Q. TV Answer Man, we are little behind the curve in our family. We still don’t have streaming, but we want to so we are looking for a new TV that can stream. However, a friend of mine says all you have to do is hook up a Roku box to our current TV and we wouldn’t need a new TV. What would you suggest? Is it better to get a Smart TV or a Roku box? — Mary, Statesville, North Carolina.
Mary, I would answer that it depends in part upon the age of your television. If you have a several-year old set, I recommend buying a new one if you can afford it. Today’s TVs, including Smart TVs, offer a better picture than the sets of old with many displaying programs in 4K, the best picture now available.
However, if you have a relatively new set that just doesn’t happen to be a Smart TV, I suggest getting the Roku over a new TV for two reasons:
1. It’s cheaper.
You can buy a Roku streaming stick for less than $30 while a Smart TV could cost hundreds of dollars or more depending upon the size and model. Amazon’s Fire TV streaming sticks are comparably priced in case you prefer that brand.
2. Roku offers more programming.
A few years ago, Smart TVs mostly just carried the top streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon’s Prime Video. But TV manufacturers have gotten wiser and expanded their app library to include more services to accommodate the growing interest in streaming. Some sets now have hundreds of apps or more in their libraries.
However, Roku and Fire TV offer thousands of apps with choices in every programming category and subject mattere imaginable. Unlike the TV makers, which are primarily focused on selling the set’s picture and related features, Roku and Amazon know that people buy their products strictly for the programming that they carry. Consequently, they strive to provide as many streaming services as possible.
Bottom line: If you were planning to shop for a new TV anyway — and streaming is important to you — go ahead and get a Smart TV set that offers a great picture. But if you like your current TV, get a Roku or Fire TV device. You’ll save money and, in my view, be just as happy.
Mary, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann