Naturally, everyone wants the best smart TV experience they can get, and we’re here to help. But before we get to the good stuff, we’re going to come clean about something: There’s really no such thing as a “best smart TV.” Virtually every new TV you’ll come across these days is a smart TV, so we think what you really need to know is how smart TV platforms differ and which might be best for you.
Smarts should never be the top priority when choosing a TV, but when the running is tight, it could be the tie breaker. With that in mind, we’ve taken factors like resolution, design, reliability, extras, and overall value into consideration as well. Here, then, is a list of our favorite smart TV platforms, with a few solid models plucked from each brand to help you narrow things down. We’ll start with the best of the bunch.
LG Smart TVs
LG webOS platform
Once the operating system for HP’s now-defunct Palm devices, webOS takes on new life as the operating system for LG’s best smart TVs, and earns our top slot as the fastest, most intuitive, and, well, smartest system in TV land. Rather than force you to navigate multiple screens or sift through several menus, webOS organizes all of your pertinent apps, input options, and other popular destinations in a river of tiles at the bottom of the screen. Adding to webOS’s ease of use is LG’s Magic Motion remote, which lets users point and click their way around, not unlike a Wii controller.
Looking ahead, we’re excited about the improvements the system will take on in LG’s 2015 TVs with webOS 2.0, which we got to preview at CES in January. But even in its current form, the system smokes the competition when it comes to intuitiveness and straight-up ease of use.
LG UB9800 4K UHD TV
Prices on this sweet slice of 4K action are dropping fast. Go for 65-inches or higher to make the most of 4K UHD.
LG EC9300 OLED HDTV
Simply put, OLED produces the best picture quality available today, and this is the most affordable OLED out there.
LG LB6300 HDTV
At $700 for a 55-incher, this is one of LG’s best values.
Samsung Smart TVs
Samsung Smart Hub platform
One of the most popular smart platforms around, Samsung’s current system offers a 5-page carousel that’s very approachable for new users, and is frequently updated. For instance, a relatively new feature places recently-accessed apps at the bottom of the screen for quicker access. But what the system really has going for it is its massive app selection, boasting the most content available of all the major brands. It’s also one of the snappier interfaces around, and the platform’s basic makeup is shared with other Samsung products, like the BDP-H6500.
The thing is, that’s all about to change this spring. Samsung’s system is getting a complete overhaul, soon to be powered by Tizen software. At first glance, Samsung’s coming interface looks a lot like LG’s platform, offering the same band of tiles across the bottom, with easy access to apps, and motion scrolling. Interestingly, both systems were raised from essentially scrapped smartphone platforms, giving some perspective on the state of smart TV software in general.
There was some concern that Samsung’s transition could diminish its populous app library, but Samsung has done a lot to make sure app developers can make a quick transition. The new system also opens up the potential for Samsung TVs to work even more efficiently with smartphones, though currently there’s only one Tizen phone on the market, the Z1 which launched in India.
Samsung UNHU8550 4K UHD TV
Named (by us) as “one of the best-looking (flat) TVs” of 2014, this beauty will only drop in price, and offers a great 4K picture.
Samsung UNH7150 1080p HD TV
This prime choice from Samsung’s middle tier offers just about everything you want in an HDTV.
Samsung H5500 1080p HD TV
What this TV lacks in talent, it makes up for in sheer value. Those looking for excellent smarts, a solid picture, and a fantastic price will want to grab this display while it lasts.
Sony Smart TVs
Sony Bravia Smart TV platform
Sony’s smart platform isn’t the smoothest or snappiest, but there are definitely some advantages to being born into a massive tech conglomerate that’s also one of the largest content providers in the industry. Along with a re-arrangeable collection of virtually all of the major streaming apps, those jumping into Sony’s Bravia smart platform will gain access to Sony’s Entertainment Network (SEN), which offers a ton of music and movies unique to the Sony family, and an excellent online gaming platform that can be used with a PS4 or PS3 controller. However, the lack of HBO GO is disappointing, to say the least.
Like the rest of the cast, Sony’s platform is about to change with the class of 2015. Sony’s transition is less of a move between schools of thought, and more of a full-on philosophical reawakening to the Cult of Google with the new Android TV, a phoenix of sorts that rises from the ashes of the failed Google TV interface. An early look at the new system shows a similar approach to Microsoft’s Xbox One interface, offering large tiles that move fluidly across the screen, a fully fleshed-out gaming platform, and latency-free mirroring from Android smartphones. We’ll know more in a few months, but for now, Android TV looks very promising.
Sony XBR-X900B 4K UHD TV
With a dazzling picture that’s second to none in the LED TV realm, Sony’s X900B is a no brainer for those with a budget to burn.
Sony KDL-W800B 1080p HD TV
With a sweet balance of options and value, and a full helping of that gorgeous Sony glow, this TV has the smarts you need at the price you want.
Sony KDL-W600B 1080p HD TV
One of the cheapest ways to get into the Sony family, the W600B has all the smarts of the rest of the Sony line, a solid picture, and a price that’s hard to beat.
Vizio Smart TVs
Vizio Internet Apps Plus platform
Ok, Vizio’s smart platform is a little clunky, garnering the unenviable position of taking the lowest slot in our list. However, it beats out platforms from the likes of Panasonic, Toshiba, and others, and it also sits aboard a stable of very affordable TVs. What the system has going for it is its fairly intuitive design, and nearly all the content you’ll need, including many of the new 4K-compatible apps. But, like Sony’s current platform, it doesn’t have HBO Go. Chromecast, anyone?
Vizio M-Series M490i-B2 1080p HD TV
With a heap of features, a full array of direct LED backlights controlled by a 32-zone dimming system, and a highly competitive price, the M-Series is Vizio’s 1080p crown jewel.
Vizio E-Series E480i-B2
Vizio’s E-series doesn’t sport as many local dimming zones, but it still comes with a full array of backlights, and you can’t beat the value.
Roku TV platform
While we can’t vouch for the Chinese-born TVs that currently incorporate the service, Roku’s interface is among the best in the streaming landscape, offering intuitive search across streaming services, and carrying the most apps out of any streaming platform in existence.