device. Although the latter feature is still in its beta testing period, and FOX is currently the only network on board, it could be the thin end of the wedge when it comes to intrusive TV advertising.
VIZIO M558-G1 M-Series Quantum 55
4K Smart TV with Vizio's "Quantum Color" technology
Samsung is a leader in the tech industry and a producer of premium products. If you opt for a smart TV made by the South Korean company, you will get something high-end and heavily polished. And you’ll also likely pay a premium for it.
Samsung TVs run the Eden UI, which is powered by Samsung’s Tizen OS — an operating system that is present across a range of its products. Samsung smart TVs operate from a voice remote that can also control accessories, such as soundbars.
Tizen OS’ stand-out feature is a small control menu you can bring up on the bottom third of the screen. You can use this bar to navigate through your apps, browse shows, and even preview content without interrupting whatever streaming service or cable channel is on-screen.
It also integrates with SmartThings, which is Samsung’s go-to app for all smart home devices. Again, controlling a Smart TV with an app isn’t unique, but SmartThings might add an extra layer of connectivity to get your smart TV working seamlessly with the rest of your smart home. (This may not be a unique selling point for long, as an upcoming standard called Matter could improve smart home compatibility for other smart TV brands.)
SAMSUNG 55-Inch Class QLED Q70A Series
QLED TV with Alexa built in and the ability to upscale videos to 4K
WebOS is the Linux-based system featured on LG TVs. As with Samsung’s Tizen OS, WebOS features an unobtrusive navigation bar that you can use to seamlessly switch between apps — though this navigation bar doesn’t let you preview shows. As with other smart TV operating systems, WebOS can access a wide range of apps and lets you use your cell phone as a remote.
Buyers of more expensive LG TVs will receive one of the company’s “Magic Remotes,” which boasts features like voice control, and Magic Zoom, which allows users to make portions of their TVs bigger. This could be handy if you need to emphasize a detail from a movie or if you have issues with your eyesight. Motion controls are also included with the Magic Remote, and it’s one of those things you’ll either love and find yourself using all the time or seriously dislike.
Nothing makes WebOS stand out, but nothing makes it particularly bad either. LG seems to play well with others, so you’ll have access to popular apps like Apple TV+, Youtube, and the other top dogs. WebOS works with all major smart home systems and voice assistants. It looks and feels very Android TV-like, and may you fight through a wall of recommendations to get to the apps you want.
As a company, LG has been around for a long time and has built a reputation for producing quality products. If you’re buying an LG TV, you’re looking at mid-range through to ridiculously expensive concept products like their rollable smart TV. If you’re looking for quality, compatibility, and accessibility, an LG might be the right choice.
LG OLED C1 Series 55” Alexa Built-in 4k Smart TV, 120Hz Refresh Rate, AI-Powered 4K, Dolby Vision IQ and Dolby Atmos, WiSA Ready, Gaming Mode (OLED55C1PUB, 2021), Black
4K OLED TV with Google Assistant and Alexa built in