It’s a dilemma many people shopping for a new TV face—do you go with a smart TV, or a regular TV plus a streaming device? It can be a pretty tricky question as there are so many options out there, each with pros and cons. It can get overwhelming trying to look at everything out there and compare, so let’s take it slow and examine our choices and why we might lean in one direction or another.
First up, it is important to remember that these two options are merely two sides of the same coin. With each you’ll get a screen upon which to watch your content, and the ability to stream all that great online content to your heart’s content. These days people are enjoying an increasing amount of content digitally, rather than over the air, or via cable or satellite, so having the right streaming setup is very important.
The Case for Smart TVs
Your typical smart TV pairs a great high definition flat screen (with all the functions you’d expect from any HDTV) with the added benefits of integrated media streaming and interactivity. You’ll find that every major TV brand has a Smart TV as part of it’s product line so if you can go the Smart TV route regardless of whichever brand you are loyal to. This LG 32” HD IPS Smart TV is a great example of one. These days people are breaking free from traditional cable, and enjoying online services like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Skype, and more, so modern smart TVs often have features like built in webcams for Skype, interactivity for games, social media networking and more.
The advantage here is that it is amazingly easy to get up and running in no time with minimal work or technical know-how. Smart TVs are generally self-contained, so you don’t have to worry about extra gear anywhere, cluttered wiring, and you can relax knowing everything is streamlined. This is definitely the most streamlined and easiest option out there. You won’t have to fumble between different remote controls, fiddle with a mess of wires, or have any added fuss whatsoever. To help keep things streamlined, models like this LG Smart TV even help you customize your own personal dashboard and apps so you can set things up exactly as you want them.
The TV+Streaming Option
Looking to our second option, you could opt for simply getting a regular HDTV and adding “smart TV” functionality with the addition of a streaming device like the Chromecast, Apple TV or Roku 3 for example. There are a lot of these to choose from with more coming out all the time so you’ll have plenty of options here. While you’ll have to find somewhere to put the extra hardware, and you’ll have more wiring to deal with, more remotes to handle, and a little bit more work setting things up, you’ll still get all the functionality you’d expect from a Smart TV and have a few benefits to help balance things out.
First up, many people like to know that they can replace their streaming device with the latest model after a few years without having to replace their TV too. If you like to have the latest and greatest with a semi-frequent upgrade cycle then this is for you, as you’ll be able to keep your TV and just swap out the streaming device when you want to. Some people also like to be able to unplug their streaming device and take it with them to use somewhere else if they travel. Something like the Roku Streaming Stick, or Chromecast for example are great gadgets for this portability, and because these devices are built specifically for streaming, they can often include more diversity of apps or channels.
I think that without a doubt, this option leaves you more flexibility than going the Smart TV route.
A Third Option
Lastly let’s look at the surprise third option which is an HD over-the-air TV antenna! If you don’t have cable, you might be surprised to learn that you can still enjoy lots of great HD video content without taxing your internet connection. You may not have cable because you’re looking to save money, in which case you’re likely putting added pressure on your home internet plan, and that might be problematic if you have a bandwidth cap.
You can pick up an over-the-air (OTA) HD antenna so you can actually get HD TV channels for free as they travel through the airwaves. Once you have that set up you won’t have to worry about monthly fees or anything. Your channel availability may vary with this one depending on where you are geographically, where you are able to set up the antenna, and even the weather conditions but many people are able to enjoy great reception with high quality picture on several channels with this option that doesn’t leave you tied to a cable bill each month.
Of course with over-the-air TV you won’t get much flexibility to watch what you want, when you want, unless you add something like the Tablo 2-Tuner Over-The-Air DVR! With this setup you won’t be hostage to the TV schedule, and will be able to record all that content you capture with your antenna, and watch it when you want. Combined with a streaming device, you’ll be all set for a great content streaming setup which takes it easy on your ISP bills. The Tablo even has an electronic program guide (EPG) to help you browse all the upcoming shows for the next 14 days, including series and episode summaries, cover art and the ability to schedule by series which is invaluable for us binge watchers!
You’ve got lots of great options out there for streaming content. Smart TVs are fantastic for those looking for a streamlined experience without any technical fuss. Separate streaming devices are ideal for those looking for flexibility and versatility. An OTA antenna is the perfect for add-on for those looking to spare their internet budget from any additional strain. With all that in mind you’re on track to picking out the right option for you.