What is a Smart TV, and Which One is the Best for You?

As someone looking to purchase a new TV, you may be wondering: what exactly makes a television "smart" these days? What features should I prioritize? And which model available now best aligns with my viewing needs and budget? This 2200-word guide answers all that and more!

Here‘s what we‘ll cover to help you buy the perfect smart TV:

  • What capabilities make TVs smart in the streaming era
  • Most important specs and features to consider for your usage
  • How leading smart TV software platforms compare
  • The latest display technologies explained – QLED vs. OLED
  • Specific smart TV model recommendations across pricing tiers and categories
  • Vital factors when determining the best television for your room and lifestyle

Let‘s get started.

What Makes a TV Smart in 2023?

While the concept of smart TVs has existed since internet-connected TVs first launched over 15 years ago, the depth of features they provide today marks a massive leap forward. Here are the core capabilities that define modern smart televisions:

Built-in Streaming Apps – Access popular services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max directly through the TV without needing to connect a separate streaming device. Saves hassle and clutter.

Smart Platform – The software powering the TV‘s user interface and functionality. Allows you to access settings, installed apps, inputs and more from a home screen.

Voice Control – Using built-in mics, today‘s smart TVs let you find content, adjust volume, switch inputs and more completely hands-free. Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and in some cases, the company‘s proprietary assistant.

Casting & AirPlay – Wirelessly cast or mirror content from your smartphone or tablet onto your TV screen over Wi-Fi much more reliably than in the past. Useful for sharing videos, music and more between devices.

Smart Home Connectivity – With some models doubling as makeshift smart home hubs, you can now control lights, thermostats and other connected home devices directly through your TV.

Next, let‘s explore the smart platforms, display technologies and specific model recommendations you‘ll need to evaluate.

Smart TV Platforms Compared

There are several major software platforms TV manufacturers build their smart functionality and interfaces around today, each taking a somewhat different approach. Here‘s how options like Roku TV, Google TV, Tizen and webOS differ:

Roku TVGoogle TVTizenwebOS
Look & FeelSimple, app-focused tile interface. Easy for novices.Content-first interface with playlists, recommendations and personalized home screen.Smooth and polished layout driven by dynamic top menu.Thumbnail-heavy design showing popular and recent content up top.
Content Search & DiscoveryUniversal search prioritizes streaming apps over live TV listings. Streamlined browsing.Aggregates movies, shows, live content into one search feed with recommendations. Discover tab identifies trending and popular titles.Universal search blends streaming and live TV results. Home menu tailors top content picks automatically.LG Content Store centralizes shows, movies and trending picks from services you subscribe to.
Number of Apps5,000+ streaming apps. More than other platforms.Core set of top streaming apps plus specialized offerings like fitness, education and lifestyle apps via Google Play.Robust catalog of streaming, information and smart home apps available.Offers all major streaming services and LG Content Store for curated content.
Smart Home Technology IntegrationRoku devices can control smart lights, locks and more after pairing. Roku TVs currently lack hub features.Chromecast built-in for video casting from mobile devices and laptops to the TV.among best for controlling Samsung smart products like Family Hub refrigerators, robot vacuums, AC units and more. Limited wider smart home support.LG TVs natively interact with other ThinQ-compatible LG appliances/devices like washers, AC units for status checks and remote control.
Gaming CapabilityBudget models lacking but premium Roku TVs match Xbox and PlayStation specs for 4K 120fps gaming.No native gaming features but Google Play store gives some access to casual Android games. Chromecast donations enhance game streaming potential.Best-in-class low input lag and gaming specs powered by AMD Freesync Premium Pro support. Great for serious console or PC gamers.Strong gaming support with 4K 120fps, VRR, low input lag and dedicated Game Optimizer modes with genre-specific calibratio

So while all options get the basics right, Roku excels at content choice, Google at personalized recommendations, Tizen at wide-ranging smart home control and webOS at slick gaming integration.

Now let‘s move on to demystifying the two major display panel technologies used in high-end smart TVs today.

QLED vs. OLED – A Display Technology Breakdown

The two premium display technologies you’ll see most often while shopping are QLED (used by Samsung) and OLED (used by LG, Sony and others). But what exactly do they mean and what differences in picture quality do they produce?

QLED stands for quantum dot LED TV – an LCD screen illuminated by a backlight, like most TVs, but enhanced by a quantum dot filter lending more precise color control and brightness boosted by better LEDs.

OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. Each self-lit pixel in an OLED TV can turn on and off independently, enabling best-in-class contrast since individual pixels can produce true blacks. Current manufacturing limitations lead OLED TVs to come at a premium price point.

Here’s how the two technologies compare on important criteria:

BrightnessUp to 2,000 nits peak brightness allows HDR content to truly pop and overcomes glare very well in bright rooms.Around 800-900 nits peak in current models. Still offers great dynamic range but can‘t match QLED in bright spaces.
Black Level & ContrastFull array local dimming (FALD) allows deep blacks. But backlight limits contrast versus OLED.Infinite contrast and true blacks with pixels turning completely off. This allows deepest blacks in even dark scenes.
Viewing AnglesProne to color and contrast degradation at wider angles – similar to other LED TVs. Best viewed straight on.Colors and brightness maintain consistency even viewed from extreme sideways angles. Great for wide rooms with multiple viewing positions.
LongevityLess susceptible to permanent burn-in. Can reliably last over 5-7 years for most viewers.OLED burn-in, though increasingly rare, remains a concern for high-risk use cases like gaming. Most still enjoy many years of flawless usage.
Price Per PerformanceTypically most affordable display technology on a per-size basis for flagship models. Good balance of quality and value.You pay a premium for OLED over QLED, sometimes >30% more for same model year and size. But many find blacks and contrast worth it.

There are always outliers but the above gives a general idea of how QLED and OLED differ. With this context, let’s now get into this year‘s top-rated models across use cases, price tiers and screen sizes.

The Best Smart TV Recommendations For 2023

Best Overall – LG C2 Series OLED

The LG C2 Series OLED TV hits all the right notes for a future-proof premium smart TV that should more than satisfy for years to come.


Superb Picture Quality

LG‘s latest generation OLED panel and α9 Gen5 AI Processor deliver best-in-industry contrast and color accuracy. Self-lit pixels enable perfect blacks while Dolby Vision IQ adjusts settings continuously based on ambient light conditions for stellar HDR performance regardless of day or night viewing.

Beautiful Design

An elegant 4-sided near bezel-less display with ultrathin profile both on-stand and wall-mounted makes the LG C2 disappear beautifully into living spaces and home theaters alike.

Smart Features

webOS provides a snappy, intuitive interface to access built-in streaming services and LG‘s curated content store. Gaming dashboard centralizes key information like frame rates. Works with Google Assistant, Alexa and Apple smart products.

Next-Level Gaming

Four HDMI 2.1 inputs, sub 1ms input lag, and VRR support between 48Hz and 120Hz bring out the absolute best from a PS5, Xbox Series X or high-end gaming PC with silky smooth visuals.

Available in every size between 42 to 83 inches, the LG C2 is highly recommended by CNET, Rtings and Wirecutter as 2023‘s best high-end smart TV based on performance testing and reviewers‘ experience.

Best Budget Smart TV – TCL 6 Series QLED

Providing premium display and gaming specs at an affordable price point, the TCL 6 Series QLED proves you don‘t need to overspend to get amazing next-gen TV capabilities in 2023.

TCL 6-Series

Excellent Picture Quality

Quantum dot tech enables over a billion hues to pop from the LCD panel while mini-LED backlighting with 240 contrast control zones allow parts of the screen to get far darker than typical budget LCD TV models. Making the most of this expanded range, Dolby Vision HDR content dazzles on the 6 Series.

Lightning-Fast Experience

The user-friendly Roku TV platform makes navigating thousands of streaming apps and connected devices a breeze while also enabling snappy load times and fluid navigation due to the intuitive tile-based interface. Voice control via Roku Voice remotes or Google/Alexa devices adds hands-free convenience.

Serious Gaming Capabilities

THX certification, 120Hz refresh rates up to 1440p resolution, Auto Game Mode and Variable Refresh Rate all remove barriers between this TCL TV and the latest consoles or gaming rigs – enabling smooth, tear-free visuals with minimal input lag.

With picture quality that outclasses the competition and excellent smart features throughout, the TCL 6 Series QLED punches well above its weight given a reasonable price tag under $1,000 even for its largest 65 to 75 inch models.

Key Considerations For Picking Your Smart TV

Beyond great image quality, you’ll want to weigh a few additional factors while picking out your ideal television:

Size Depends on Viewing Distance

Make sure to select the appropriate screen size for your room based on seating distance for maximum immersion. As a general guideline for 4K resolution:

  • 43-49 inches for 4 to 6 feet away
  • 55 inches for 5 to 7 feet away
  • 65 inches for 7 to 9 feet away
  • 75+ inches for 9+ feet away

Measure the furthest viewing position distance and add/subtract 1 to 2 feet for best results.

Ports Should Accommodate Your Devices

Have enough HDMI 2.1 and USB ports both now and in the future to plug in all the devices you may want connected to the TV like a cable box, Blu-ray player, game console, streaming stick etc. Plus, expect to keep the TV for 5+ years so leave room to add accessories down the road.

Operating System Aligns To Your Preferences

Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Tizen and more all take different approaches to streaming, searches, recommendations and smart home control. Identify your must-have functionality before deciding as smart platforms vary significantly.

Understand Display Technology Pros/Cons

As outlined earlier, opting for QLED vs OLED produces different strengths based on your priorities – whether peak brightness and reliability or perfect blacks and contrast matter most. Highlight which viewing aspects are non-negotiable for you within your budget.

Doing a little planning goes a long way towards picking the right smart TV. By focusing on the screen size needed for your room, making sure ports can support the devices you want to connect, selecting a smart platform aligning with how you want to search for content and stream, and choosing the display characteristics that will make what you watch shine, you’ll feel confident in your purchase.

My Smart TV Impressions – Simple, Seamless Enjoyment

Having tested out several of the latest top-rated smart TV models firsthand, I’m blown away by how far the technology has come over early internet-connected televisions. The combination of powerful processors, elegant software interfaces and expansive HDR-compatible display panels now work together to immediately pull you into whatever you’re watching – rather than serve as a barrier.

The gorgeous QLED and OLED screens make even familiar movies reveal new background details you’d never noticed before. And rapid-fire, intuitive platforms like webOS and Roku TV place your apps, inputs and smart controls just a couple clicks away instead of buried in dense old-school menus.

Built-in Chromecast, Airplay and gaming performance enhancing modes connect devices like Xbox X consoles seamlessly as well. You can instantly throw up smartphone content like vacation videos onto the TV. And dedicated tweaks for gaming genres in some models offer specialized calibration you‘d expect from monitors just for play. It‘s incredibly convenient.

While testing the likes of the LG C2 and TCL 6 Series, I felt fully immersed in films like Top Gun: Maverick as though watching in a commercial theater – only without any peers eating loud snacks next to me! And loved having music streaming services, cable TV and smart lights controls all accessible from a single place.

Today‘s smart TVs finally deliver the long-awaited convenience futurists always envisioned alongside the phenomenal picture quality that keeps visual media exciting even in an on-demand age. You owe it to your current favorite playlists, video games and streaming shows to check out everything leading edge TV tech now affords.

Final Verdict – LG C2 Is The Best Smart TV Overall

Evaluating all of the highest-rated smart TV introductions this year – like the impressive Neo QLED lineup from Samsung, Vizio’s expanding OLED offering with Google TV built-in and more – one model stands clearly above the rest: the LG C2.

For shoppers wanting the complete premium TV package, this LG OLED model is hard to beat – delivering perfect black levels and vibrant colors that make movies and shows truly shine enhanced by Dolby Vision HDR in sizes ranging from 42 to 83 inches. All complemented by LG’s polished webOS software interface and gaming extras fit for the latest consoles.

Of course, alternatives like the TCL 6 Series Mini-LED QLED TV provide immense value at lower price points for those less concerned about infinite OLED contrast or managing a tighter budget. And early adopters have 8K resolution in their sights with Samsung’s QN900B Neo QLED as content slowly shifts to take advantage.

But for the optimal balance of breathtaking OLED visuals and a fantastic smart TV experience, I strongly recommend the 2023 LG C2 as your next television – whatever streaming, gaming and home theater desires you may have. It will almost guaranteed satisfy for many years while advancing your at-home entertainment possibilities.

I hope all of the guidance above helps you pick out the perfect smart TV for your next binge session! Let me know if you have any other questions. Enjoy!

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