There are only 2 operating systems for smartphones – Android & iOS, there are many operating systems for smart TV. Android holds a dominant market share in the smartphone market, but Android TV is much less dominant in the smart TV market.
When you are buying a smartphone, it is easy – you just have to choose between iOS & Android. When you are buying a laptop, it is also easy – you just have to choose between macOS & Windows.
Things are more complicated when you are buying a smart TV or a media streaming device – your choices for operating systems are a lot more than just 2.
To make things even more complicated, even TVs from the same brand may run different operating systems. For example, TVs from Hisense can run either Android TV or Roku TV depending on the specific model. While this Hisense mode – Hisense 50H8G 50-Inch Class H8 Quantum Series ULED Smart TV – runs Android TV, a different Hisense model – Hisense 55R8F 55-Inch Class R8 Series Dolby Vision & Atmos 4K ULED Smart TV – runs Roku TV.
So when you are shopping for a smart TV, do not assume that all TVs from the same brand will run the same operating system. You need to pay special attention to what operating system a TV is running to avoid any future surprises.
Many of us find this proliferation of choices of operating system for smart TVs (and media streaming devices) perplexing and have difficulty understanding their differences. Besides Android TV, there are also Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV, Samsung Tizen, LG webOS, Vizio SmartCast, and on and on. How do they compare to each other? How do you choose among them?
For those in a hurry, the following scorecard summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the major smart TV operating systems based on streaming content selection, ease of use, features, performance, and stability. After the chart, we will examine each operating system in more detail.
Smart TV Platform Comparison – Streaming Content Service Selection
How do you choose a TV operating system (also called a platform)? Most people buy smart TVs to watch streaming content services such as Netflix and Apple TV+. Therefore, more important than anything else, you should check to make sure whatever smart TV platform you are thinking of choosing has the streaming content services you want to watch.
Highly popular streaming content services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are usually available on all major smart TV platforms. But less popular streaming content services might not be.
To save you time and make your life easier, we have done the legwork for you to compile this streaming content service selection information for the major smart TV operating systems.
Streaming Content Service Table Chart
|Android TV||Roku TV||Amazon Fire TV||Apple TV / tvOS||Samsung Tizen||LG webOS||Vizio SmartCast|
|Amazon Prime Video||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|CBS All Access||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
As you can see, some streaming content services are not available on certain smart TV platforms. What if you really want to buy a particular smart TV but it does not support your favorite streaming content service?
Say you are in love with this beautiful LG OLED55CXPUA CX 55 inch Class 4K Smart OLED TV. The OLED screen is stunning – much brighter and better than any LED or QLED screens could ever hope to be. And LG, as the only manufacturer of OLED TV panels in the world, is of course widely regarded as the maker of the best OLED TVs you can get anywhere. But there is a problem. You want to stream HBO Max on your TV. And as you can see, LG’s webOS smart TV operating system does not support HBO Max, at least not yet. You have your mind set on that LG TV and you do not want to settle for a TV from a different brand. What can you do?
You have 3 options:
- Media Streaming Device: Buy a media streaming device that does support the streaming content services you want. Plug it into your TV and you are all set. Back to our example, HBO Max is supported by both Android TV and Apple TV. So you can buy an Android TV or Apple TV box and plug it into your LG TV to get HBO Max on your TV.
- Google Chromecast: Google Chromecast is a device that lets you play your favorite content on your smartphone, tablet, or computer and “cast” it onto your TV. In our example, you can buy a $30 Google Chromecast and plug it into your LG TV. Then you can play HBO Max on your smartphone (both Android & iPhone) or tablet (both Android & iPad) or computer (both Mac & Windows) and HBO Max will show up on your big screen LG TV. To make things even easier, if your smart TV is running Android TV or LG webOS, it will already have Chromecast built in. So in this case, you do not even have to shell out $30 for a Chromecast device.
- Apple AirPlay 2: Apple AirPlay 2 is similar to Google Chromecast, but it is created by Apple. Like Chromecast, AirPlay 2 works on iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows. To do this, you need an AirPlay 2 enabled smart TV. According to Apple, only smart TVs from LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio are AirPlay 2 enabled. So we are all set in our example with the LG smart TV. All you need to do is to play HBO Max on your smartphone (both Android & iPhone) or tablet (both Android & iPad) or computer (both Mac & Windows) and HBO Max will show up on your AirPlay 2 enabled LG TV.
Smart TV Platform Comparison – Ease of Use, Features, Performance, Stability
We have looked at the streaming content service selections for various smart TV platforms. Some platforms (e.g. Android TV, Roku TV, Apple TV) offer more streaming content than others (e.g. LG webOS & Vizio SmartCast). We have also shown you how you can remedy any problem of unavailable streaming content providers using 1 of 3 options: media streaming device, Google Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay 2.
While streaming content selection is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a smart TV, it is not the only thing. Other factors such as features, performance, stability, and ease of use are also very important.
In this section, we will look at these factors one by one and compare the various smart TV platforms based on these 6 factors.
- Ease of Use: How easy it is to use this smart TV platform? Is the user interface intuitive and simple to use? Are the menus clear and easy to navigate?
- Search & Recommendation: How effective is it to search for specific contents and apps on this platform? What about the contents & apps recommendation – are they any good?
- Voice Interaction: Does this platform comes with voice commands & voice assistant? How good and effective are they?
- Smart Home Integration: Does this platform offer built in integration with smart home devices such as doorbells, thermostats, security systems, and surveillance cameras? How seamless is the integration?
- Performance: How responsive & fast is the software? How long does it take to see the home screen after you turn on the TV? How long does it take to switch between screens? As users, we all hate lags and waiting.
- Stability: How stable is the platform? Are you going to get random errors that tell you the software has stopped working? Do apps freeze up?
Android TV is quite a popular smart TV platform. You can find it on both smart TVs and media streaming devices from many different manufacturers. Its greatest strength lies in 2 things: seamless integration with the Google & Android ecosystems and the huge selection of streaming content services & apps available.
- Ease of Use: Android TV has never been known for its ease of use. Compared to other smart TV platforms such as LG webOS & Samsung Tizen, the user interface of Android TV can be quite hard to navigate. The most recent version of Android TV, Android TV 10.0 released in December 2019 has closed that gap significantly. But this is still one of the weaker points of Android TV. Also, as this is Android we are talking about (Android TV, but still), different TV manufacturers all feel the need to tweak the operating system to add in their own proprietary modifications. This means the Android TV user interface of a Sony TV is different from that of a Philips TV which is different from that of an Nvidia Shield media streaming device. This lack of user interface consistency can be annoying.
- Search & Recommendation: Google made its name in search. It is also well known for its recommendation algorithm (the video recommendations on YouTube are scarily good.) So you would expect Android TV to shine in search & recommendation. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This is not to say the search & recommendation features of Android TV are bad. They do an okay job. It is just that some other platforms, such as Samsung Tizen & LG webOS, are better.
- Voice Interaction: Android TV is integrated with Google Assistant. It offers one of the best voice Interaction & command recognition on the market.
- Smart Home Integration: Android TV is integrated with Google Home. You can easily control your connected smart home devices from your Android TV. If you are a user of Google Home or Google Nest, Android TV would be a great choice.
- Performance: Performance is not the best. Switching between screens or inputs is noticeably lagging. More recent versions of Android TV has been making consistent progress in this area.
- Stability: Stability is another area where Android TV needs improvement. The fact that TV & streaming device manufacturers have felt the need to add in their own modifications only makes this problem worse. Error messages were not uncommon. Once again, recent versions have improved greatly in this area.
Roku TV has the biggest market share in the media streaming device segment. It is also available in many smart TVs such as those from Sharp and TCL.
- Ease of Use: Ease of use is great, one of the best in fact. Significantly better than that of Android TV.
- Search & Recommendation: Another strong suite of Roku TV. The search function is fast and easy. Search results are good. Recommendations are relevant.
- Voice Interaction: Voice interaction of Roku TV is not as good as that of Android TV. But still very good and very robust.
- Smart Home Integration: Smart home integration is probably the biggest (and only) weak spot of Roku TV. Roku TV is not really well integrated with smart home devices. You can install some apps here and there to control a few connected home devices. But if you want to make your smart TV the central hub to control all your smart home devices, Roku TV is probably not the best choice.
- Performance: Performance is great. The user interface is faster and smoother than Android TV.
- Stability: Another strong point of Roku TV. The software is very stable. We have not encountered any errors during our time with Roku TV.
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV can be found on both smart TVs (Insignia & Toshiba) and media streaming devices (Amazon Fire TV Stick & Fire TV Cube.)
- Ease of Use: The user interface is quite intuitive. Not as good as that of Roku TV, but about the same level as that of Android TV.
- Search & Recommendation: Search & recommendation is annoying. The functionality itself is okay. But Amazon, being a hardcore e-commerce company, has decided to turn Fire TV into a platform to sell stuff. Search results and recommendations are littered with ads – you get ads for content, ads for Amazon products, and ads for 3rd party products. If you are not a big fan of ads, stay away from Fire TV.
- Voice Interaction: Unsurprisingly, Amazon Fire TV comes with Alexa built-in. It is one of the best smart TV platforms for voice interaction.
- Smart Home Integration: Fire TV is great as a control hub for smart home devices. Any smart device that works with Alexa will also work with Fire TV. You can control connected doorbells, video cameras, smart thermostats, smart locks, connected light bulbs, and more – all from your Fire TV. If you are a user of Amazon Echo, Fire TV is a great choice.
- Performance: Performance is middling. It is not the fastest platform but not the slowest either. About the same level as Android TV.
- Stability: Stability is another weak spot. Error messages and app freeze ups were not uncommon.
Apple TV / tvOS
Technically speaking, Apple TV / tvOS is not found in smart TVs – it is only available as a media streaming device. But because the Apple TV box is such a popular choice among consumers and you can just plug it into any TV, we are including it here nonetheless.
- Ease of Use: Apple is famous for the user friendliness of its products. Apple TV does not disappoint. The user interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. The design looks beautiful.
- Search & Recommendation: The search & recommendation features are competent. Not the best, not the worst either.
- Voice Interaction: As expected, Apple TV is integrated with Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. It offers great voice interaction.
- Smart Home Integration: Apple TV is integrated with Apple HomeKit. You can seamlessly turn your Apple TV into a hub to control all your HomeKit smart devices (light bulbs, thermostats, weather stations, light switches, sensors, Wi-Fi routers, security cameras, sprinkler controllers, water controllers, smoke & carbon monoxide detectors, etc) and HomePod smart speakers. It works great.
- Performance: Performance is fast and smooth. No complaints.
- Stability: Stability is great.
Tizen is used by Samsung only. All Samsung smart TVs run Tizen. For years Tizen lagged behind LG’s webOS in terms of features and performance. It is fair to say that Tizen has finally caught up. These days, Tizen is one of the best smart TV platforms on the market.
- Ease of Use: Ease of use is one of the best on the market. I would say it is in a three way tie with LG webOS and Roku TV for the top spot.
- Search & Recommendation: Again, one of the best. The built-in Universal Guide makes it very easy to find shows and movies. Search is quick & easy. Recommendations are on point.
- Voice Interaction: Tizen is integrated with Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant and a competitor to Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Amazon Alexa. While Bixby can be found in many Samsung smartphones, it is not as refined as its more famous competitors from Google, Apple, and Amazon. I would say voice interaction is the weakest spot of Tizen.
- Smart Home Integration: Tizen offers the best smart home integration among all smart TV platforms. It is integrated with SmartThings, Samsung’s smart home automation platform. You can use Tizen smart TV as a hub to control a wide range of 3rd partysmart home devices including smart locks, smart light bulbs, video cameras, thermostats, and robot vacuums. You can also use Tizen TV to control Samsung’s home theater products as well as its smart refrigerators.
- Performance: Performance is very good, on par with Roku TV but slightly below that of LG webOS.
- Stability: Stability is rock solid. We have not encountered any problems during our time with Tizen.
webOS is used by LG only. All LG smart TVs run webOS. LG smart fridges and smart washing machines also run webOS. LG webOS was the first smart TV operating system that turned smart TV into a mainstream product. Years later, webOS remains the most polished, mature, and user friendly smart TV operating system on the market.
- Search & Recommendation: Search & recommendation is another strong suit of webOS. The search function is quick and gives excellent results. Recommendations are very relevant.
- Voice Interaction: For voice interaction, webOS has Google Assistant built in. This gives LG webOS one of the best voice capabilities on the market, on par with Apple TV & Amazon Fire TV.
- Smart Home Integration: For smart home automation, webOS is integrated with Google Home. Anything you can do with Google Home, you can do with an LG smart TV. webOS also works seamlessly with Philips smart light bulbs, Nest smart thermostats, LG smart fridges, and LG smart washing machines, among other smart home devices.
- Performance: webOS’s performance is the best among all smart TV operating systems. It is responsive, smooth, and very fast.
- Stability: Stability is just as good as performance. We never ran into any error messages, system crashes, or app freeze ups during our time with webOS.
Vizio is a budget brand for smart TV. It is interesting that instead of adopting a 3rd party solution such as Android TV or Roku TV, Vizio has decided to develop and maintain its own TV operating system – SmartCast. For years, SmartCast was an also-ran smart TV platform. Not anymore. With the 2020 release of SmartCast 4.0, it has finally become a competitive product.
- Ease of Use: Ease of use of SmartCast is okay, definitely not as good as that of webOS or Roku TV.
- Search & Recommendation: Search is quite good. Most of the results returned are relevant. Same with the recommendations – most of the shows and movies recommended by Vizio SmartCast are quite pertinent.
- Voice Interaction: Vizio SmartCast used to have one of the worst voice interaction capabilities among all smart TV operating systems. Give Vizio credit, they realized this and took the effort to integrate Google Assistant into SmartCast. With that integration, SmartCast now has one of the best voice interaction on the market.
- Smart Home Integration: This is the weakest spot of SmartCast. It lacks smart home integration capability. If you want to turn your smart TV into a hub for smart home, Vizio is not for you.
- Performance: Performance is still quite slow despite recent improvement.
- Stability: Stability is quite good.
Smart TV Operating System Comparison
|Android TV||Roku TV||Amazon Fire TV||Apple TV / tvOS||Samsung Tizen||LG webOS||Vizio Smart-Cast|
|Found in Smart TVs||Sony, Sharp, Philips, Toshiba, TCL||Sharp, Hitachi, TCL, Hisense||Toshiba, Insignia||NONE||Samsung||LG||Vizio|
|Found in Media Streaming Devices||Nvidia Shield||Roku||Fire TV||Apple TV||NONE||NONE||NONE|
|Content & App Selection (Out of 30 pts)||30||28||25||28||24||22||20|
|Ease of Use (Out of 20 pts)||12||20||10||20||20||20||12|
|Search & Recommendation (Out of 10 pts)||8||10||8||8||10||10||8|
|Voice Interaction (Out of 10 pts)||10||8||10||10||6||10||10|
|Smart Home Integration (Out of 10 pts)||8||8||6||8||10||8||4|
|Performance (Out of 10 pts)||6||8||6||8||8||10||5|
|Stability (Out of 10 pts)||7||10||6||8||10||10||7|
|OVERALL (Out of 100 pts)||81||92||71||90||88||90||66|
To better understand the above scorecard, let us take a more detailed look at the major operating systems for smart TVs and media streaming devices. They include:
Created by Google based on Android. It is found in smart TVs from Sony, Sharp, Philips, Toshiba, and TCL. It can also be found in numerous media streaming devices such as Nvidia Shield and Xiaomi Mi Box
Created by Roku, the largest maker of media streaming devices in the world. It is used by all Roku streaming devices such as Roku Streaming Stick+ and Roku Ultra. It is also found in many smart TVs including those from Sharp, Hitachi, TCL, Hisense, and Westinghouse.
Amazon Fire TV
Created by Amazon. It is found in all Amazon’s media streaming devices including Amazon Fire TV Cube & Fire TV Stick. It can also be found in smart TVs from Toshiba and Insignia, Best Buy’s house TV brand.
Apple TV / tvOS
Created by Apple based on iOS. It is found in all Apple TV, the media streaming device from Apple.
Created by Samsung. It is found in all smart TVs from Samsung
Created by LG. It is found in all smart TVs from LG
Created by Vizio. It is found in all smart TVs from Vizio
In this article, we have covered a lot of information about Android TV and smart TV. By now you are well equipped to make an educated decision on what smart TV to pick. Before you go, let us do a quick recap:
- A smart TV is a TV set with integrated Internet connectivity and computing power (processor, RAM, storage)
- A smart TV is a computing device just like a laptop or a smartphone, but with a much bigger screen
- A media streaming device is a smart TV without a screen
- Android TV is an operating system for smart TVs (and media streaming devices) just like Android is an operating system for smartphones
- Android TV is also a type of smart TV that runs the Android TV operating system
- There are several major operating systems for smart TVs and media streaming devices: Android TV, Roku TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Tizen, LG webOS, Vizio SmartCast
- When choosing a smart TV operating system, one of the most important factors is how much streaming content is available for that platform. Android TV scores very high on this
- Other factors for choosing smart TV operating systems include ease of use, features, performance, and stability
- Based on those factors, Android TV is a very good smart TV operating system. But as of now, the best smart TV operating systems are Roku TV, Apple TV / tvOS, Samsung Tizen, and LG webOS
- You should also pay attention to hardware specs when choosing a smart TV. Hardware technologies to pay attention to include LED – LCD, OLED, QLED, 4K, 8K, refresh rate, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, Technicolor Advanced HDR, IMAX Enhanced, soundbar, Dolby Atmos, HDMI ports
Benjamin is a certified financial advisor, with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He is knowledgeable about various business and financial topics, such as retirement planning and investment management. Ben has been recognized for his work in the financial planning industry. He has also been featured in various publications.