One of the key decisions to make when you’re considering cutting the cord, is how to best get content from streaming services such as GlobeTeve IPTV, networked DVRs and other gear to your big screen TV.
Cord cutters have two main options for this today – connect a streaming set-top-box like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Nvidia Shield to your existing television, or buy a new all-in-one Smart TV.
While the concept of a Smart TV sounds really cool (and it’s pretty difficult to buy a TV today without some sort of ‘smart’ features,) in practice, hardware innovation and app support for Smart TVs can lag behind more nimble streaming devices.
We’ll look at what you need to consider before making a choice, as well the benefits and drawbacks of each. And let’s be honest. How often do you plan to replace your TV?
Set-Top-Box versus Smart TV
Making a decision about the technology you’re going to use to cut the cord requires a bit of research if you want to find an ecosystem of products that’s right for you.
Here are five things you should consider before going to the store or filling your Amazon cart.
1. Apps & Streaming Service Support
The first step to cutting the cord successfully is understanding what content you can’t live without and finding alternative ways to watch those same shows. The streaming device or Smart TV you choose will need to support the apps and subscriptions that carry the content you want. While you can watch Netflix on pretty much anything these days, other services and apps may be limited to particular platforms.
2. Operating Systems
Just like your smart phone, streaming devices have their own operating systems which can determine how they integrate with the rest of the tech you own and how quickly new apps get added.
If all of your gear is from Apple or Android, you might want to stick with a device built on the same technology. Devices that use their own proprietary operating system can come with compatibility and interface usability problems.
(For reference – Wikipedia has a handy list of current Smart TV operating systems.)
3. Power & Longevity
Technology moves really quickly these days. Newer hardware is faster, will support the latest and greatest apps and options and should receive more frequent software updates from the manufacturer. Keep in mind that set-top-boxes make it easy and more affordable to swap in new (or different) hardware than Smart TVs where it is built directly into the display.
4. Flexibility & Portability
Another consideration is flexibility. While it might be tempting to pick up a Smart TV and have an all-in-one device, its built-in nature means it’s impossible to upgrade or change the ‘smarts’. Folks who travel, have multiple TV sets in the home or a vacation home might also prefer to pop their set-top-box in their luggage instead of buying additional devices.
5. WiFi vs. Ethernet Connectivity
All Smart TVs offer the ability to connect via WiFi or Ethernet but some streaming set-top-boxes – in particular those with a ‘stick’ form-factor – often lack an Ethernet option. If you’re going to be streaming a lot of 4K or HD content, or live in an environment that can be tricky for WiFi, having a connectivity choice is crucial.