What To Look For When You Buy Your Next Smart TV

Today’s electronic gadgets come with so many amazing built-in features. Including obsolescence.

Phones, laptops, tablets – it seems like they are outdated almost before you have figured out all their bells and whistles.

With the gift-giving season in full swing and the Super Bowl looming, remember that obsolescence also comes standard with most “smart TVs,” those sets with video streaming and other Internet-related capabilities. If you’re in the market for one of these modern marvels, it’s important to choose carefully.

The way in which we watch television has changed dramatically in recent years and continues to morph relentlessly. You may be among the growing number of people who have dropped cable TV in favor streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV or HBO Now. More services on the way, including one from Disney, and there is no way to know if your just-unboxed smart TV will support those new choices. (This is why Samsung’s financing plans are designed to nudge you into a new TV after about two years.)

The best way to minimize the risk of obsolescence is to buy a set equipped with the two most popular streaming services – Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV. New streaming services will naturally gravitate to where people are already watching TV; Roku and Fire TV already account for 60% of streaming in the U.S. (Apple TV and Google Chromecast deliver most of the remaining 40%.)

Roku and Amazon both have most of the content you’re likely to want to watch. Roku has a larger content library, but Fire TV includes Alexa and some of Amazon’s cool movie-watching features like X-Ray, which displays information related to the exact scene you’re watching, allowing you to instantly answer that eternal question, “Where have I seen that actor before?”

The Smart TV market will probably end up like the mobile device realm, where a very small number of software systems and platforms are dominant. The upside of that situation would be more support for the surviving platform and the ease that comes with using nearly-universal technology.

Bottom line: When shopping for that Super-Bowl-watching TV set remember that software is every bit as important as color, clarity and screen size. More important, if you’re hoping to watch more than one Big Game on it.

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