The Best Smart TV: LG, TCL and More Compared

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If you are looking to get the best TV to buy right now and it has been a long time since you made such a decision in your life. Then you may be new to the current smart TV jargon, like Ultra HD, smart LED,4K. 8K. OLED. QLED. HDR. 120Hz and HDMI 2.1. 

Well, I have reviewed TVs since the days of plasma and rear projection, and I know how to keep it simple by focusing on finding the best quality for the money even if you are watching on an Ultra HD TV or on something a little less flashy.

This list below represents the best TVs that I have reviewed in test lab, where I compared their smart TV features and the viewing experience side by side to see the ones that are worth buying.

Some of the areas that warranted consideration included the viewing angle, contrast ratio, local dimming and refresh rate, as well as how well the TV  supported streaming services like Hulu and Netflix and offered decent performance for gaming.

Here are my latest recommendations.

Best high-end TV for the money

LG OLEDB9P series

OLED TVs are the picture quality kings, but they are not found on the cheap. The TV OLED displays use organic light-emitting diode technology for delivering a contrast ratio, viewing angle, and a wide colour gamut that no LCD TV or QLED TV is able to match.

As the least expensive OLED TV from 2019, the B9 is still my premium TV overall if you are a high-end shopper. It fell just a bit short of the CX in image quality in the tests, but the differences are minuscule. Since it is less expensive than the CX, it is a better value. It does not miss any major features despite it being a year older.

Best smart TV with Roku TV (TCL 6-Series)

A brilliantly straightforward smart TV platform For The money

There is no TV I’ve tested that offers this much picture quality for little cash. The latest version of the TCL 6 series even has better image quality than the predecessor, thanks to its improved color and its well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just any other TV at this price.

This TV was announced back in 2014 for TCL TVs, Roku TV has found support with low-cost US TV suppliers. It is now possible to find Roku TV now on quite a few Haier, Insignia, Hisense,  Sharp, and TCL TV models as well as on the dedicated Hisense Roku TV model in the UK.

As a platform, Rou TV borrows the interface, and the feature set from the popular media streamers like the Roku Streaming Stick.

This means that you will get a universal search function that is able to scan over 30 different apps like Netflix, Google Play TV and Movies, VUDU, Amazon, and many more to find you the lowest price on the TV show or the movie you want, as well as some 4500 channels of content to watch.

When you get a Roku TV up and running, you’ll find an egalitarian operating system that hardly retains its top spot as the best second division operating system year after year. The operating system is intuitive to use, a bit boring, and its lack of ties to a particular streaming platform allows it to point you to all the pieces of content that can be found without bias.

The last bit is very important, especially if you have ever used an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV,  both of which would much rather have you stream from the ancillary streaming services over any of the third-party ones. 

Considering that Roku doesn’t have any ties to a major streaming service other than a vague deal to include FandangoNow on their home screen of the OS, it doesn’t push you to any direction that you don’t want to go and support everything from Netflix happily, Sling TV, Hulu, and Amazon to the lesser-known channels like Crackle, Tubi, Pluto.TV and many others.

You can add to that some neat features like a dedicated app that helps in keeping track of upcoming movies and TV shows via the MyFeed section, a free TV streaming service built into the platform and with a private listening mode when you want to watch TV without disturbing everyone in the whole house.

I was surprised how they listed cheaply in this Amazon listing.

Best smart TV with Tizen OS (Samsung Q80T QLED)

A smart TV platform to rival webOS

Samsung is another brand that is keen on keeping things simple, it’s Tizen OS owes much to LGs webOS interface, in so much as it has icons, apps, and shortcuts that are all accessible through icons held a horizontal stripe across the bottom of the screen. A dynamically changing recent box at the far left corner also cycles between recently used apps and TV channels.

As it stands right now, it is not overly intelligent, but that could change anytime in the future when Samsung integrates its TV AI into Tizen.

For now, we like the fact that the onscreen icons can be changed. There is a sense of identity that iis welcome when it comes to some AV inputs and key apps that you use every day. The OS cuts down on clutter, although sometimes this works against navigation, there are many occasions when it is necessary to go hunting for a particular app.

Thankfully, that is made easier by a Smart Hub multimedia page that divvies up content from the apps and from the USB sticks or home network.

On 2020 TVs like the Q80T QLED, you find the launcher bar is smaller than before, and this means more apps can fit onscreen at one time. At the same time, a new mobile multi-view feature enables you to watch on both the smartphone and on your TV simultaneously while casting.

You will find Tizen on all of the QLED TVs and most Samsung 4K TVs. Higher-end models will get Bixby built-in too. But all the Samsung sets come with Samsung SmartThings that allows the TV to act as the center of your connected home.

They are listed here cheaply on Amazon.

Best smart TV with WebOS (LG CX OLED)

The smartest TV out there – with an OLED panel too

LG rewrote their rulebook for smart TV platforms with their webOS starting the trend for minimal, simplified user interfaces in 2014.

Fast forward to 2020; the webOS is still an exceptional smart TV platform that is leading the pack with its latest iteration featuring on the CX OLED.

The UI that is still built around a launch Bar for apps, inputs, and features remains tidy and can be customized and also change the running order to best suit how you use the set. If you like Miracast images from your smartphone, grab the screen share app the cursor of LG based magic remote and move it up further the pecking order.

LG is also leading the way when it comes to voice recognition with CX OLED supporting LG’s own ThinQ platform, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. The support for all of these is built-in, and this means there is no need for an external listening device.

There is a new sports feature that has been inserted that helps you to keep track of the broadcasts featuring your favorite team, this is a minor addition, but it is personal nonetheless.

App support is another feature that is surprisingly good—Netflix streams in 4K with both HDR and Dolby Vision as well as Dolby Atmos audio when available. There is also Amazon with UHD HDR and with Youtube in 4K and Disney Plus naturally in the mix too. The other options that are available include Now TV, Sky Store, Wuaki TV, with all the main channel catch up services.

You will not find Freeview Play on the 2020 LG TVs for some reason, which is something of a loss, especially for UK viewers. However, we hope that this will be amended at a later date.

You can have a look at it in the Amazon listing here on the cheap.

Best smart TV with Android TV (Sony AG9 OLED)

A comprehensive platform that gets better every year

The Sony AG9 OLED was one of the pat years best TVs with no doubt, but what about there software?

Android TVs are the nearest the smart TV universe has to a standardized operating system, but you will still find variations between brand executions. Supporters of Android TV are Philips and the US, Sharp, and Hisense. It is also available on the Nvidia Shield streaming device.

For Sony TV, it has the most comprehensive Google solution. For the views in the UK, it has cleverly layered a YouView program guide platform on top that is addressing one of Android TVs big weaknesses catch up TV provision. The view of your app ensures that all of the main catchup services are provided and are also accessible via a rollback 7day EPG.

While the rest of the TV platforms make a virtue of their minimalism, Android stacks the screen with various layers of content. There is also a row of specific Sony selected content that is followed by apps for Netflix, Amazon Video, links to the Google Play Store, Google Play Music, Youtube, Google Play Movies, and so on.

Owners of Android phones or tablets can use their device to control their android TVs via the Sony TV SideView app, and the Google Assistant continues to get more useful with its own Android TV integration.

Android TV devices also have Chromecast built-in that helps to simplify streaming from mobile android devices. Controllers from the Logitech and Razer also have a promise of gaming without the need for a console.

In my personal experience, Android is the least stable of the various smart platform that is available, with Sony exhibiting more than their fair share of failures. It is not unusual to get notifications that various aspects of the Android Platform have stopped working, and some of the messages are inscrutable, and the best option is to restart the TV. This is becoming less of an issue, though, as Android TV updates improve the platform.

They are listed here on the cheap on Amazon, you can have a look at them.

Best Smart TV with MyHomeScreen (Panasonic HZ1500)

Panasonic’s in-house OS is simple, if uninspiring.

The Panasonic My Home Screen smart platform is simple compared to most of their competition, and this means it is not as fleshed out as the likes of WebOS or Tizen, but it will offer a relatively unobtrusive interface for those that simply want to get on with watching some TV.

As of 2020, My Home Screen on its fifth-generation, and it is largely the same as the Firefox OS that it was originally based.

When you press the home button on the remote, you are given a choice of three options; Live TV, Apps, and Devices. Simplicity is the strength of this platform and makes it easier to navigate and find things by storing apps helpfully in a single location. You can also pin your favorite apps to the home page if you want quick access.

You will also find this latest iteration on all 2020 Panasonic TVs though it runs faster and displays its apps and content in the best light through the TV makers high-end OLED sets like the HZ1500 featured here.

Since they have a smart platform that is relatively simple, it does not need a vast amount of processing power for you to operate, and this is a lot more responsive, robust, and free from crashes. My Home Screen is not fragmented like other platforms, and it does not bombard you with recommendations. It delivers all of the streaming and catchup services that you need.

Thanks to having the Freeview Play that is a comprehensive list of catchup services included, they cover BBC iPlayer, ALL4, ITVhub, My5, BBC News and sport, and the UK Play. The iPlayer app supports LG and 4K, both of which the BBC trialed during the world cup.

The app support is also generally good, though you are missing out on both NOW TV and Disney Plus, the latter of which is an odd feeling, as the biggest TV streaming service to launch in the past year.

Best Smart TV with SmartCast (Vizio P-Series Quantum X)

SmartCast is a slow, but sufficient smart TV platform.

SmartCast is a great idea on paper because it has all of the fun extras of the Android TV platform, including the ability to cast content to your screen using a more logical layout.

When you turn on a SmartCast TV, you should be prepared to see three rows, one featured row that contains large marquee images to point you to specific shows or movies, another row for recommended content, and the other row for all your apps.

If you would like to drill down to specific content categories or to the settings, you can move to one of the other tabs or go to the top right of the TV screen to perform a search.

As much as SmartCast performs a lot of versatility in what you are able to stream, it is unfortunate that it is also slower of the smart platforms and also misbehaves on occasion.

With that said, we can’t knock the Vizio P-Series Quantum X as it is one of the best TVs despite its middling nature of its OS.

I found them on the cheap in this Amazon listing here.

Best smart TV with Vidaa U (Hisense U7QF)

A stable platform that doesn’t always get the best processing thrown in

Hisense makes use of a few different smart TV platforms, and Roku TV and Android TV are among them, but there are a number of midrange Hisense sets that instead use an in house operating system called Vidaa U.

Vidaa U for the time I’ve known it has been quite a stable, smart platform through the various tests. It may not be the flashiest OS, but it is well laid out and largely copes well with the demands of modern smart TV though they have the occasionally frustrating quark like the O8B OLEDs persistent screensaver.

It does not boast of many apps and services like the rest of the platforms, but you will find the likes of Netflix, Rakuten, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus, compete with 4K and HDR playback where platforms offer them. UK viewers get Freeview Play for catchup streaming from UK broadcasters too.

You may see Netflix given pride of place too, likely in a lucrative deal with Hisense, and that makes it impossible to move or delete the app from your home screen on Vidaa U set in the UK.

What is new for 2020 is that Vidaa Art has taken inspiration from Samsung Arts Mode, though it is barely fleshed out, and it is filled with basic landscape photos with lots of fantasy drawings from the DeviantArt website.

Vidaa Free apes TV platforms like Samsung TV Plus but with zero content apart from youtube videos that are free to watch.

You can find Hisense TV on the cheap in this listing here on Amazon.

Quick Fix: Amazon Fire TV

Amazon’s OS is a winner for streaming sticks, if not TVs

I can’t talk about the best smart TV platforms and fail to mention Amazon Fire TV, which is the proprietary OS used in the Amazon Fire Streaming stick with other TVs.

Though it is a bit lesser known compared to other TVs in the list largely because it is limited to installation in a few TVs from JVC, Insignia, and Toshiba.

The problem is not the OS, which, in my opinion, in all logical measurements, it is fine. It is only that the TV manufacturers tha Amazon has partnered with are not great, and they put out the cheapest TVs in the US market. Though some of the TVs are fine many, including those that use the Amazon Fire TV platform, are not.

This is something that Toshiba is hoping to fix with its upcoming Amazon Fire TV Edition with Dolby vision TV. This was announced in mid-2019, but the review samples I have to wait for them for me to test and see how their latest software stacks up.

If you are interested in the versatility of having an Amazon smart TV platform, I would recommend you buy Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K instead that you can plug into any dumb or smart TV anyway.

Common Questions

What can smart TVs do?

Smart TVs are internet-connected TV that you use to stream shows, films, and programs over the internet alongside instead of using the terrestrial broadcasts.

What’s a ‘dumb’ TV?

A dumb TV is a set that does not have smart capabilities or is not internet-connected though the set boxes or streaming sticks are able to add those things.

What channels are on smart TVs?

This varies depending on the country that one is located in and also on the TV manufacturer. If you are on Samsung smart TVs, you will get Samsung TV Plus app, which has over 100 channels, while Vizio TVs come stocked with the Pluto TV powered WatchFree app and has more than 200 channels.

Most of the smart TVs you will get come with at least a few services that will offer you some free content, however, if you are a UK viewer, you will get 12 HD channels and 60 standard channels through Freeview and more through the paid-for entertainment packages.

Do smart TVs have built-in Wi-Fi?

No. you will need to have a home internet connection, either Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Do smart TVs have Netflix?

All of the major smart platforms will enable support for Netflix, even those that have Amazon Fire TV interface. There are some remotes to these days that come with a dedicated Netflix button. You will need to subscribe to Netflix for you to access the content that is within the app.

Do you need Wi-Fi for smart TVs?

You will need to get the internet of some description for you to be able to use internet services on the TV either through Wi-Fi or through Ethernet. The one way you can go around this is through casting from your phone to the TV.

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SMART HOME GADGETS ARE MY THING! I’ve been building my smart home for a few years. I recently started thinking of everything that I’ve learned over these years and everything I wish I knew when I got started. I created this site to share with you all of the helpful tips I’ve come across. Hopefully, you will enjoy my posts and be a regular around here!

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