In the world of technology, simple is often best. When a product gets too big for its britches, higher prices and lower quality often follow. Nothing demonstrates this more plainly than the advent of the so-called “smart TV.”
Most TVs you see in stores today have onboard WiFi and a variety of built-in apps for tasks ranging from checking Facebook to watching Netflix. And Americans are more than bought in; according to an eMarketer survey, 37.2% of households had smart TVs in 2018.
The better solution is any TV (preferably a dumb one so you aren’t wasting money on built-in WiFi and apps) paired with an $80 Amazon Fire TV Cube.
Amazon Fire TV is one of the smartest TV devices around. It turns any dumb TV into a smart TV, and any smart TV into an even smarter TV. The beauty of Fire TV is its simple, easy-to-navigate interface, and its extensibility to run almost any kind of application. Want to browse the web? Download Chrome. Want to type on it? Plug in a USB keyboard. Want to watch Netflix? Hulu? No problem. As new apps or updates come out, you can install them directly rather than having to wait on less frequent updates from a TV manufacturer (who shouldn’t be in the software business to begin with).
Avoiding manufactured smart TVs is also a great way to minimize the invasive spying that has become endemic among them. The New York Times reported last year on smart TV spying, noting that millions of smart TVs report back on the shows watched, allowing advertisers to build customer profiles that include such personal details as your genre preferences and political leanings. Amazon specifically notes that they don’t share TV viewing data with third parties, and also allow users to disable interest-based advertising.
One of the coolest things about the Amazon Fire TV platform are its awesome party games, most notably those in the various Jackbox Party Packs. These are run on the TV and enjoyed by a room full of people, each of whom simply goes to a website on their smartphones to partake in competitive games involving everything from trivia and drawing to freestyle rapping. One of the most popular games, Fibbage, is even available as a free download.
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest 4K QLED TV, you may have trouble finding one that doesn’t have smart features. Even so, the addition of an Amazon Fire TV Cube to use in place of the built-in apps is solid.