two people on a couch, watching TV

Smart TVs are everywhere. Visit your local WalMart, and you’ll find it hard to find a standard “dumb” TV which simply plugs into your cable box and lets you watch broadcast television. Smart TVs are often cheaper than their non-connected cousins, but you shouldn’t buy one anyway. We’ll give you 5 good reasons why not.

What is a smart TV and how is it different from a regular TV?

Television sets have one job – to receive signals and display them on a screen. These can be broadcast signals from a TV transmitter, signals from your DVD player, or signals from a set-top box, a PC, or dongle. A conventional TV can only receive signals – it can’t send any data outwards.

A smart TV is a television set with an onboard computer which can connect to the internet. This means that you can access streaming media without needing to rely on external gizmos such as Amazon’s Firestick or a Roku box.

You’ll also be able to access the internet on a browser through your TV – if you want to do that for some reason.

All in all, smart TVs are pretty useful, and can make your life easier in several ways. Here’s why you should steer clear.

Smart TVs are quickly obsolete.

a broken and dirty TV in an alleyway

If you own a computer, you know that as it ages, fewer programs and apps are compatible with it. A PC running Windows 8, for example, won’t even have access to the Windows store. Hardware constraints also make it difficult to upgrade to a later OS version. Android phones running earlier versions of the mobile operating system won’t have access to the latest apps, and eventually find that their phone isn’t receiving security updates, can’t access that Play store, and can’t run any apps at all.

The same is true of Smart TVs – after a while, manufacturers and their software partners lose interest and stop supporting older platforms.

Sony Bravia smart TV sets manufactured before 2015 can’t add new channels, and they can’t can’t be updated either. Bravia TVs manufactured after this date can add channels and apps through the Google app store, although eventually this support will be dropped, too. As time goes on and technology shifts, you may find your smart TV stutters and suffers from poor internet connection and speed.

TVs are large expensive purchases, and it makes no sense to throw the whole thing away rather than simply buying a new, cheap HDMI or USB stick.

Smart TVs are bad for your privacy

an eye peeping through a hole in a box

The easiest way to add new channels to a smart TV is through an app store, and Google is dominant in this area. As a data-hungry, predatory surveillance tech company, Google already has access to to your internet history, your personal communications, your contacts, your friends, your musical taste, and your real world location.

Do you really want to Google to know what you’re watching on TV, too?

Smart TVs are a security nightmare

Smart TVs are part of the Internet of Things – they connect to the internet automatically, and without your explicit consent. In addition to recording your TV watching habits, and selling ad space accordingly, Smart TVs will often record your voice, your private conversations and send samples back to the manufacturer. These may be further sold on to other third parties.

Smart TVs rarely receive security updates – this can leave security vulnerabilities unpatched, and allow attackers access to your home network.

Smart TVs aren’t intuitive to use

A TV remote control pointed at a screen

If you’ve ever tried a smart TV, you won’t need much explanation for this. Remote controls aren’t the best way of navigating a complicated computer interface, and God help you if you need to enter any text. Because smart TVs often have to act as TV sets instead of just a streaming interface, they have an excess of buttons covering everything including channel numbers, power volume, contrast, aspect ratio, and input. You don’t need all these and if you mainly use your smart TV for streaming, they just get in the way. Input lag from low-end computer hardware, and glitches because they’re poorly maintained make the smart TV experience a horrible unintuitive one.

Other streaming options are just… better

An Amazon Firestick and remote control

So you want to access Netflix and Amazon Prime on your TV? Good for you! this is the 21st century, after all.

Smart TVs may seem to be the simplest way of getting streaming services on your TV, but plug-in interfaces just do it better. It’s a competitive market, and devices such as Roku, Amazon Firestick, Chromecast, and Apple TV just do it better. They’re designed to do one thing and do it well. Their remote controls have few buttons, meaning that they’re less confusing to operate, and when they eventually become obsolete – as all tech becomes obsolete – you don’t need to chuck a perfectly good TV set, you just buy another cheap streaming device.

It’s not worth buying a smart TV

Smart TVS are a bad idea for all the reasons we’ve listed above, but they currently dominate the market and it can be difficult to get hold of a quality dumb TV. If a smart TV is your only choice – or if you can’t resist an outstanding bargain – don’t connect it to the internet, buy a streaming stick accessory, and stream media through that instead.