Don’t Bother with Smart TV Software, Use a Streaming Stick or Set-Top Box Instead

It's almost impossible to buy a TV without having software that is supposed to make your life easier (but most of all, that frustrates everyone). If you prefer to use your TV (and extend its life), here is our selection of broadcast sticks and set-top boxes.

Your Smart TV is not very smart

Presented by the web design of the early 2000s.

If you have a smart TV, you probably know how dull the software is. TV manufacturers are just not good at making software. LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio can make a functional menu and, occasionally, a functional app, but they can not hold a candle to what companies like Google, Apple, or even Roku can do. To make matters worse when they are not incompetent, they are malicious – companies like Vizio have spied on their television users, while Samsung has injected commercials .

Smart TV software is a trash can because no one wants to create custom apps for every TV under the sun.

The main reason that smart TV apps are such shit is because they are low priority for developers. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, one of the few things that people occasionally use smart TVs, are not going to burn development time by making custom apps for each platform. smart TV. To save their time, they started creating what is known as " web wrappers ." Basically, the Netflix application on your smart TV is little more than a stripped web browser pointed to Netflix. interface. Sometimes it works, but if your TV's built-in web browser is slow or buggy (and it's usually the case), Netflix is ​​too.

Just to test this effect, I launched the Netflix app on my Samsung smart TV (circa 2013) by writing the last paragraph. It's not done yet to charge – the TV still works fine, but not clumsy apps.

TV manufacturers are only making this problem worse with slow or no updates. Smart TV companies typically launch several new television models each year. Some of the old ones receive updates for a while, but after a few years, updating older games is not a priority. This is a major problem if you, like most people, want to keep your TV for 10-15 years. Even worse, some updates can make your TV slower and buggier. Or in some rare cases, they could even accidentally brick up your TV . Oops.

In other words, TV manufacturers can not be trusted to provide good software and retain it for the life of the device. Some companies, like Sony, are trying to get around this problem by using better software like Android TV but even that will probably lock you into an older version of Android for the next decade. It's best to never connect your Smart TV to the Internet and reject any updates you do not need explicitly. If you're only using your TV as an advanced HDMI selector, it's not necessary to talk to the internet.

A much better solution is to buy a TV for its picture quality, forget the blur of smart TV and instead use a set-top box or streaming player that you can easily update. .

Oh, hey, the Netflix app finally loaded. Great.

Replace the Smart TV trash with one of these broadcast sticks or set-top boxes

If you want to remove the brain from your smart TV, you will have to replace it with something. Your two main options are streaming sticks, which are usually cheaper but have fewer features, or decoders, which are more robust but usually a bit more expensive. Briefly, here is what each is for:

Buy a streaming stick for simple HD streaming. Streaming Sticks are small gadgets that plug directly into the back of the TV. They are cheaper, usually between $ 30 and $ 50, and can broadcast HD video rather well. While Google and Roku make 4K streaming sticks, they are more expensive (usually around $ 70) and less powerful than a bit more expensive decoders.
Buy a set-top box for rugged applications and 4K streaming on powerful devices. If you have a 4K TV, or just when your apps are all over the place, a decoder has the power you need. These can range from the cheapest Roku Ultra ( $ 100 ) to the most expensive Apple TV 4K (19459014) $ 179 (19459006) or NVIDIA SHIELD TV (19459015) $ 199 (19459006), which runs under Android THE TV.

Regardless of what you choose, you can upgrade them when you need them. If you want a cheap streamer today while you expect prices below 4K, buy a $ 35 Chromecast and upgrade to NVIDIA SHIELD a few years ago. Or if you buy a decoder today and it gets slow or breaks, you can just buy a new one in five years that will be even better. Regardless, the software you use on your TV is in your hands.

With this in mind, here are some of our recommendations for streaming solutions.

Bare Bones HD Streaming: Roku Express ($ 30) or Chromecast ($ 35)

If you want the cheapest streaming option and do not care about 4K video, the Roku Express or Chromecast is your best bet. Chromecast has started the trend of streaming and its smartphone model as a remote control that turns your individual multimedia applications into a remote control is quite simple. Open the Netflix app you already have on your device, press the broadcast button and send the video to your TV. You already have your phone nearby when you watch TV, why not use it as a remote control?

That said, remote controls are pretty cool. While the idea of ​​Chromecast to make the interface invisible is noble, it's annoying when you want to pause a movie only to find that your phone is disconnected from Chromecast. Instead of this rigamarole, the Roku Express uses a small physical remote control and has a menu interface on the screen. It's also a bit cheaper at $ 30. You can also switch to the $ 1945 [Roku Stick] stick that includes voice search and a more powerful processor (which offers a smooth menu and broadcast experience).

What you prefer depends largely if you want a physical remote, but both are solid and affordable options.

The Sweet Spot Decoder Box for 4K: Roku Ultra ($ 100)

Although it does not have links with a mega software company, Roku has managed to make a name for itself with incredibly powerful devices – and most importantly, platform neutral ones. The Roku Ultra is a great box that can stream movies from virtually any service, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Google Play and most other services. It also supports 4K and HDR video at a decent price.

The Ultra is also more powerful than most 4K streaming sticks, but without significant price bump (for comparison, a Chromecast 4K is $ 70 ). This extra power is important because 4K video is massive and, although streaming video is compressed downward, the more powerful your device is, the better.

4K luxury set-top boxes: Apple TV ($ 180) and NVIDIA SHIELD TV ($ 180)

If you want the best possible streaming devices, the Apple TV 4K and NVIDIA SHIELD TV offer a fantastic experience – the real deciding factor is the ecosystem in which you want to buy.

Both cameras are stupid quickly and have smooth video playback. The use of one or the other will be much more enjoyable than what your TV maker has slapped on your TV. The only question is whether you want to buy or rent movies on iTunes or Google Play. For now, SHIELD TV is the only one that supports Amazon Video but Apple has stated that support for the service is to come later in 2017 . Apart from that, if you want to buy from iTunes, get the Apple TV. If you want to buy from Google, get the SHIELD.

A note about the Apple TV: the 4K version of the device has its own upscaling algorithm, which can conflict with the upscaling done by your TV. This means that you can not send a 1080p signal to your TV and let your TV handle it. For native 4K streams, that's fine, but we're still in this nebulous zone where most of the videos you watch are still in HD. If you want to save a few dollars and let your TV do the upscaling instead of trusting Apple with everything, go for the regular Apple TV for $ 150 .

Whichever device you choose, you can rest comfortably knowing that it will be better than what your TV has provided and, if it does not work in the long run, you will not be forced to do it for the next decade

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