Television shopping
September 30, 2014 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I don't have cable. Just wifi. What television should I buy?

I want to buy a flatscreen TV that is large (40-45'' or so, erring on the size of larger rather than smaller) for up to $500.

I don't have cable TV (but have a fairly good internet connection with broadband cable internet to wifi throughout the apartment), but I do have Netflix and in addition want to be able to stream whatever is on my Windows laptop onto the TV (for example, playing iTunes through the TV speakers or playing a random streaming video from a website on the TV -- is this as simple as USB to HDMI cable?).

What TV do I want to buy?
posted by lewedswiver to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How about one of these ? You'd have everything you need to watch whatever you want on the internet, only thing would be local files. If your laptop has an HDMI port, then all you'd need is a cable to go between your laptop and TV, and then whatever you're doing on the computer, you'd be seeing and hearing it on the laptop.

There are all sorts of other stuff you could go into with using Chrome extensions and a Chromecast instead of the HDMI cable too.
posted by deezil at 4:57 PM on September 30, 2014

I have a Samsung TV that is internet enabled, but instead of using the built-in internet capability I use the Roku box that I already had. I tried the Samsung internet features when the TV was new, but found them clunky compared to the Roku. I don't have cable. I watch a little over-the-air TV, but mostly just Netflix, Amazon video, and a few other services via Roku. I also tried Google Chromecast with my iPad, thinking that I could use that to stream any video that is available via a browser, but it only works with certain apps - not the browser. I can stream from the browser on my phone using an HDMI cable, but I rarely use that as it seems like more trouble than it's worth. My PC isn't in the same room so I don't connect it to the TV. The HDMI cable solution should work for what you want to do. You can also put audio or video files on a USB stick, plug it into the TV, and play them using software that is built into the TV, but I haven't used that feature. Bottom line is that I find Roku the easiest to use, and it meets my needs.
posted by jkent at 5:06 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Generally TVs with internet features have crappy UIs and aren't worth the premium. Find quality mid-tier TV with enough HDMI ports for whatever you want to connect. The cheapest way to get Netflix onto your TV is probably a Chromecast ($35) which you'll need a laptop or phone/table to control.

For generic stuff from laptop to TV maybe try a miracast dongle for the TV although that depends on having miracast support in your laptop. There's no USB to HDMI cable - does your laptop have HDMI out? You can get DVI to HDMI cables but those don't carry sound so you'll need to get both that and an audio cable as well. Some TVs have VGA inputs but again, there's no sound there.

But there are dozens of TVs that are a possible fit. My suggestion is to look for a sale either online or in-store. Just get something on-sale that's not a "smart" TV.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on September 30, 2014

Buy an Apple TV and a $400 tv.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

most "smart" tv's have pretty slow, bare-bones interface, and they basically never get updated. It's fine for occasional use, but if it's going to be a heavy use device, I'd spring for a roku or an apple TV (I have had both and definitely prefer the roku).
posted by skewed at 5:39 PM on September 30, 2014

I'd say pick up a Samsung plasma while you can, like this one. They're discontinuing them in favor of pushing curved UHD TVs but they look amazing. I couldn't imagine that your laptop wouldn't have an HDMI port itself; USB to HDMI isn't a thing (or if it is, there'd be nothing simple about it), but either way it's worth getting a streaming set top instead (I use an Apple TV but a Chromecast is only $35).
posted by deathmaven at 5:56 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think the general consensus is that "smart" TVs generally have terrible UI's and are not worth the added expense. You're better off getting a regular TV and a Roku or Apple TV. If you have Apple devices, definitely get the Apple TV. It's super easy to stream from your laptop or phone to the TV!

I don't have a specific model recommendation, but you probably want an LCD with 1080p and can find one in that size in your price range. We just went to a local shop recommended by a friend, and they had a good but not huge selection and the guy recommended something so we bought it.
posted by radioamy at 7:13 PM on September 30, 2014

Don't get a smart tv. Honestly, any tv with a port HDMI cable should be enough or for a roku/chromecast/apple tv, whatever. Seriously, just get the cheapest tv you can get with good screen resolution from like wal-mart or wherever. I don't even think brand matters too much here.
posted by hejrat at 7:53 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Wirecutter did a review of the best $500 TV last August, but they updated it in July with the tv deathmaven mentioned previously. I was tv shopping a while back and all of these were available at Best Buy. For some reason my liberal enclave doesn't have a locavore, artisanal electronics cooperative.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:12 PM on September 30, 2014

Our solution to this problem was to get a really good, really big computer monitor. Way cheaper than a TV, and with the right cables we can hook anything up to it. Currently using our PS3 as a media server so we don't even need to connect the laptop to stream files from the computer.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 6:05 AM on October 1, 2014

At the price point you're looking at, a Smart TV is not a likely option.

However, if you do find an awesome deal on one, it may be worth considering. There's a benefit - possibly a major one - in having a media system that's managed by a single designed-for-it remote.

AppleTV totally sucks because you're always juggling remotes, there's volume on the TV or receiver remote and then the Steve Jobs Silver Sliver that always slides between the couch cushions.

All-in-one remotes do exist, and I'm not talking about the kind the average consumer can buy, but rather the high end gear (URC, etc). They offer their own challenges in programming and setup, and cost an arm and a leg. All those buttons map to nada on the AppleTV ...

So we've switched to primarily (99%+) watching content on Plex via Samsung SmartTV's. Netflix and broadcast are available, as well as DVD/Blu-Ray. It all operates off the TV remote, fairly cleanly. Turn on the TV and the receiver powers up and configures itself correctly. Put a disc in and the system gets ready to play it. There's no fumbling for remotes. We keep an AppleTV running pictures and streaming music via AirPlay as a "screen saver", which also allows iDevices to throw stuff up on the screen - means we never have to find the darn remote for it. All of this integrates very neatly and runs off the single TV remote.

Yeah, the SmartTV software isn't great and some giant like Apple should really rethink and reinvent the entire SmartTV business, but it is still a nifty option.
posted by jgreco at 7:16 AM on October 1, 2014


My company builds SmartTV apps (we built Golf Digest's app on Samsung TVs as well as Surfline and Spuul and others, we like to think they're some of the best apps in market YMMV) we have pretty much every SmartTV available as well as all the over the top boxes like Roku's and Game Consoles. I should note its almost hard to find a good quality TV thats NOT a smart TV these days and you're generally not paying a premium for those features.

My $0.2

1. Chromecast by itself won't provide as much capability (currently) as a Roku device (with a small price difference), Roku has more content offerings then AppleTV as well at this point.

2. Of all the Smart TV's the 2014 Samsungs are probably your best bet. this is a pretty good example. The new LG TV's which are WebOS based are actually really slick but they are currently limited for app availability as existing apps get ported to WebOS.

Personally I use an old Samsung TV at home (2011) with a Chromcast, Roku connected to it with a Plex Media Server for local video streaming.

I should note XboxOne's are great with tons of streaming options and, of course, gaming but it would pretty much double your budget.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:27 AM on October 1, 2014

I bought This Vizio 42" smart TV back in the spring. I'm happy with it, though the speakers aren't much - I hooked its audio out to a stereo system. (I think that's true of a lot of these TVs now - they're expecting you're going to use external audio systems, so the speakers included on the TV are pretty weak.) Amazon is currently offering it at $399 (which... I swear I paid $100 more back in April, but I forget the exact amount)

I'm happy with it. I like the SmartTV features, even though I also got a Sony Blu-ray player and a Chromecast so many of the features (like Netflix and Amazon videos) are duplicated.

Vizio has a decent reputation as an affordable brand, so you might look at some of their other models to compare your needs.
posted by dnash at 10:32 AM on October 1, 2014

I would recommend against buying a smart TV. You will have a lot more flexibility and save money if you buy a non-smart TV and equip it with some kind of media player device. Personally, I recommend a PS3 - these can be had used at very reasonable prices and they can:

Play Blu-Ray Discs
Play DVDs
Be a Netflix client
Play media stored on your computer
Not to mention they can play PS3 games!

My personal setup is basically all my stuff (cable box, games consoles, etc) is plugged into my receiver by HDMI, which is plugged into my TV via HDMI. The receiver outputs surround audio (can decode DTS, Dolby Digital, AC3, whatever kind of sound is being outputted on the HDMI) and also acts as a video switcher, so I never have to change the settings on the TV, just the receiver.

To play the media files you have on your computer, all you need is a free piece of software called PS3 Media Server. You just run it, point it at your directories of media files (it will take almost any video format) and then browse through your collection from the PS3.
posted by signsofrain at 12:44 PM on October 2, 2014

« Older Rainwater flooding our garage   |   Old US Coin ID question Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.