Need a smart TV that I can make dumb
January 17, 2022 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Do current Samsung models hassle you into engaging with their smart TV features? Are other options any better?

I use my TV like a giant computer monitor. I don't need any smart TV features, and actually would prefer not to have them, but it seems like dumb TVs aren't really a thing anymore. My ten year old Samsung flatscreen has never given me problems in this regard, but my impression is that TV OS's have gotten progressively more invasive, controlling, and untrustworthy since the last time I bought one.

Can I leave a new model Samsung TV unconnected from the internet and have it act like a completely passive HDMI display? Or is it going to force me into making an account, or nag me with annoying popups because it "can't update firmware", or some such bullshit? For that matter, are the new Google-infested Sony TVs any better? I've heard they have a "basic mode" that turns off smart TV features, but I don't have much faith in Google's commitment to my privacy and need for space.
posted by dephlogisticated to Technology (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My LG TV is not connected to the internet, and I do not recall it ever bothering me about it. I did plug it in via ethernet when I first got it, to get any immediate firmware updates (which do sometimes help with things other than the smart features), but I unplugged it after that and have had zero issues. I used ethernet because I wanted to be sure I could completely disable it; if I gave it the wifi password, I didn't have faith that I could ever completely delete it...
posted by primethyme at 7:42 PM on January 17

I would expect that you can with most or even all smart TVs, but I specfically have done this with some Roku-enabled TCL TV - just never told it my wifi credentials and set it to HDMI1, and leave it like that. (or you can also media off USB sticks just fine with no internet).
posted by aubilenon at 7:42 PM on January 17

Best answer: I have a Samsung smart TV from 2020 that I have never connected to the internet. It has never pestered me to do anything, nor has it deprived me of any functionality without my updating it. I suppose I should probably connect it at some point just to download a firmware update or something, but on the other hand, it TV's just fine as it is, so...shrug. It will ask you if you want to connect to your network at initial setup; just choose "not now" or "skip" (I can't remember the exact wording, but they don't try to hide the ability to not join a network) and go on about your business.

TL;DR: you'll be fine with a new Samsung that you don't connect to the internet.
posted by pdb at 8:07 PM on January 17

Best answer: I bought a Samsung smart tv last year. By my recollection, upon initial powerup, you can skip any connectivity options if you wish. In the time I've owned it, there has been no nagging about updates. My model has no "basic" mode, as such. You simply don't use the streaming options. It does behave a little unusual (to me) in that it treats free streaming channels (like the Bob Ross channel) like regular TV channels, albeit with 4 digit numbers. Of course, they're only there if it's got an internet connection. Fiddling around with the remote, it seems to refer to these channels as Samsung Plus or some such thing. Premium streaming channels like Netflix or Hulu are accessed by a separate menu and don't seem to appear in the normal channel list. That's about the extent of the Smart features I use. Playing around with the menu, I just realized it seems to have some kind of web browser, some kind of Alexa thing, something that has to do with Google, and so forth. I don't know if these features can be disabled as such, outside of hobbling them by connecting it to the internet. None of these things seem to be working as they haven't been setup, and it doesn't nag you to do so.

It can act purely as an HDMI display, if you wish. I have mine connected to a computer by which I do all my premium streaming, which I find preferable over trying to navigate streaming services with the TV's remote, which is minimalistic to a fault (though reasonably suited to plain old over the air or cable broadcasts). However, there seems to be no way of completely disabling all functions other than the HDMI display. You simply select HDMI as a source signal.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:22 PM on January 17

Best answer: I can answer this for a 2021 Samsung TV with a Tizen-based OS which I just bought. Like you, I just want a dumb tv so I refuse to connect it to the internet in any way.

When you press the home button (to get into settings, change the source, and get into the internet connected apps, etc) it has a rather large lime green popup on the lower 1/4 of the screen for Terms & Policies, but when you try to read this to get it to go away, it attempts to connect to the internet, fails, and then kicks you back to the main menu only to popup again the next time you press the home button. I was hoping this popup would timeout after a week or so but it hasn't.

I looked around in forums and at least one person said they connected their Samsung TV once to the internet to get the agreement to go away and then disconnected it and it hasn't been a problem since, but I've become stubborn about this and won't let them win.

The good: once I got the settings adjusted, I almost never see the popup. I have HDMI-CEC turned on, so I don't even need to go into the menu to change the source. Also: Samsung provides their firmware for download on their website and you can install it from a USB drive, although I haven't done this yet.

Even with this hassle, I still really love the picture of this QLED TV and I'd buy it again even if I knew about the popup in advance. It's an annoyance but not a dealbreaker.

Also, just as a note, I had a 2019 Samsung which didn't have any popup whatsoever, so this might be a new thing. Aside from companies making lots of money serving ads and mining data (Vizio reportedly makes twice as much money serving ads as they do selling you the actual TV) I read an article where Samsung talked about how they can remotely brick TVs stolen when cargo shipments are hijacked when they leave the factories, so they likely see it as a corporate antitheft measure.
posted by bluecore at 8:36 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Same story for Sony TVs that use the Google platform - mine is connected so I can get to streaming content, but if you didn't want to use that feature it would still be a perfectly good TV - the UI is such that all of the app-based or online content is tucked away where you'd never see it. There's no need to sign in with any Google ID.
posted by rd45 at 2:27 AM on January 18

Hisense is similar. Its used to update firmware or the built in streaming. If you didn't want to use it for streaming, should be the same.
posted by radsqd at 5:58 AM on January 18

dumb TVs aren't really a thing anymore.

It is possible to buy an "ok quality" screen that has a TV tuner/speaker, but no "smart" features. E.g. this USD 368$ 4k 55" offering from Walmart/USA.
posted by enfa at 12:02 PM on January 18

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