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How Smart Should Your Next Smart TV Be?

These days most televisions manufactured are smart TVs to a degree, but some TVs are actually smarter than others. You might be wondering whether you need to jump on the smart TV bandwagon and, if so, exactly how smart should you go? This, of course, all ultimately depends on what you expect your TV to do for you.

Two Types: Smart and Smarter

A smart television usually comes in two formats: a bare-bones smart TV that has been preloaded with apps such as Netflix, Pandora and Hulu, and a premium smart TV that also includes an Internet browser for accessing other content online. If you go for the latter, you can shop online, update your status on your favorite social media networks and even watch YouTube videos. Like Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store, some TV manufacturers have created their own online stores that let you download extra, unique apps onto your TV.

Endless Programs from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon

If you enjoy watching movies on-demand and are tired of buying, storing and loading/unloading DVDs into a player, there are a number of smart TVs out there with apps that offer programming subscriptions. Netflix and Hulu offer thousands of movies, current and retro TV shows, and even exclusive content that can't be accessed from a traditional cable subscription. If you enjoy binge-watching entire seasons of network or cable TV series—without commercials—you'll need a TV smart enough to load and run these and similar apps.

Even Smarter Options

Besides apps, there are a few other features you might want to consider to enhance your viewing experience:

  • Dual- or quad-core processor. Processors give TVs more power to multitask and allow for faster Web browsing.
  • Smart voice/motion remotes. This allows you to use your voice or hand motions to control your TV and quickly navigate through the massive amount of on-demand content available.
  • Screen mirroring. This feature lets you wirelessly share content between your computer or smart phone and your TV. This option beats making everyone crowd around your phone's three-inch screen to watch your vacation videos.

Games and Accessories

If you're still expecting more from your TV, fear not, because Smart TVs can also be customized with a full range of optional accessories that will enhance the experience for the whole family. Among these are handheld controllers to allow full engagement with gaming apps and even smart pens, which let you write directly on your TV screen and leave messages for friends and family—much like a chalkboard. Fitness fanatics will love using Wi-Fi body scales and health-monitoring wristbands which sync to apps on some smart TVs.

If you prefer to use your TV for prolonged Web surfing, consider pairing the device with a wireless keyboard designed for use with smart TVs. You can also use a smart remote control or even a smartphone or tablet app to make typing less tedious.

So how smart should your smart TV be? Smart enough to do exactly what you want it to—without straining your budget.