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.
One of the biggest concerns when buying a new TV is its smart platform. Now that pretty much every TV we buy has some form of smart TV platform in it you want to make sure it works for you – hence why you're searching for the best.
The best smart TV platforms ensure they never get in the way of you and your content - these are still TVs after all, not giant wall-mounted tablets. They should be fast to start up, easy to keep updated and, if they're really good, help you locate new shows and movies to watch.
Where once it was about how many apps you had, the Internet connected television is now just as much about what OS is being used.
All smart TVs give access not only to top-tier services like Netflix and Amazon Instant, but to the various digital TV catch up services available, too. Separate apps are one thing, but increasingly the services formally offered by apps are being integrated into the user interface (take LG's webOS 3.5, for instance).
For better or worse, there's no one industry standard. Smart TV platforms tend to change every year or two among the big TV brands. Here in 2017 we've seen a new focus on operating systems, with the likes of LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony all opting for webOS, Tizen, Firefox and Android, respectively.
Let it be said that all of these platforms are usable, functional and most of the time downright enjoyable to use. But while they may look alike on the surface, under the hood there are a plethora of differences between them.
So, what's the best smart TV platform? We've ranked the the world's major connected TV platforms in descending order, putting just as much emphasis on ease of use as app selection, to help you as you buy into a whole new generation of online television. Plus, once you've found 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 find the right 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 Bravia XBR-X900E Series (XE90 in the UK)
Android TV OS has now become a familiar sight on Sony sets.
If you've never used it before, Android TV is organized into tiers, of which the upper-most is tutorials and ads (the sort of stuff you really don’t need to see that often). This is followed by rows of apps, games, inputs and settings.
Overall, the Sony X900E is a great HDR TV that occupies a sweet spot between performance and price. UHD image clarity is excellent, color performance luscious and its HDR delivery adds just the right level of zing.
With superb 4K image clarity, powerful SDR-to-HDR remastering, and a smooth direct LED backlight, Sony is offering something very different with the X900E.
Read our full review: Sony BRAVIA XBR-55X900E
Best Smart TV with My Home Screen 2.0 (Formerly Firefox)
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!