What is a smart TV and are they worth it? Here are some disadvantages of smart TVs and why you may want to avoid them.
Smart TVs, which were once a luxury option, are now the standard offering in the TV space. When you walk into an electronics store or shop online for a new TV, almost every model you find will be a smart TV, and they’re available at an affordable price.
And while they have a lot of benefits, you shouldn’t buy a smart TV without thinking about it first. Let’s look at several reasons why you shouldn’t buy a smart TV.
What Is a Smart TV?
Smart TVs are TVs that have the built-in capability to connect to the internet. This means that your TV itself gets online, instead of having to use a connected device like a Roku box or gaming console to access online services.
Because smart TVs are connected to the internet, they usually let you download apps just like you would on your phone. Most smart TV platforms have apps for major streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, plus offerings for major TV networks and more niche services. You can also use them to browse the web, access other resources on your home network, and more depending on your model.
That’s what a smart TV does that a regular TV doesn’t. Not all TVs are smart; a “dumb” TV doesn’t connect to the internet, so it’s simply a display device for whatever you connect to it (much like a computer monitor).
Having your TV online is definitely useful, and their affordable pricing means that you don’t have to shell out extra for these features. But we still think non-smart TVs, or alternative devices, have a worthy place in your home. Let’s examine some disadvantages of smart TVs.
1. Smart TV Security and Privacy Risks Are Real
When you consider buying any “smart” product—which is any device that has the ability to connect to the internet—security should always be a top concern. Every internet-ready device contributes to the Internet of Things, which is arguably one of the worst security nightmares today.
As it turns out, smart TVs are one of the worst offenders in this area. They put your privacy and security at risk in several ways; even the FBI has issued warnings about the risks of smart TVs.
Nearly all smart TVs use automatic content recognition (ACR) to track what you’re watching. They use this information to show you more relevant ads. While you can often limit the collection of this data, it’s usually difficult to find or reverse. Do you really want to share everything you watch with your TV manufacturer?
Another major security problem with smart TVs is a lack of updates. Every platform is dependent on its provider for app and OS updates. If you have a TV that no longer receives updates, or takes a long time to receive software patches, your TV could be a vulnerable point on your network.
Whether from a hacker or your TV manufacturer, that’s a lot of data up for collection when you just want to watch something on your TV.
2. Other Streaming Devices Are Superior
The main draw of smart TVs is that you can access Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and similar services right from your TV. While this idea is great, those services aren’t exclusive to smart TVs. And in fact, you can get a lot more from an alternative device.
Options like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast are far better platforms. They offer less convoluted interfaces that are easier to navigate than your smart TV’s OS. The app selection is likely smoother than what your smart TV’s app store offers. And depending on what ecosystems you already use, these platforms offer greater convenience and integration with your phone and other devices.
For example, the Amazon Fire TV Stick has an Alexa-enabled remote control, allowing you to launch your favorite shows without fumbling through menus. If you have a lot of Apple devices, the Apple TV makes it easy to share media from your iPhone or iPad. For most people, these perks are far better than suffering through what’s included on your smart TV.
In short, set-top boxes like the Apple TV and streaming sticks like the Chromecast do everything your smart TV can do, but better. They’re inexpensive and much more flexible. And since you can add them to any TV, your television set itself remains a simple display while the device handles what you’re watching.
While a smart TV may become obsolete after a few years, you can easily replace your streaming device or take it with you to a new TV.
3. Smart TVs Have Inefficient Interfaces
Smart functionality requires a suitable interface. Smartphones and computers are great because they both support two important input methods: typing and pointing. Smart TVs are terrible at both, and this can lead to a lot of frustration.
When you want to sit down and watch something on a smart TV, it’s actually a lot more work than you’d expect. While it’s not overwhelming, it makes what should be a fun experience inconvenient at best.
One major example is when you want to search for a particular TV show or movie on a streaming service. With a regular TV remote, typing is a hair-pulling affair that could take up to a dozen button presses per letter typed. While most smart TVs have microphone support, the stock solution is often spotty (and likely requires sharing voice data with your TV manufacturer).
On the other hand, most streaming boxes come with remotes that have superior voice assistants. Some of them also have mobile TV remote apps, which support typing out your searches on a smartphone or tablet.
And that’s only one issue. Many smart TVs are plagued with generally poor interfaces that take a lot of button presses to get anywhere and hide important settings where you might miss them. Even the remote control can be confusing, hiding some functions behind colors or letters that aren’t at all clear.
If you have an older smart TV that no longer receives updates, you could be stuck with these poor interfaces for a long time.
4. Smart TV Performance Is Often Unreliable
Using smart TV apps to watch content is convenient, but the apps are almost always inferior to what’s available on your phone or computer. In addition to the interface issues discussed earlier, another problem is that smart TVs don’t have nearly as much processing power as other devices.
Both poor performance and neglect from app developers are common issues. Most smart TV users have experienced input lag when pressing buttons, freezing and crashing when apps try to do something intensive, and other performance-related issues. This leads to you having to kill apps and restart them, which is never fun.
Smart TVs also run into glitches. For example, we’ve seen an issue where the YouTube app on a Samsung smart TV overlapped video titles with the item below, making them near-impossible to read. I have to re-pair my Bluetooth headphones with my smart TV almost every time I use it. And any time I disconnect an HDMI cable and reconnect it, the TV forgets the name I set for that input and makes me replace its shortcut icon.
Even the apps themselves can be limited on features. For example, the YouTube app for TVs only gained the option to let you change the playback speed in 2021, which has been available on both desktop and mobile for years. However, the speed up feature doesn’t even work properly—if you speed up the video, it mutes the audio. It’s thus a near-worthless setting.
These issues aren’t really a surprise. Content providers have to juggle compatibility for a lot of platforms these days, including web players, smartphone apps, tablet apps, third-party devices like Roku and Chromecast, and smart TVs. Smart TVs, being less widely used than smartphones and computers, thus receive lower priority.
This brings up another potential issue: the usefulness of your smart TV is limited by the apps that are available for it. If content providers stop updating their smart TV apps for whatever reason, your smart TV loses a big chunk of what makes it “smart.” Some smart TVs also have a limited amount of space, so you might not be able to install all the apps you want to use.
In just a few years from now, your smart TV might end up becoming a dumb TV through no fault of your own. If that happens, you’ll have to rely on set-top boxes and other streaming methods anyway.