The world of consumer electronics and gadgets have been getting more and more complicated every day. This is especially true for the world of TV.
TV sets used to be very simple. It used to be the case that when you buy a TV set, you just have to worry about price and picture quality. You hook it up to your cable box and your DVD or Blu-Ray player and you are done. No apps and no streaming services to worry about. Those days are long gone.
If you have not bought a TV for some time, you may find the current landscape of TV technologies confusing and bewildering. These days, when you buy a new TV set you are almost certainly buying a smart TV because most TV vendors no longer make “dumb” TV anymore. But more than just smart TV, manufacturers are also casually throwing around a lot of tech terms in their marketing materials: Android TV, Fire TV, Roku TV, media streaming device, Apple TV, and on and on. What do these terms even mean? And how are they related to and different from each other?
If you are confused by these tech terms and want to understand the differences between Android TV and smart TV, you have come to the right place. We have compiled all the relevant information you need into an ultimate guide to help you to navigate this exciting but confusing new world of TV technologies.
For the rest of this article, we will explain the differences between such things as smart TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku TV, and media streaming devices. We will compare them to show you how they are similar to and different from each other. We will also offer useful tips on how to choose a smart TV. After you have finished this article, you will be knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision on buying your next TV. Without further ado, let’s get started.
What is Smart TV
A smart TV is a TV set with integrated Internet connectivity and computing power (processor, RAM, storage). It connects to the Internet through either its built-in Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable.
Smart TV Functionality
Just like a smartphone, a smart TV lets you run apps locally and also access content and services over the Internet:
- Paid TV & Movie Streaming: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, etc
- Free Ad-Supported TV & Movie Streaming: Crackle, Pluto TV, Tubi, etc
- Music Streaming: Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Apple Music, etc
- Video Streaming: YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch, etc
- Photo Storage & Viewing: Flickr, Google Photos, etc
- Social Network: Facebook, Twitter, etc
- App Store: Different smart TVs come with different integrated app stores. You can download apps from the integrated app stores and run apps on your smart TV
- Gaming: Download games from the integrated app store and you can play games on your TV. If available, you can also play streamed games over gaming services such as Steam or Google Stadia
- Web Browsing: Most smart TVs come with a built-in web browser that you can use to browse the World Wide Web. However, web browsing on a smart TV can be quite challenging. Typically, smart TVs do not come with keyboards or mice. So you would have to navigate the web using a remote control or voice commands. Neither method is very user friendly for web browsing. To make things easier, you can buy a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse and connect them to your smart TV.
Some of the more recent models of smart TV also include other functionality such as:
- Voice Based Assistant: One of the biggest trends in smart TVs is the integration of voice based virtual assistants similar to Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri. You can talk to your smart TV and ask it to check the weather or do shopping. Smart TVs with this functionality typically have a microphone built into their remote controls – you interact with the TV by speaking at the remote. Some of the more expensive models might come with a far field microphone built directly into the TV set itself – that way you can just speak to your TV across the room without having to find the remote first.
- Smart Connected Home: Another smart TV trend is to turn the TV into the hub of your connected smart home. Many smart TVs come with a smart home control dashboard. Using your smart TV as a central hub, you can control smart thermostats, streamed video from smart doorbells & surveillance cameras, control robotic vacuums, and control any other number of connected devices – all from the comfort of your couch.
As you can see, a smart TV is a computing device just like a laptop or a smartphone. You can watch videos, play games, check Facebook, browse YouTube, and listen to Spotify on a smart TV just like you can do all those things on a laptop or a smartphone. The main difference is the size of the screen:
- Smartphone: a computing device with a small screen of 4 to 7 inches
- Laptop: a computing device with a medium screen of 11 to 17 inches
- Smart TV: a computing device with a large screen of 32 to 100 inches
Smart TV Brands
There are many vendors of smart TVs. Major brands include:
- Samsung – a premium brand from South Korea. Known for its high end OLED TVs
- LG – another premium brand from South Korea. Known for its high end OLED TVs. LG is also the only company in the world that makes OLED TV panels. It sells OLED TV panels to other companies such as Samsung & Sony who then make their OLED TV sets using those OLED TV panels
- Sony – a premium brand from Japan. Known for its high end OLED TVs and high quality image processing chips
- Vizio – a value brand from the US
- Insignia – a value brand owned by Best Buy
- TCL – a budget brand from China
- Hisense – another budget brand from China
Different brands and models of smart TVs will have different functionality. Some apps might be available on one smart TV but not on another. Likewise, some streaming services might be available on one smart TV but not on another. So be careful when you pick a smart TV – make sure the TV you choose supports the apps and streaming services you want. We will get into this in more detail in a later section.
Smart TV Downsides
Given the fact that a smart TV is a computing device no different from a laptop or a smartphone, it should not be a surprise that smart TVs also come with privacy and security concerns just like laptops and smartphones do.
- Privacy Concerns: When you use a laptop or a smartphone to go online, you are being tracked every step of the way by companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, or Netflix. Using a smart TV is not any different. All sorts of companies, including the manufacturer of your smart TV, will be tracking your activities and collecting information about your viewing habits. In 2017, Vizio, a smart TV vendor, agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a case with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the New Jersey attorney general’s office after the agencies accused it of secretly collecting and selling data about its customers’ locations, demographics and viewing habits. Other smart TV vendors no doubt have been doing the same thing.
- Security Concerns: Just like your laptop can get hacked by hackers over the Internet, your smart TV is equally vulnerable. Hackers could hack into your smart TV to gain access to your viewing habits. If your TV is equipped with a voice based assistant and a far field microphone, hackers could also use that to eavesdrop on your conversations inside your own home. Last but not the least, hackers could use your smart TV to gain access to your smart home devices such as doorbell and security alarms if they are connected to your TV.
Media Streaming Devices (Digital Media Players)
Say you have an old TV you bought a long time ago. It still works perfectly fine but it is not a smart TV. Now, you want to watch Netflix on your TV. What can you do? Well, you could go out and buy a new smart TV that supports Netflix. This would probably set you back a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the screen size and feature set of the smart TV you choose.
On the other hand, you could just buy a media streaming device such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick or an Apple TV box for $30 to $150, plug it into the HDMI port of your TV, and turn your TV into a smart TV. That is it. Now you have a smart TV and can stream shows from Netflix and Disney+. All for a low, low price of $30 to $150.
Sometimes even when you already have a smart TV you might still want to buy a media streaming device. For example, say your smart TV is several years old and does not support some latest and greatest streaming video services you want to watch. Instead of buying a new smart TV, you could just buy a media streaming device that does support the streaming video services you want and plug it into your TV. It will be a lot less expensive this way. In other words, a media streaming device is a quick and inexpensive way to upgrade your smart TV to support the latest streaming services and features.
Media streaming devices are also called digital media players. They provide the networking and computing capability (Wi-Fi connection to the Internet, processor, RAM, storage) that makes a smart TV “smart.” All you have to do is to plug a media streaming device into your TV set.
In a way, a media streaming device is a smart TV without a screen.
So, to recap:
- Smartphone: a computing device with a small screen of 4 to 7 inches
- Laptop: a computing device with a medium screen of 11 to 17 inches
- Smart TV: a computing device with a large screen of 40 to 100 inches
- Media Streaming Device: a computing device with no screen. Needs to be plugged into a TV to use the screen of that TV
Popular media streaming devices include:
- Roku Streaming Stick+
- Roku Express
- Roku Express+
- Roku Premiere
- Roku Ultra
- Roku Ultra LT
- Amazon Fire TV
- Fire TV Cube
- Fire TV Stick 4K
- Fire TV Stick
- Apple TV
- Nvidia Shield TV
- Shield TV
- Shield TV Pro
Just like smart TVs, different media streaming devices support different app stores, streaming services, and feature sets. An app that is available for one streaming device might not be available for a different device. A video streaming service that you can watch on one device might not be available if you are using a different device. For example, the video streaming service Vudu is available on Apple TV and Roku but not on Amazon Fire TV.
And just like smart TVs, media streaming devices come with their own privacy and security concerns. It is safe to assume that the manufacturer of your media streaming device is tracking you every step of the way, recording your video viewing habit, and selling your data to the highest bidders. Your media streaming device is also vulnerable to hacking. Hackers could potentially hack into your streaming device to steal your data, use your device to eavesdrop on your conversations at home, and gain control of your other connected home gadgets such as doorbell and security system.
Now that you understand what is a smart TV and what is a media streaming device, the next question to tackle is: what is an Android TV?
To answer that question, it helps to go back to our earlier analogy: a smart TV is just like a smartphone or a laptop but with a much bigger screen.
A smartphone requires an operating system to work. Different smartphones may use different operating systems. For example, an iPhone runs the operating system iOS while a Samsung phone runs the operating system Android. There are only 2 major operating systems for smartphones: iOS & Android. The brand of your smartphone will determine what operating system it runs – smartphones from Apple run iOS while smartphones from all other brands (Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc) run Android.
Likewise, a laptop requires an operating system to work. Different laptops may use different operating systems. For example, a MacBook runs the operating system macOS while an HP laptop runs the operating system Windows. There are only 2 major operating systems for laptops: macOS & Windows. The brand of your laptop will determine what operating system it runs – laptops from Apple run macOS while laptops from all other brands (HP, ASUS, Dell, Samsung, LG) mostly run Windows.
I am sure by now you know where this is going. Since a smart TV is a computing device just like a smartphone or a laptop, it also requires an operating system to work. Android TV is an operating system for smart TVs just like Android is an operating system for smartphones.
In fact, Android TV is a modified version of Android specifically designed to run on smart TVs. Just like Android, Android TV is also developed and maintained by Google.
Remember we said earlier that media streaming devices were just like smart TVs but with no screen? So it should not be a surprise that those media streaming devices also require an operating system to work. It also should not be a surprise that smart TV operating systems also work on media streaming devices – after all, they are very similar to each other. All this is to say, Android TV is an operating system for both smart TVs and media streaming devices.
When you get a smart TV such as the Sony X750H 55-inch 4K Ultra HD LED TV, it runs the operating system Android TV.
When you get a media streaming device such as the Nvidia Shield Pro 4K, it also runs the operating system Android TV.
But unlike operating systems for smartphones and laptops, the world of operating systems for smart TVs and media streaming devices is much more fragmented.
While there are only 2 major operating systems for smartphones (iOS & Android) and only 2 major operating systems for laptops (macOS & Windows), there are many operating systems for smart TVs and media streaming devices. Android TV is just one of the many. When you buy a smart TV or a media streaming device, depending on the brand, it might run the operating system Android TV or it might run a different operating system.
Many smart TV manufacturers develop and maintain their own smart TV operating systems. For example, Samsung smart TVs run on Samsung’s own smart TV operating system Tizen while LG smart TVs run on LG’s own smart TV operating system webOS.
To further complicate matters, Android TV can mean more than one thing depending on the context. In addition to being an operating system for smart TVs (and media streaming devices), Android TV can also mean a particular type of smart TV. Very often, people call a smart TV that runs the Android operating system an Android TV.
Going back to our earlier example, Sony X750H 55-inch 4K Ultra HD LED TV is a smart TV that runs the Android TV operating system. As a result, many people would call this particular smart TV an Android TV. In this sense, Android TV is a type of smart TV.
To recap, Android TV is:
- An operating system for smart TV and media streaming devices, or
- A type of smart TV that runs the Android TV operating system
Android TV vs. Smart TV
Now that we have explained what Android TV and smart TV are, we can finally answer the question we keep hearing – what is the difference between Android TV and smart TV?
- Smart TV is a TV with integrated Internet connectivity and computing power (processor, RAM, storage)
- Android TV is an operating system for smart TV. It is also a type of smart TV that runs the Android TV operating system
Android TV vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV | Roku | Samsung | Other Smart TVs
Earlier, we mentioned that while 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 Operating System Scorecard
|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
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.
How to Choose a Smart TV – Hardware Factors
When you are shopping for a smart TV, the software operating system that a TV runs is an important factor to consider. But it is not the only factor. You should also pay attention to a TV’s hardware features such as TV panel technology, picture quality, and refresh rate. To fully cover all these hardware features would take a whole different article. Here we will just briefly touch upon a few important ones.
TV Panel Technology
Your choices for TV panel techs are LED – LCD, OLED, and QLED
- LED – LCD: The cheapest and the most common panel tech. Picture quality is acceptable but far from the best.
- OLED: The most expensive panel tech. Picture quality is the highest, much better than that of LED – LCD. LG is the only producer of OLED TV panels in the world and is well known for its OLED TV sets.
- QLED: An affordable alternative to OLED. More expensive than LED – LCD but cheaper than OLED. Picture quality is higher than LED – LCD but not as good as OLED
In this day and age, do not buy any TV set with less than 4K (Ultra HD) resolution. That means no 720p (HD) or 1080p (Full HD) TVs. But at the same time, hold off on buying 8K TV sets – they are still too expensive and 8K TV shows or movies are still very rare.
The higher the better. Go for at least a 60 MHz refresh rate. If possible, opt for 120 MHz – sports, gaming, and action movies would look a lot smoother and better on a 120 MHz TV set.
Looks for HDR (High Dynamic Range) TV sets. HDR TVs offer more colors, more contrast levels, and higher brightness. In short, they provide a more vivid and stunning picture. A few technical terms to look out for:
- HDR10: The basic industry standard for high dynamic range
- Dolby Vision: A more demanding standard for HDR created by Dolby Labs, the company that brought us Dolby Noise Reduction and surround sound. Dolby Vision is quickly becoming the industry standard for HDR content
- HDR10+: A premium standard for HDR created by Samsung. It is similar to Dolby Sound but much less common than it.
- Technicolor Advanced HDR: Proprietary standard for HDR created by Technicolor. Not very common
- IMAX Enhanced: Proprietary standard for HDR created by IMAX. Not very common
Audio quality is often overlooked on a TV. Do not make that mistake. Things to look for:
- Soundbar: TV sets with built in soundbars offer a much better audio experience. If the TV you like does not come with a built in soundbar, consider adding an aftermarket soundbar to it
- Dolby Atmos: A new audio standard from Dolby Labs that includes overhead sound. It makes for a much fuller audio experience, especially when watching movies or gaming.
The more the better. Pick a TV set with at least 3 HDMI ports. Ideally, they should support the HDMI 2.1 standard.
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