Whether or not the time is right to buy a Smart TV at the moment is a difficult question. So many technical innovations have been achieved, yet so many others are still awaiting and being developed. The fear of buying a TV which becomes obsolete in a couple of years is understandable, at the same time it should not be over-estimated. We are sure that the high standards set by the newest models are so advanced, they will persist for a long period. Once decided to purchase a Smart TV, the sole question remaining is “which one?”. There are numerous brands offering a wide array of different models. From basic to advanced, small to large, cheap to expensive: for almost every individual need there is a suitable model.
On this page we want to give you some step-by-step advice on how to choose the right model to satisfy your needs. If you feel confident enough already, have a look at our comparison table to find some of the best Smart TVs of the year 2012 put to the test.
As mentioned, the first decision to make is whether or not it is necessary to buy a whole TV. If not, there are certain alternatives which enable smart features on your normal TV as well, but we will come to that later. This decision is actually not a hard one. If your current TV is an old model (5 – 10 years) or even a CRT TV and you want to buy a new one, we would undoubtedly advise you to buy a Smart TV. Everything else would not make sense at this stage. On the other hand, if you already have, for example, an HD-ready Plasma TV but are tempted to go for an improved version, we would advise you to think twice. There are two other possibilities which can even make your current TV smart. One of them is the set-top box, which is a small box you can plug in to your TV and which contains almost all the elements of a real Smart TV. The second possibility is the HDMI dongle. This little gadget looks just like a USB-stick and can simply be plugged in the HDMI port of your TV. Much like the set-top box it provides your TV with a limited amount of Smart TV features. Although those two solutions are far less expensive than a complete Smart TV, they will not satisfy your needs in terms of connectivity, web-browsing and app availability.
Short: If it is time for a new TV, buy a smart one. If your TV, provided it is HD and has an HDMI port, is still performing well, choose one of the alternatives.
All the major TV and electronics manufacturers have discovered the great potential the Smart TV market has and are thus all competing for the top spot. Currently, Samsung and LG are the most innovative and most successful companies, followed by Philips, Sony and Sharp. While Google powers a lot of set-top boxes, Apple has its own device and is furthermore rumored to release a Smart TV itself. For the consumer this competition has two sides. Regarding the vast offer, companies are in constant fierce concurrence which allows the prices to drop and in the end this benefits the customers. On the other hand, such a vast offer sometimes makes it difficult for the customer to stay on top of things. As we are an independent company, we are not promoting any particular brand, but rather try to do justice to all of them. Each brand offers unique features and advantages. Some put focus on technical perfection, some on design and usability and some on innovative software and connectivity. However, at the moment we would advise you to go for Samsung or LG, as they both manage to combine the most important features of all the categories described just before.
Short: LG and Samsung are the well-deserved market leaders at the moment, with other brands following closely. We would therefore go for those two.
Once decided on the brand, the journey to your Smart TV has reached its final step: The selection of the appropriate model. Whereas the amount of brands was still manageable, the number of each of their different models is enormous. There is no point in trying to list all the models, but we can, however, give you a basic overview on how those models differ. All the major brands have a similar product range: models range from being low-budget, basic equipped and barely connectable to expensive, high-end and high-performing. Prices range from $300 (£200) to $10,000 (£6,500). Although this may sound naive, in general you can assume that the higher the price, the better the TV. To specify this statement, let’s have a look at three categories we see as the most important.
Visual quality and screen size: more expensive models have higher frame refresh rates, contrast ratios and viewing angles. All of this enhances the visual quality, while cheaper models display data less smoothly. In addition, the high-end models mostly feature 3D and Blu-ray. Colors as well as shades of black are shown more natural and powerful on better models. Furthermore, they often use backlit LED, as opposed to edge-lit LED on cheaper models, which allows for a better balanced picture. Screen size is an important factor when we talk about prices as well. You will notice that as the screen size increases, the price rapidly grows.
Design and usability: cheap models are generally bulkier and visually less appealing, but of course the latter is always subject to personal taste. Expensive models tend to come with more user-friendly features such as motion and voice control and are generally as slim as possible. Some are even award-winning design objects.
Smart TV features: probably the most important category, considering why you are here. The more expensive a model is, the more and better Smart TV features it has. Again, a pretty general assumption which most of the times is true. Some cheaper TVs, sold as smart ones, can turn out to be a bad surprise with having almost no usable features. If you climb the price scale, you will see that more features are available the higher you get. These include more ports for external devices, better access to apps, big platforms who provide them, WiFi and a full internet browser as well as faster processors.
In the end, based on those guidelines, it is up to you to choose the best solution for your needs. If you know what you are looking for and keep in mind the important points discussed above, it should not be difficult anymore for you to decide which Smart TV suits you best. Additionally, you can compare some of the best Smart TVs in 2012 on our comparison table. Have fun!