These days, television is all about streaming your favorite shows and movies whenever you want. And while you can stream on your phone or tablet, the best way to appreciate the seemingly limitless content out there is with a nice big screen — which is why you're going to want a smart TV.
A smart TV has integrated software that allows it to access different apps, mainly streaming services, without the need of an additional device. You can download a streaming service such as Netflix or HBO Max directly to your TV, and enjoy all films, TV shows, stream music, rent films and stream fitness classes. Some smart TVs even come with voice-activation features, so you can forget the remote and just ask Siri or Alexa to play the latest episode of Saturday Night Live.
Unless you have a pretty old TV set, a device like Roku can get your media center hooked up to the internet. However, you might want to upgrade your television entirely, whether it's to get better resolution or a much bigger model. In that case, getting a smart TV with included streaming capabilities is a great option.
While devices with all the bells and whistles go for the highest prices, there are quite a bit or inexpensive smart TVs out there. To help you figure out what smart TV will meet your needs and offer the best value for the money, we asked some technology experts for their recommendations. But first, some background on where and when to buy a TV if you're looking to pay the absolute lowest price possible.
Best Smart TV Deals: How to Shop Smart
What are the best smart TV deals? And what's the best place to shop? The answers to both of these questions can change on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis.
There are new smart TV sales launching every week of the year, and it can be hard to tell whether the latest discounts are true bargains or merely meh. To evaluate deals wisely, you must learn a bit about the best smart TV brands and models in your price range, and then figure out how much they really cost on a typical day. Neither task is as simple as you'd hope.
The first task is complicated because electronics brands feature an astonishingly diverse range of device series and models. VIZIO TVs, for example, come in V-series, M-series, P-series, and OLED varieties, and each line offers models in multiple different sizes and different model numbers. Sometimes, a specific smart TV model is sold exclusively by one retailer, though there are often other similar — or completely identical — model numbers available from multiple stores.
As for the second task, you'd think it would be easy to find out how much a TV normally costs. Just look at the list price, right? Even this can be annoyingly complicated, because retailers sometimes use different lists prices — or cite varying "original," "regular," or "compare to" prices — to confuse shoppers into thinking that the sale price at the moment is a great deal.
What can shoppers do to make smart decisions? First, when browsing TVs and evaluating deals at Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Target, Walmart, or other stores, do your best to make apples-to-apples comparisons. Look at brands and TV sizes, obviously, but also specific model numbers. If it's impossible to compare prices at different retailers for the same exact model, examine the TV's capabilities and specifics, including the model year, screen pixels (a higher rating means it has a higher definition and better picture), how many ports it has for plugging in game consoles and Blue-ray players, and so on.
When it comes to researching how much a TV really costs, check out a price-tracking site such as CamelCamelCamel or Keepa, where you can view how prices have fluctuated at Amazon over the course of months. These services only track prices at Amazon, but Amazon often has good prices and matches competitor deals, so these sites can give you an indication of the market overall.
Finally, it's certainly worth looking for smart TV deals at strategic times of year, like major shopping holidays. The Black Friday season — yes, it's an entire season now, with weeks of deals — is particularly known for amazingly cheap TV sales.
In other words, if you shop strategically, you could pay much less than the prices for the smart TVs below — which are already pretty good values, even without Black Friday discounts.
Best Smart TVs for the Money
Courtesy of AmazonJayant Gosain, a technology journalist and the founder of the blog The Tech Toys, says it's worth the extra money to go with the well-known brand name, and he likes the Samsung Q60T series in particular.
"I always recommend Tier-1 brands because it really affects the experience. You can easily get a $200 smart TV but what about the panel quality? You get dull colors, low brightness, and poor contrast ratio. A TV is all about the display and a poor display is not worth the money."
If you're happy with a 43-inch television, Samsung has one for around $530. If you willing to throw down some serious cash for a gigantic 85-inch set, that runs more in the neighborhood of $2,500. Gosain says that either way, you'll be getting a lot for your money.
"We all know the quality of the display panel delivered by Samsung and this is no different. Accurate, bright, and vibrant colors on a 4K display look absolutely stunning. On top of that, it comes with Alexa, Google Assistant & Bixby built-in. Simply ask Alexa or any other Voice Assistants to play your favorite movie, TV show or even music and you are all set to have the best time with your family and friends," he says.
If you're a big gamer, then Darshan Somashekar, New York-based tech entrepreneur and CEO & founder of the online game FreeCell Challenge, thinks you'll enjoy a Hisense smart TV.
"When it comes to deep blacks and vivid colors, you get more than what you pay for with this budget option. That's one of the perks of a good VA panel, though the trade-off here is a narrow range of viewing angles. HDR10 and Dolby Vision pops relatively well thanks to a wide color gamut and full-array local dimming," he says. "Gamers and enthusiasts will appreciate its black frame insertion feature, which reduces motion blur. Despite a 60Hz refresh rate, folks can expect smooth and responsive gaming thanks to the H8G's very low input lag. Android TVs like this one provide native access to the Google Play Store and Google Assistant. But don't worry if you're an Alexa fan – that virtual assistant is also compatible."
Before smart televisions became popular, lots of people used a Roku device to connect their set to the internet so they could check out this thing called "Netflix." But these days, Roku comes standard in many TVs. "There's no shortage of Roku TVs on the market," says Somashekar. "Roku is technically still a platform-agnostic streaming option, making it a neat alternative to the less-neutral Amazon Firestick and Apple TV. The TCL R635 offers excellent picture quality on a QLED display. It has a number of features that will float many gamers' boats, including black frame insertion and a variable refresh rate for reduced screen tearing."
This VIZIO series is equipped with Dolby Vision High-dynamic-range imaging, which makes it great for cinephiles with high standards for picture quality. The M Series from VIZIO "sports a whole host of features that can launch your own home theater," says Oleg Deneka, the founder of TechPriceCrunch. "With a great contrast ratio and dimming features, you can kick back and enjoy the show."
Best Smart TVs Under $300
Smart TVs are sometimes viewed as a luxury item, but you can still stream your heart out on a budget with TCL. "If at the bottom line, price is what is most important for you," then the TCL 3- and 4-Series lines offer very solid options, says Deneka. "It has all the smart features that you will expect from a modern TV, but it’s lacking in the support functions and video quality that higher-end models can provide. If you’re willing to make that sacrifice for a decent screen, this option is up for grabs."
With a reputation for decent quality and such low prices, it's no surprise TCL often dominates Amazon's bestselling TV list.