Wednesday 3 August 2016

Don't Buy A Smart TV!

Smart TV's are all the rage now, and sales people try to hook consumers  by listing the "smart" features of one TV over another, usually at a higher price.

But it's all bad advice.

Manufacturers want you to buy their smart TV over someone else's, so they cram in as many features as they can at production time, and that's basically it.

The problem is the apps on your shiny new TV quickly become outdated, and the processing power of that TV set is frozen in time. As months and years go by your expensive smart TV becomes more and more antiquated until it eventually can't run the apps and services you really want.

At that point you are faced with the decision of whether to buy a new expensive TV set or not.

There is another option.

A different (and far less expensive) approach is to buy a television with the best picture you can afford and totally ignore the "smart" features. When the sales person starts extolling the virtues of one model over another where each has the same resolution and refresh rate, let them know you aren't willing to pay one cent for smart features, because you have a better solution.

You bought a streaming media player. Instead of paying hundreds extra for features hard-wired in a TV, you chose a small and easy to replace device.

Streaming media players are basically very small computers that do the same functions as the "smart" TV set, often more, and for a fraction of the price.

The streaming media player connects to your television through an HDMI port, and typically connects to your home network via ethernet (computer) cable or WiFi. At that point you can review the apps loaded on it or add new apps (like Kodi), usually for free.

With this approach you can replace the box any time you want to upgrade the hardware for significantly less than buying a new television.

My personal favorite streaming media player is the Amazon Fire TV. Typically this device is about $100 USD, although they do go on sale.

The trick with the Amazon Fire TV is Amazon doesn't ship it to Canada. If you live in The Great White North you'll need to make shipping arrangements or pick one up at Best Buy the next time you are in the USA. As an alternative B&H Video says they will sell you a FireTV and ship it to Canada for free.

I like the Amazon box because Amazon subsidizes the cost of the hardware in an effort to lure you in to their ecosystem. If you have an Amazon Prime Subscription and are using a geo-unblocking service you will get access to all the content Amazon gives away for free right off the bat in addition to Netflix, Hulu, or whatever other services you want to use.

There are many other options out there like the NVIDIA Sheild, but remember, you'll usually get what you pay for. The lowest price may not always offer the best results.

Load up your new streaming media player with Kodi and now you can watch basically any movie or television show (including networks shows like HBO or AMC) for free, with all the commercials edited out.

When a few years go by and the hardware won't support the new wireless speeds, or whatever the next hot app is you'll just replace the streaming media player and continue using your "dumb" TV set.

Since you didn't spend extra for a "smart" TV as the sales person suggested you'll be saving hundreds if not thousands.

At that point was the "dumb" television set really a dumb purchase?

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

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