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Upgrading Your TV? Try A New Streaming Player First

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If wanting to make a TV smarter to access more streaming apps or additional features, a new streaming player could be the better—and cheaper—option. While there are many reasons to consider upgrading a TV to a newer model, the operating system installed on the smart TV should be towards the bottom of the list.

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Nowadays, every TV available to buy tends to come with smart capabilities. This is normally best seen in the operating system in use and can vary wildly. For example, while Vizio makes use of its own SmartCast platform, others, like Sony and TCL, are increasingly relying on popular third-party operating systems like Google TV (formerly Android TV) and Roku. In fact, this variance across brands and models can actually mean the operating system in use is one of the most important aspects of buying a new smart TV. However, it shouldn’t be. At least, not compared to the resolution or the audio/visual supports.

If in need of a new TV in general, then it makes sense to pick one up with the operating system you are most likely to use. At the same time, this should not be as much of a priority as more traditional reasons for choosing one TV over another. By focusing on the operating system, consumers are likely to be further locking themselves down to one operating system and experience. If wanting to use a different operating system at a later time to access specific features, or access apps and services, like Apple TV Plus, that might only be available on select devices and not the operating system installed on the TV, another smart TV or streaming player will be needed.

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Do you really need a new TV?

One of the major differences between buying a new smart TV and a new streaming player is the price. For any homes that are already happy with their TV in general —the size and resolution is fine— but want to make their TV smarter, it is not only going to be easier to buy a streaming player, but also significantly cheaper. One of the other benefits here is that, if a home suddenly decides they prefer using Roku over Fire TV, they only have to pick up a cheap Roku streaming player and not worry about the fact their TV is running Fire TV.

Chromecast with Google TV
Chromecast with Google TV

Another issue that people will find with buying a new TV, and most likely after they have made the purchase, is that space can quickly become an issue. For homes looking to access multiple streaming services on the one device, they are going to need to download multiple apps, and each one will take up space. Not only will these apps take up space during the download and installation process, but they will continue to occupy more space over time. TVs don’t tend to come with massive amounts of space, and while that is also true of many streaming players as well, a streaming player can at least be purchased with more space to begin with, or upgraded to one with more space at a later time, and at a reasonable price.

In general, there are no real differences at the OS level between devices. For example, whether buying a Chromecast with Google TV or a TV powered by Google TV, users are going to get an almost identical experience at the software level. Therefore, opting for a cheaper streaming player that’s powered by the preferred operating system is going to smarten up a TV almost as much as buying a new TV will, at least in terms of the apps and steaming services a household has access to.

Google TV home Screen Sony TV
Google TV on Sony TV

There can also be times when relying on a smart TV’s operating system proves problematic. For example, if the software ever encounters a major issue or fault, there might not be much that can be done. If the problem cannot be fixed manually by rebooting the system, but can be fixed by the manufacturer, this may require the entire TV to be shipped off and for an unknown length of time. If not, then the TV is suddenly as useless as the older TV was, and once again in need of a replacement to add back those TV smarts. Again, the same thing can happen to a streaming player, but the significantly lower cost to begin with makes it far easier and cheaper to replace a streaming player than a TV.

Streaming player or TV summary

To be clear, if in need of upgrading a TV for one that’s larger in size, supports a higher resolution, or for some of the TV-first technologies it has to offer, then a new TV is going to be the right option. These are TV-related reasons to upgrade and any of which will likely justify the purchase. However, if happy with the size, resolution and technologies of the current TV in the home, and just want access to more streaming services and features, then a streaming player is a more cost-effective and useful addition than a new TV.

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Streaming players run the same software as corresponding smart TVs and tend to come with more options, like storage capacity. Opting for a streaming player also makes it possible to affordably change to another operating system at a later date. In contrast, a smart TV’s operating system tends to lock users into the platform it is running on. In many cases, consumers may find that they still need to buy a separate streaming player after buying a new TV to access certain features or streaming apps. All of which makes it worth considering whether a new TV is needed to begin with, or just a new streaming player.

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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or on Twitter

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