The past decade has been a great one for television watchers. We have more programming choices than ever before, and more ways to watch them. Services like Netflix and Hulu are not only providing us with the ability to stream our favorite shows, but they are coming out with blockbuster (pun intended) hits of their own, like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
Consumers who want to access these services need a device that can support them. In general, those devices can be broken into two categories: Smart TVs or streaming devices. Consumers are increasingly using one of these devices to access programming, and it is projected that more than half of Internet users in the United States will be using one of these devices by the end of this year. Each has its set of advantages and disadvantages, which smart consumers should consider before making a purchasing decision of their own.
Smart TVs have been growing in popularity in recent years. A Smart TV is roughly defined as a television that can access a web browser and streaming services like Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, and others. They typically have a proprietary operating system built into them and are controlled by a “traditional” remote control.
One of the best benefits of the Smart TVs is that they are quickly becoming ubiquitous among new television sets. Increasingly, the vast majority of brand-name televisions are coming with “Smart TV” capabilities as standard features, which means you can get access to streaming services without paying anything beyond the television itself. Using a Smart TV also means you don’t have to worry about multiple devices, remotes, or other potential complications.
There is a reason there are only a few massively successful operating system developers – like Google and Apple – in the world. Creating a robust and easy to use operating system is difficult, and suffice it to say it is not the specialty of television manufacturers. Although they have gotten better in the past couple years, Smart TV operating systems tend to be more clunky and unintuitive than devices made by companies who specialize in operating system development.
The other major disadvantage with Smart TVs is the fact that they are not upgradable without purchasing another expensive television. That means that as developments (such as 4K) are released, those with Smart TVs could be left unable to utilize them.
A media streaming player is roughly defined as a device that plugs into a television (or another monitor) and provides access to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Buying a media streaming player can cost as little as $35 (for Google’s Chromecast), or as much as $199 (for the Apple TV). In any case, they are far less expensive than buying a new television and are portable enough to be brought to another room in the house, or even when traveling.
Media streaming players require a compatible television, and also need access to a power source. They will not work with many older televisions, and cannot play certain types of media files (such as DVDs).
Overall, however, those who can afford a media streaming device will be better off than those who only have a regular television or a Smart TV. Make sure to do you research on which media streaming player is best for you since the $35 Chromecast might be more than enough for your needs. Either way, both Smart TVs and media streaming devices give consumers access to a vast and growing library of great content!