Smart TV Manufacturers
LG Electronics, the Seoul-based electronics company, builds smart TVs with state of the art hardware and a streamlined interface. Last year, when LG introduced WebOS – its new, clean, deconstructed interface – the company raised the bar on intuitive, easy to navigate design. This year, CNET praised the picture quality of the LG 55EC9300 (which costs approximately $2,500 for a 55” screen) as the best of any television it has ever reviewed. Panasonic opts for Firefox OS on its smart TV line. The highly customizable operating system with a similar distribution strategy is Android TV OS’s closest competitor. Panasonic smart TV’s Anglocentric features (including the popular Freetime app that lets users view the past week’s worth of English television for free) make the televisions most successful in the United Kingdom. The UK-based TechAdvisor ranked the Panasonic TX50AX802 the second best smart TV of 2015 for its premium dynamics, detail, and color depth.
Securing the South Korean corner on the smart TV market is electronics giant Samsung. The company currently holds the largest market share of smart TV sales. The company dominates competitors, at the end of 2013 Samsung held over a quarter of the total smart TV market share. The reason? Desirable products. This year, CNET found that the Samsung UNHU8550 (which costs approximately $2,100 for a 55” screen) has the best combination of picture quality and smart features.
Japanese electronics veteran Sony is the most prominent television manufacturer to use Google’s Android TV OS on its line of smart TVs. Because it is built on the work Google has already done for smartphones, the Android TV operating system is user-friendly and relatively glitch-free. Rtings.com prefers the Sony X850C 4k TV (which costs approximately $1,500 for a 55” screen) for its good motion handling and its picture quality.
The Chinese television set expert TCL partners with video streaming king Roku on its successful line of smart TVs. TCL FS4610R (Roku TV) (which costs approximately $355 for a 40” screen) has the best smart-TV suite of any smart TV model. Roku has been working on perfecting video streaming for a while and the TCL-Roku line is definitely benefiting from the acquired expertise.
In the smart TV market, California-based Vizio is doing what it does best in any electronics market: selling good products at competitive prices. Aggressive pricing is, after all, Vizio’s signature move. CNET ranked the Vizio EOi-B series (which costs approximately $570 for a 48” screen) the best overall value. The Vizio’s other series were likewise lauded for value.
Internet Connected Devices
The Roku Streaming Player is a device that uses a WiFi connection to transfer online data (typically a video stream) to a television screen. Roku sources video content from multiple free, subscription, and rental services including YouTube, Netflix, ESPN, and 1700 other web channels. Like a modern gaming console or an AppleTV, Roku lets users watch online content on televisions that are not smart televisions. Televisions are different from computers, tablets, and smartphones because they are large and public. Roku users reap the benefits of streaming (cost and convenience) without forfeiting the advantages of a television. Second generation Roku devices include a search that aggregates results from all a user’s channels. This feature lets the user access the video he or she wants and instantaneously compare results across competitors. Roku devices cost between $49.99 and $99.99.
The Apple TV streaming player uses a WiFi connection to transfer online data (typically music or a video stream) to a television. Like Roku, Apple TV sources video content from multiple free, subscription, and rental services including YouTube, Netflix, iTunes, and about 60 other web channels. Apple TV content includes, exclusively, HBO Now, HBO’s streaming service that includes on-demand access to Game of Thrones. Apple TV lets users watch online content on televisions that are not smart televisions. As video content migrates from traditional satellite television to online streaming services, connected television sets are increasingly essential. A device like Apple TV connects any television to the Internet. The Apple TV costs $69.00.