Everything is getting smart these days – phones, software, homes, cars, fridges and lately, even televisions. TV launches have been based around a number of features as they’ve evolved – high-definition, 3D and now the latest trend is Smart TVs. Every popular brand has a flagship model and each one of these is priced well over the 2 lakh rupee mark and, of course, have Smart features. A display with basic features such as playing movies off a USB drive can be found in say, 47-inch TVs priced under Rs. 60,000. If you want 3D, you’ll have to be willing to spend close to a lakh and if you want the latest smart TV features, you’ll probably end up doubling that amount to over 2 lakhs. There’s a lot that these next-generation smart TVs claim to be able to do, but from the TVs I’ve seen over the months, I really don’t feel compelled to go out and buy one. Let me explain.

At some point in time, you’ll realize that you need to type when you browse, and that’s not easy without a keyboard. Most smart TVs don’t bundle keyboards, so you’re going to have to use the remote control to navigate from one character to another. Try typing a really small domain name into a browser, like ours – www.tech2.com – that’s a whole 13 characters, spread across the keyboard on the screen, which means many, many more button presses. Typing a Facebook update, a Twitter message or anything else is a completely different ballgame. Imagine typing a small 140 character message now.

The top-of-the-line HX850 model

Performance takes a backseat

And then there are some TVs that let you swing your motion enabled remote around and move the control from one character to another. It’s a little faster, but not any less annoying. They’re either too sensitive or too inaccurate to really use them for typing more than a few words, before which your arm starts hurting. Sure, they’re good for streaming videos off video streaming sites, but should you really pay so much for it?

Now, the new generation smart TVs have a bunch of other stuff. There’s the ability to use voice commands to control your TV. If you’re going to be pressing a button to send a voice command to change a channel, don’t you think that it would be quicker to just dial the channel number on the remote? It’s not like the voice recognition feature on these TVs is flawless either. Most of the times, you find yourself repeating and changing your accents and pronunciations in the hope that the TV will recognize the command properly and not jump from one random menu to another. It’s not a lot different when you try out some of the gesture controls. Swinging your arms and making motions while playing a Wii game is one thing, doing that to send a simple command to your television is just plain ridiculous. At this point in time, I’m sure the smart TV looks smart sitting there all pretty, but you’re not.

Not on top of the list, but one of the features is the ability of browsing the web on a massive screen, but then, it’s not like you couldn’t browse on a notebook, PC, HD media player connected to the TV. Those were options already available, and they were always much more cheaper than any of the smart televisions being sold. It’s not like the usage is much simpler either. 

And then, there’s the price for all of these new products. You’re paying roughly 20 to 40 percent more, just for these smart features. If you look at a decent 47-inch Smart TV, you’ll find that the price is two or three times more than a standard 1080p 47-inch TV. You’d expect to be paying so much more if you were getting say, a massive jump in performance and quality but would you really be okay with paying that sum for features that don’t really work as well as you’d like? 

Those features are cool and fun to play around with, for a few days, no doubt. But, it’s odd to see people go out to buy these TVs blindly spending on it. It’s sort of like the days, when many bought expensive HDTVs and watched analog cable TV transmission on it. So if you’re looking to browse the web, chat, send Facebook updates and stream movies over the network, do yourself a favour – set up a small, cheap HTPC for under Rs. 15,000 and connect it to pretty much any TV you have. It’ll make it ‘smart’ too. There are also other easier-to-set up media centre devices you can consider. All of these alternatives are cheaper, customizable, upgradeable and most importantly, the features will actually work.

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