There’s never been a more varied selection of TVs to purchase than now. They come in all shapes, sizes, resolutions, and prices, and except for a niche bunch, most of the TVs being pushed today come with smart features built-in. That includes those which have Android TV and Chromecast Built-in.
While smart TV makers are keen on wowing you with the promise of “Netflix and Chill” at the click of a button, we’re going to buck the trend and take the stance that you shouldn’t buy an Android TV with Chromecast built-in, or any other smart TV for that matter, and instead opt for a set-top-box or dongle. Here’s why.
For starters, TV makers are notorious for delivering updates at a snail’s pace. Take Chromecast, for instance — the dongle can often be multiple versions ahead of a TV with Chromecast built-in thanks to it receiving updates straight from Google. Good luck getting Sony to match that pace.
You may not think this is a big deal, but a one version discrepancy could be the difference between getting awesome new features like voice casting HBO content to your TV or being able to use video apps which only support the latest versions of Chromecast. That is simply no good.
Lack of New Features
Piggybacking on the point made above, what happens when Chromecast undergoes a major transformation and your TV manufacturer has already put it to rest? Or what if Google comes out with something that has a better WiFi radio, something with more RAM, or any other advancements that could be made in hardware?
Well, you won’t be getting that new goodness without buying a brand new TV. For instance, some 4K smart TVs with Chromecast built-in only support casting at resolutions up to 1080p, and that restriction is likely due to lack of necessary hardware. With a Chromecast dongle or an Android TV box, you can sell it and replace it with the 4K-capable model, a much cheaper proposition.
If you buy a smart TV with Chromecast built-in and nothing else, you’re limited to what Google and the manufacturers want to limit you to, whether it be due to those slow updates or simple business decisions.
Decide you don’t care for Chromecast any longer? Want something with Amazon Alexa on it, something with a gaming focus like the SHIELD TV or even a custom Raspberry Pi with a Kodi installation? Simply had enough with a certain brand and want to try something different? Those are all possibilities when you separate the brains from the display.
Smart TVs Cost More
Anyone doing some light TV shopping will immediately pick up on the trend that smarter TVs are pricier TVs. In some cases, the price difference isn’t so massive as to induce questions about price gouging, and in fact seem to accurately reflect the cost of the components needed to add those smart features. In other cases — mainly at the high-end point of the market — you can see increases of $100 or more for smart features.
Take these 2 TVs from Best Buy, for example. There is virtually nothing separating the two from a size, panel, and resolution standpoint, but because one is a Smart TV it’ll cost you $20 more. You could take that $20 in savings and put it toward a Chromecast, an actual Roku stick, or any other similar device and have the flexibility to upgrade or change it later on.
And as we mentioned before, good luck finding a non-smart version of a TV at all these days.
Go External, Always
Don’t get us wrong — we’re not saying you should avoid smart TVs like the plague. Some of you likely already have one and aren’t willing to part ways with it even if you aren’t totally happy with the user experience, and some of you who already have TVs might feel pressured to get with the times, or perhaps want a new 4K panel to upgrade from 1080p but can’t find one without smart features. That’s all fine.
The beauty in either situation is that both a basic TV and a smart TV can be upgraded simply by plugging something new into your HDMI port. It adds another box or dongle and lord knows we have enough of those already, but the benefits of choice far outweigh the convenience of having all that stuff baked in. Be sure to keep these points in mind this holiday season if you’re in the market for a new TV.