Streaming 101: The best Smart TVs for streaming
If you want a smart TV for streaming, what should you look for?
Streaming is fantastic – you can choose what you want to watch and then pause to take breaks, or even binge a whole season! It’s possible to stream from a wide variety of devices, including phones and PCs. But let’s face it: nothing is as good as the big screen of a modern HDTV.
Whether you're on a spending spree or working with a tight budget, here are a few TV choices to take your streaming days to the next level!
Samsung was one of the first brands to start offering smart TVs. Its latest series, the Neo QLED televisions, use new backlighting technology that makes the picture especially good-looking. But even a Samsung TV from a few years ago will give a great performance.
Samsung TVs run on Tizen, Samsung’s software, so it’s worth checking which streaming services it has apps for. Currently, Tizen supports most major streaming platforms, as well as Showmax and DStv Now. Some Samsung TVs have Chromecast built in.
Recommended model: Samsung Q90R QLED TV
Although it’s not always the first TV brand people think of, LG makes excellent sets and has been producing smart TVs for many years. Its OLED sets are particularly popular and boast clear image quality and excellent sound.
LG runs its own smart software, which used to be called Netcast until a few years ago. Since then, it’s replaced Netcast with webOS, but that won’t matter unless you’re considering buying an LG TV older than six years. But because webOS is unique, be sure to check the TV that will run your app of choice.
Recommended model: LG OLED TV 55 Inch CX
If you’re on a budget, then the Hisense family of TVs should interest you as they’re comparable to the more high-end brands on this list. Hisense makes decent UHD and OLED sets and has several smart TVs to choose from. These run software called VIDAA, and Hisense’s smart sets tend to have the most popular streaming services installed, including Showmax and DStv Now.
Recommended model: Hisense 55" Smart UHD TV
Sony is arguably the OG of HD and smart TVs, and its Bravia brand set the trends when other HDTVs were still just ideas. Though not the most budget-friendly brand, a Sony TV is bound to be an impressive device with fantastic picture quality and sound.
Sony smart TVs run native Android and Google TV software. That means they provide everything that Google creates for its TV software, including apps. If you want to run an Android TV or Google TV app (though not to be confused with phone apps), chances are excellent your Sony smart TV can do it.
Recommended model: Sony A8H Bravia 4K OLED
Though it was better known for its pre-HDTV models, Philips remains an outstanding brand if you want a new television, and you can get a Philips smart LED TV for sizes ranging from 32 inches to a massive 75 inches.
As with Sony, Philips smart televisions use Android TV software, so you have many choices when it comes to streaming apps. Its smart models also have Chromecast built-in for easy streaming from an Android phone or tablet.
Recommended model: Philips 43" Android Smart LED TV
Any television can stream content if you connect a media centre to it that can run streaming apps. But you can also buy TVs with native (built-in) streaming features. Here are a few tips when you select a TV for streaming:
- Smart TVs tend to have more advanced software, similar to what your phone uses. Not every TV that claims to be smart has the features you'll want, so still do your research. But if you want built-in streaming features, start with smart TVs.
- A TV doesn’t need any special features if you use a media device to plug into it. For example, Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles let you stream services such as Netflix. You can also plug a laptop or PC into any TV via an HDMI or VGA cable, but you may need an external sound source.
- The most common software for streaming will run on Android, aka Android TV or Google TV. A television or media centre that runs on Android is very likely to support streaming apps.
- Streaming depends on apps: different streaming services use different apps. On Android or Apple TV, you can download such apps from their respective app stores. But if you get a TV that uses its own software, you should check if it has apps for the streaming service you want.
- If a TV supports a “push” service, such as Chromecast, you can stream to the TV directly from an app on your phone.
- Streaming requires an internet connection. If you’re using a media centre, phone or PC, the TV won’t need to be connected. But if you plan to stream using the TV’s software, you’ll need to connect it with Wi-Fi or a network cable.
- Be careful of pirate streaming sites or apps that offer commercial content, as free streams. They can often contain viruses and other dangerous software. Such apps are likely up to no good and quite possibly dangerous to your device and your privacy.
- A note on Android systems: Google has two types of software that can run on smart TVs, and Android TV is the older of the two. It’s completely functional and will give you access to apps for different services. Google TV is its new version; it’s almost the same as Android TV but has extra usability features such as queuing shows on your phone.
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