Best Smart TV Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best smart TVs and smart TV platforms you can buy in 2017.
What’s the the best Smart TV I can buy?
It’s a familiar question, especially if you’re looking to replace your TV. A new flatscreen isn’t exclusively about sharper pictures or better sound. The user experience is important too.
These days, connected sets have become ubiquitous. An internet-connected smart platform is the norm, not a luxury; indeed it’s central to how the set works. And the various platforms on offer have matured dramatically over the past few years. TV makers no longer try and emulate the tablet experience on a bigger screen, although you will still see holdovers from that early smart phase on cheaper models - no, you really don’t need Facebook and Twitter on your TV.
Today, the best smart TV platforms enhance the viewing experience. They help you access streaming content services and curate your viewing. If you want viewing recommendations, your smart TV should provide them.
Similarly, if you need to simplify streaming from your mobile device, or want to share images quickly and conveniently, your connected set should facilitate that too. And when so many of us have content elsewhere on our home network, be it video files, music or JPEGs, offering seamless access to that through DLNA should be a given.
Most smart TVs give access to leading streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and YouTube (although some are inexplicably absent on some sets - we’re looking at you Amazon Video). Beyond that, there can be a bewildering array of second (or third) tier streaming apps available to download from the resident portal. These might serve particular interests, such as the subscription-based UFC Fight Pass app, or offer VoD pay movies, such as Wuaki.tv.
Today’s Smart TV ecosystem is split between proprietary platforms tied to a specific manufacturer, like LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen, or a generic alternative such as Android TV, as found on Sony and European Philips TVs.
All are usable, functional and most of the time downright enjoyable to use. But while they may look similar on the surface, under the hood there are a plethora of differences between them.
So, what's the best smart TV platform you can buy? We've ranked the the world's major connected TV platforms, putting equal emphasis on ease of use, functionality, stability and content support.
Plus, once you've decided on a smart TV platform, we've included five of our favourite TVs that use it – that way you'll have a good starting point when it comes time to finding the perfect TV for you.
Just want to know to know the Best Smart TV on every platform? Here you go!
Best Smart TV with Android TV
The winner is the Sony 65-inch A1 Bravia OLED
The Bravia A1 OLED (known as the XBR-65A1E in the US or KD65A1 in the UK) combines innovative engineering with stunning design. The ‘one-slate’ design looks minimalist in the extreme.
The set sounds great, but there’s no soundbar. Instead it uses a pair of sonic actuators, positioned on the rear of the panel, which vibrate, creating stereo sound. Bass comes from an 8cm subwoofer in the stand.
The set’s Android smart platform has Chromecast built-in, making it easy to cast content from a compatible mobile phone. Apps include Netflix and YouTube in 4K.
Picture quality is drop dead gorgeous. A Triluminos wide colour gamut display, colour vibrancy is high, while a 4K Reality Pro picture processor maximizes image detail. Integral to the set’s image success is Sony’s new 4K HDR X1 Extreme image engine. Object-based HDR remastering does a great job making regular SDR TV look like HDR.
If you’re looking for a top flight Android telly, then the A1 is the model to beat.
Read our full review: Sony Bravia A1 OLED
Best Smart TV with My Home Screen 2.0
The winner is the Panasonic TX-65EZ1002 OLED TV (UK only)
The 65EZ1002’s smart TV system is pretty to look at, easy to use, and effortless to customise - everything, in other words, that a smart TV interface ought to be.
It’s not the most content rich system in town, perhaps, but I don’t actually think that’s a bad thing. Most of the key TV-centric apps are there (Netflix in 4K HDR, Amazon in 4K HDR, the catch up TV services for the main terrestrial broadcasters via an integrated Freeview Play app), and it’s actually kind of nice not to wade through mountains of dross just to find all the good stuff.
It’s worth adding that since the 65EZ1002 uses Freeview Play to provide its broadcaster catch-up TV services, you can search for shows you’ve missed via an intuitive electronic programme guide that scrolls back as far as seven days.
Read the full review: Panasonic TX-65EZ1002 OLED TV
Best Smart TV with Tizen
The winner is the Samsung Q9F QLED TV
It’s taken awhile to get there, but Samsung can now claim a really strong smart TV engine with its latest ‘Eden’ interface. For starters, it manages to deliver swift and logical access to a healthy amount of content from a home screen that takes over impressively little of your screen real estate.
As well as letting you customize the row of icons on the home screen at will, the addition last year of a second tier of ‘contextual’ links that changes depending on what app you’ve got chosen in the main tier has transformed the system’s speed and simplicity. It’s good to see, too, that Samsung has tried harder this year to add live TV features to its Eden interface.
As for the TV itself, compared with rival OLED technology there are still occasional backlight distractions, and effective viewing angles remain limited. However, the Q9F also sets new HDR-friendly standards for brightness and color response, while its new panel structure and state of the art screen filters enable it to combat ambient light better than any other TV, making it uniquely watchable in a typical day to day living room environment.
While it might not make the ‘OLED or QLED’ argument redundant, it certainly does a hell of a job of showcasing the latter’s strengths.
Read the full review: Samsung Q9F QLED TV
Best Smart TV with webOS 3.5
The winner is the LG OLED C7
LG’s webOS smart TV interface was the first one that really felt like it had been developed from the ground up for TV rather than smartphone or PC users: It’s graphically rich, incredibly straightforward and logical in its layout, easily customizable, slick to navigate and sensibly focussed on the sort of TV-centric apps most users actually want a TV to deliver.
These apps include (4K/HDR-capable) versions of Amazon and Netflix, Youtube, NowTV, plus all of the catch up services for the main terrestrial UK broadcasters courtesy of the Freeview Play service, which lets you search for shows you might have missed via an electronic program guide that scrolls back through time as well as forwards.
The latest version of webOS built into the OLED55C7 only really delivers a couple of relatively minor enhancements over previous versions: support for ‘360’ VR clips navigated by waving LG’s magic remote control around; and the option to use the number buttons on the remote control to directly access favorite apps. But there’s no need to fix something that isn’t broken.
Read the full review: LG OLED C7
Best Smart TV with Roku TV
The winner is the TCL P-Series 55P607 (US only)
The smart TV version of Roku both looks and acts like the platform used on streaming video devices like the Roku Ultra and Roku Premiere+: The Home section contains all the apps in your library, while My Feed tracks movies and TV shows you’re interested in and shows you where they can be found. We're also pretty big fans of Roku's universal search feature that rifles through 300+ apps to find movies and TV shows and displays them with the cheapest option first.
Overall, Roku TV is simple, efficient and straightforward enough for most people to pick up and use without a problem.
New for platform in 2017 is the ability to label inputs (labeling one input as Xbox or DVD Player instead of Input 1, etc…), some additional smartphone features and, for the first time, Dolby Vision support. Dolby Vision allows you to get the absolute most from the TV in terms of performance and while tracking down Dolby Vision content is a bit of a hassle, Roku does a good job highlighting all the available content in a new row in the 4K UHD Spotlight app.
Read the full review: TCL P-Series 55P607
- Want something to watch? Check out our best movies on Netflix guide!