Are Smart TVs with Integrated Cameras Worth the Cost?

Although there are new TVs to market that offer internet applications including Skype, Facebook, NetFlix, etc. I believe that you would be better served to use a TV dedicated PC to enable your existing TV or a new “Dumb TV” rather than having to buy the latest internet-enabled smart TV. The price difference between a new smart LED TV with integrated Camera is roughly $1700 compared to the comparable "dumb" model and you can get a mini PC, camera, and remote mouse and keyboard for half of that, and have more access and options. Many websites like offer free content to PCs, but not some other platforms like iPad and smart TVs.

Many of your favorite shows are available on Hulu Basic (free) if even on a limited basis (often only a few of the most recent shows are available on the free service), or on the shows web site, ie The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Trucks, Extreme 4x4, Saturday Night Live, etc. However, you cannot access this free content through any of your TV enabled, non-computer devices like iPad, iPod, iPhone, xBox, Roku, smart TV apps, etc. Therefore, you must have a TV Dedicated PC. I recommend this Dell computer with 802.11N WiFi and HDMI, plugged in directly to the HDMI on your TV, permanently. With a TV dedicated PC you will have the entire web on your large format screen unlike the Logitech Google TV, which has been blocked by many of the free content providers already. And if you subscribe to HULU Plus, which I have not done, you will just be adding to the content available, but won’t be limited to one device, since HULU Plus is available on most devices.

You could argue that the integrated smart apps on a smart TV are just easier to setup and use, and yes, out-of-the box functionality is probably smoother. However, I feel that the free content will be limited by content providers.

I think a TV dedicated PC is the way to go. This gives you the most functionality on your TV, at a lower cost, with more flexibility for upgrades. And you can throttle your purchases as you want to add features, so that you don't need to shell out the full cost of a smart TV all at once. But, yes, it will take some additional setup. Add a webcam and a wireless keyboard and you will have the ability to view web sites, stream web videos without a subscription, and video chat with Skype from the comfort of your couch with your entire family able to view the show.

I finally broke down and purchased an Android USB stick PC. I think it was around $50. I also ordered the Logitech wireless keyboard with track pad (below) to control it. The stick PC works OK, but I am having trouble figuring out what to do with it. I have installed a few apps to stream media from my server, check email, etc. But after setting it up, rarely find myself wanting to use it. Also, as I mentioned above, most free online content is blocked to this device, although occasionally the commercials still come through just fine. 

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Well, this is a nice review you have here. I am planning on purchasing a smart TV and I am wondering if it is going to be a wise decision.