Best Smart TV Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best smart TVs and smart TV platforms you can buy in 2018.
A decade ago, you'd have to look mighty hard to find a 'Smart TV.' Sure, they existed, but it wasn't anything like today where 99% of TVs 40 inches and above come locked, stocked and loaded with a smart TV platform.
What did exist back then was usually bad, third-party designed services that never seemed to get an update or suffer from massive wholes in their content library.
The good news here is that TV platforms on offer have matured dramatically over the past few years. TV makers no longer shove half-baked TV platforms into their flagship sets and instead actually focus on your entertainment and ease-of-use above all us.
Today, the best smart TV platforms actually 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.
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. After you've seen the best picks in each category, you can click through to the next page to see a detailed break down of every platform.
What's the best smart TV?
Best Smart TV with Samsung Smart Hub
The Samsung Q9FN is the best Smart Hub/SmartThings TV on the planet
While the 65Q9FN’s Smart TV system is based closely around the Eden platform Samsung has been busy refining for the past couple of years, expect a few tasty new morsels that add to the experience without taking anything away.
For starters there’s now compatibility with Samsung's SmartThings platform, which provides an onscreen hub for monitoring and even controlling other smart devices (fridges, washing machines, lights etc) on your network.
There’s also much better integration of the TV listings and live broadcasting into the TV’s content searching features: There are now hour-by-hour show recommendations, for instance, as well as TV shows getting much more prominence in the content browsing menus.
Samsung has delivered enhanced interactivity with your smartphones and tablets too, as well as some seriously cool new gaming related features.
Overall, a slick, easy to use and helpfully customizable interface belies the impressive sophistication and comprehensiveness of Samsung’s latest smart TV engine.
Read the full review: Samsung Q9FN QLED TV
Best Smart TV with Android TV
The winner is the Sony 65-inch A1 Bravia OLED
The Bravia A1 OLED combines innovative engineering with stunning design – making it easily one of the best TVs to sport Android TV.
Not only does it look great, but it sounds great, too, despite not having a 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 the top Android TV display, 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-55FZ952B OLED TV (UK only)
Panasonic’s My Home Screen smart platform is decidedly simple compared to much of the competition, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Currently on its third generation, it remains largely the same as the Firefox OS on which it was originally based.
When you press the Home button on the remote, you get a choice of three options: Live TV, Apps, and Devices. This simplicity is the platform’s greatest strength, making it easy to navigate and find things by helpfully storing all the apps in single location; you can also pin your favourite apps to the home page for quicker access.
Since the smart platform is relatively simple, it doesn’t require a vast amount of processing power to operate, which makes it responsive, robust, and free from crashes. My Home Screen isn’t fragmented like some platforms, nor does it bombard you with recommendations, it simply delivers all the streaming and catch-up services you need.
Thanks to Freeview Play it’s a fairly comprehensive list of catch-up services with BBC iPlayer, ITVhub, All4, My5, BBC News & Sport and UK Play. The iPlayer app supports 4K and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma – the broadcast version of HDR), both of which the BBC are trialing during the World Cup. There’s also Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, all of which support 4K and HDR, along with services like Rakuten and Chili Cinema. In fact the only major streaming service missing is NOW TV.
Read the full review: Panasonic FZ952/FZ902 OLED TV
Best Smart TV with webOS
A tiny software upgrade makes a huge difference to the OLED range
At the heart of the OLED65E8’s smart features lies webOS: LG’s groundbreaking, oft-copied but never bettered interface. This still does a brilliant job of finding and organizing all the myriad content sources available to modern TV viewers, thanks to its simple, attractive layout, and effortless customizability.
LG provides access to all of the main video streaming apps, including the full 4K, HDR implementations of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. UK users can also benefit from Sky’s Now TV platform, as well as Freeview Play, which provides the catch up TV services of all the main UK terrestrial broadcasters in a handy umbrella interface.
LG in Europe has also recently added Rakuten TV, providing the continent with its first film streaming platform that supports both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. The US, of course, can get such streams from VUDU.
WebOS is no longer the be all and end all of LG’s smart features, though. There’s now a much enhanced voice recognition/control system, for instance, which provides straightforward access both to the TV’s features and an exceptionally comprehensive and effective voice search feature. This looks through (some) apps, the internet and the TV listings for answers to your content requests.
The OLED65E8 is compatible with Alexa and, following a recent update, Google Assistant, and even has the potential to monitor and control other devices and appliances on your home network via its ThinQ platform.
Our only issue with webOS is that the single scrolling bar of icons along the bottom of the screen can start to get pretty long once you’ve added a few of your own apps.
Read the full review: LG E8 OLED
Best Smart TV with Roku TV
The winner is the TCL 6-Series R615, R617 (US only)
Once you get this TCL TV up and running, you’ll be met with the familiar veneer of Roku TV - an egalitarian operating system that handily retains its top spot as (arguably) the best operating system year after year. It’s intuitive to use (if a bit boring) and its lack of ties to a particular streaming platform allow it to point you to all the places content can be found without bias.
That last bit is important, especially if you’ve ever used an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, both of which would much rather have you stream from their ancillary streaming services over any of the third-party ones. Because Roku doesn’t have ties to a major streaming service - other than a vague deal to include FandangoNow on the home screen of the OS - it doesn’t push you any direction you don’t want to go and happily supports everything from Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and Amazon, to lesser-known channels like Pluto.tv, tubi, Crackle and others.
That’s to say nothing of Roku’s own streaming service that it launched at the end of last year, which provides its own collection of entirely free movies that change in and out every few months. Most aren’t anything to write home about, but this month’s featured film is Whiplash - which, if you’ve never seen it, is entirely worth capitalizing on the free admission.
While it’d be nice to see the inclusion of artificial intelligence and personal assistants on Roku TV - similar to what LG is doing with WebOS and Samsung has done with Tizen and SmartThings - all things considered, this is still one of the best TV operating systems and a fantastic overall TV.
Read the full review: TCL 6-Series Roku TV
- Want something to watch? Check out our best movies on Netflix guide!