Spotlight-SmartTV

Why I prefer streaming devices over smart TVs anyday

The real smart is in a device

by Ivan Mehta

Over the past one month at Killer Features, we have been writing about smart TVs a lot. In India, the market has been heating up as well with the recent launches from Xiaomi, Kodak, TCL and more. However, personally, I am yet to be convinced by smart TVs. I see too many nooks and crooks in the concept, which leave me skeptical. I have adapted to smart streaming device culture for more than three years and I will let you in why I think it is the better choice out of the two. But before we go deep into reasons, it would be better to give you a little bit of background on my device usage.

Three years ago when I moved into a house in Mumbai, there was a pre-installed TV in my apartment. However, due to exuberant prices of DTH subscriptions, I avoided Tata Sky or an Airtel connection. Most of my content consumption was through the Internet. And Star Sports was available via streaming services as well. So I decided to get a Chromecast and that sorted me out for the large part. Although, it was the first-generation Chromecast and had its teething problems. But as more and more apps started featuring cast support, the experience became better over time. Even Google jumped in to make the standard more robust.

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Why are streaming devices better than smart TVs?

  • Better app support

  • More frequent software updates

  • Not as costly as a smart TV

  • Lower product hardware cycle means better hardware

By the end of 2016, I was ready to buy a TV, and my confusion was either to go for a smart one or a dumb one. At the time, there was a significant price difference between a smart and non-smart TV from the top brands. Additionally, I had already read too much about the struggles that smart TV software, in general, was facing in terms of regular updates. Early in 2017, I got the Apple TV and it kind of changed my streaming experience. Such fluid UI! Although, it comes with a cost. When Amazon Prime Stick launched in India, I tried that as well and felt that it is the best compromise between a Chromecast and an Apple TV. Here is the rundown of the salient points of streaming devices.

 

Chromecast

  • Great app support.
  • Easy to cast content from the phone or the laptop.
  • Cheap and compact.
  • Have to rely on the phone to be your remote control.
  • Often there are files which are not supported.

Amazon Fire Stick

  • Supports major streaming services.
  • Has good UI.
  • Ships with a remote.
  • Streaming experience not always optimum.
  • Doesn't work with Echo devices.

Apple TV

  • Most premium streaming experience
  • Great set of apps and fluid UI
  • Probably the best remote ever
  • Very costly as compared to the other solutions.

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If you own any of these devices, it is easier for you to invest in a better panel for TV to get the best result.

Content

Most of the content is now available through apps. If you don't watch your local channels, which might not be on any streaming platform, then there is a chance you want your cable TV. Otherwise, the Internet provides enough content. Even the shows from Indian TV channels. Now certain smart TVs have restrictions if the apps are not optimised. And some smart TVs don't feature the support for certain streaming services. Case in point, Xiaomi TVs don't have Netflix support at the moment. In that case, I need to fall back to a stick or an app. So why bother buying a smart TV at all?

Although there is the argument for 4K content. The new players are bringing 4K support to its smart TVs. And it will be easier for the consumer to discover that kind of content. In India, at this moment, Chromecast Ultra and Amazon Fire Stick 4K are not available. And the Apple TV 4K costs good Rs 15,900 for 32 GB version. In the 4K segment, 4K smart TVs have an upper hand for now.

The silver line for smart TVs

After Xiaomi launched its smart TV in India, there is a bunch of brands rushing to the market. This might bring in a couple of changes to the ecosystem. Firstly, there will hopefully be more software updates to the platforms. Additionally, because of the competition, the premium brands might be enticed to bring down the cost of their own offerings as well. Also, it is up to the manufacturer to form the right partnership for content so the customer would see value in its product. While I am excited to see what is going to unfold in the smart TV market, I am happy in my streaming device world for now.

 

 

 

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