Several good friends have asked me what TV they should buy this holiday season. With great prices on "Smart TVs" they were all leaning that direction. The problem with Smart TVs is that you should never buy one.
The main reason: When you buy a Smart TV you're paying a premium for internet-connected apps and services that you can get much cheaper with an accessory (i.e. an Apple TV box for $99). For instance, right now you can buy a 50" Plasma TV for around $500. You can also pay about $150-$200 more and get the 1080p version of the same TV.
For that screen size in a Smart TV, you'll be paying at least a $400 premium if you catch a sale, or more. Usually well over $1200 for a decent 50" Smart TV.
Listen to my recent podcast about 2013 Black Friday Deals and Smart vs. Dumb TVs
So what should I buy?
I'll give you the same advice I gave a friend yesterday. Buy a "dumb" 50" or larger Plasma and save yourself the $300 - $800. Now, you can either buy a smart Blu-Ray player for less than $99 which has all the capabilities of the equivalent Smart TV, or buy something like a Roku Box for $79 or Apple TV for $99.
My suggestion is to buy an Apple TV, especially if you own any other Apple device, i.e. iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. Apple TV allows you to stream content from services like Netflix, Hulu and even MLB and NBA subscription channels. You can rent or buy movies and TV shows from the huge iTunes library, and possibly the best feature is AirPlay.
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AirPlay is hard to describe without seeing it happen, but in essence, any video, photo or music track you have on your phone can be sent to your TV, wirelessly. Even if you're browsing the web on your iPhone and come across a YouTube video, start playing the video on your phone then stream it to you TV so everyone can watch. Visit Apple's website to learn more about why AirPlay is so awesome.
What's the catch?
If you don't buy a Smart TV you're giving up two things, that aren't worth it anyway. Many Smart TVs have social apps built-in, like Facebook and Twitter. From my experience, these apps are slow, clunky and not useable on a TV. Other TVs allow you to browse the web with the TV remote. Again, this is a bad experience.
If you really want a great device for browsing the web and social media, take the $300 you saved from not buying a Smart TV and get yourself an iPad Mini. TV + Apple TV + iPad Mini is a potent combination.
The only other feature you can't get without a Smart TV is 3D. Let's be honest, you don't want 3D. It's a cool gimmick in the store, but paying $50-$100 per pair of glasses only to feel nauseous 20 minutes into watching a 3D movie? It's not worth it.