Do you have a relatively modern TV and just want to upgrade (perhaps moving the old one to the bedroom, or giving it to your son/daughter to use)? Or have you been in the dark ages TV-wise for the last 20 years and want to ditch that massive cumbersome curved screen CRT that hogs your hearth and draws sniggers from your friends? Maybe you’re redecorating your sitting room, and want to have a flat screen and make more room on the floor.
Whatever the reason, you now have a great deal of choices before you. But given that you’re unlikely to be buying another television for a few years, maybe even 5-10 years, it makes sense to buy the best you can afford, and with the best proven technology, so as to future-proof it for a reasonable time.
The televisions at the apex of technology at the moment are smart TVs. So, having made up your mind that you are going to plunge in to smart-world, what do you need to look out for? Are there any pitfalls? What should you go for? Here are some tips that may help you in your choice:
First of all, a Smart TV will be giving you something more than great picture quality and fine audio. Those are available on non-Smart televisions. They are no-brainers and from reviews, as one might expect, no Smart TV delivers poor quality in those area. So let’s concentrate on the things that make a Smart TV, smart, and worth buying.
The User Interface
Pay close attention to the way that internet services and apps are presented on screen. Are they well laid out? Easy for you to read? Easy to scroll through and select? The Smart TV portal of each manufacturer is their ‘window’ on the internet. They’re all different, and worth deep analysis to choose the one that’s going to work best for you. Go and look at a few demo videos online- and see what people say who have bought the Smart TVs you’re interested in. You may have the greatest set of features in a Smart TV on the planet, but if you curse and get frustrated every time you’re trying to access one of the features, it can’t be the interface for you!
The Content & Internet Based Services
Don’t be fooled, Smart TVs aren’t (yet) as smart as they soon will be. Yes, you can get internet access via browsers or apps on Smart TVs right now, but the future promise is an integrated one, where smartphones, tablet PCs, and laptops become one with the TV. This will truly open up a social TV experience.The real breakthroughs will come with convergence of multiple devices and the TV itself. The Panasonic Viera Smart TV seems to be in the lead on this at the moment with some interaction between handheld and TV screen.
We’re also looking for an interactive and personalised experience. One where content and services options are presented to individuals based on what they’re watching or past preferences. That’s almost like Big Brother TV! But of course these will only be suggestions, not mandatory! Those kinds of features are still to be realised, though Samsung and Google are both at the cutting edge of development.
If you’re buying a set built by one of the major manufacturers, take a look at their portal. You want one with the biggest range of standard built in Smart TV apps, and perhaps more important an apps store that gives more options to buy extras.
There’s every possibility that cloud gaming will take over from the discs and cartridges that we all know. Cloud gaming refers to the storage of and access to games within a virtual cloud outside of the console environment. Pay attention to availability of cloud gaming apps and access on any Smart TV you’re interested in. Cloud gaming will be big news in future and is avidly being discussed now-
This is a good place to introduce the term ‘second screen’. You’ll see this mentioned more and more, and it refers to those devices you use currently while watching TV separately. These include smartphones and the like. True smart TV will come when these devices are fully integrated with the TV, either by using as a remote control, beginning watching content on one screen and finishing watching on another, or entering info on one screen and seeing it on another. Watch out for future developments in this area.
A minimum of four required for you to plug in other devices. Three at a pinch. The two shown above in my (non-Smart) TV are simply not enough!
Pretty much every TV comes with its own remote control. But you may end up with as many as five remotes when you’ve got other equipment in your lounge. Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic all have access to apps that can use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to work in conjunction with other mobile devices to work as remotes for your Smart TV.
Smart TV processors have been enhanced to the point where their performance often eliminates any motion blur, but there are still some TVs where it is noticeable. To avoid a set with obvious motion blur, you really do need to see it in action displaying some form of fast paced sport – tennis or football will give good test results. This is essential with the Olympic games in London coming up. You’ll want to see the 100 meters final as crisp as candy!
Shopping Around For The Best Deals
Once you have a good feel for the handful of Smart TVs that’ll give you what you want, it’s time to hunt around for the best deals and pricing. There are a number of places to look, ranging from the easy option of online ordering to the more time consuming visits to “real” stores.
It’s always worth looking out for when a model gets replaced by a newer version. Often this results in discounted prices for the older models, which actually might well be high performing Smart TVs in their own right. Sometimes the older model is better- the new one has something new added which has unbalanced the whole thing and made the sum of the parts less than the whole!