Battle of the titans: Unveiling the supreme Smart TV platform of 2023

Discover the top smart TV platforms of 2023: WebOS, Tizen, and Roku. Compare features, apps, and more to make your choice.

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Today, the likelihood is that any new TV you purchase will be a smart TV. This enables you to access all of your preferred apps, catch-up services, and streaming platforms by connecting to the internet without the need for a separate set-top box or streaming device. But many of the greatest smart TVs come with a variety of operating systems, just like some phones operate on Android and others on iOS. Which of the available smart platforms—WebOS, Tizen, Roku, or any other—does one need?

Despite the fact that many of these smart TV platforms share functions, they might differ greatly in terms of how the interface appears, which apps are supported, and how easy it is to navigate everything in general. It’s crucial to understand what you’re getting into with your new TV purchase because even popular services like Disney Plus or Freeview Play (for our readers in the UK) may not be available on all platforms. 

Although LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen are frequently cited as the finest smart platforms because they are quick and packed with the newest apps, there are still plenty of reasons to examine other operating systems. To learn what to watch out for when selecting the best smart TV platform, read our guide to the best streaming service. Or, view our list of the top streaming devices if you want smart features on an old TV. 

Because each platform has advantages and disadvantages, we’ve put together this guide to help you compare the available smart platforms and choose the one that’s ideal for you.

  • Web OS (LG)

With its webOS operating system, LG completely broke the rules for smart platforms, establishing the basic, straightforward user interface trend in 2014. Today, it’s still a remarkable smart platform that unquestionably pulls ahead of the competition.

WebOS has undergone some significant changes in recent years, with the sixth iteration of the interface ditching the usual app overlay in favour of a full-screen view that is more evenly spread out. With a new, more user-friendly home screen, webOS 6.0 intends to provide you quicker access to your most-used apps while also enabling content recommendations based on your watching history. WebOS 22 is now being released for newer devices as well. 

When it comes to speech recognition, LG is at the forefront with the majority of its sets supporting Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and LG’s own ThinQ AI platform. There is no requirement for an additional listening device because support for all of these is built in as well.

Surprisingly strong app compatibility is also present: Netflix streams in 4K with HDR, Dolby Vision, and, when available, Dolby Atmos audio. Along with YouTube in 4K and UHD HDR on Amazon, Disney Plus is also included in the mix. Additional choices include all of the main channel catch-up services, Now TV, Sky Store, and Wuaki.TV.

  • Tizen (Samsung)

Another company that likes to keep things simple is Samsung. Its Tizen OS clearly takes inspiration from LG’s webOS design in that it has shortcuts, apps, and icon-based access to all of them in a horizontal strip at the bottom of the screen. The far-left corner dynamically shifting “Recent” box alternates between recently used TV stations and apps.

It’s not that sophisticated at the moment, but when Samsung incorporates its TV AI with Tizen in the future, that could change. For the time being, we appreciate that on-screen icons can be altered because it gives some AV inputs and important daily-use programs a feeling of individuality. Although the OS attempts to reduce clutter, there are many situations when it becomes necessary to search for a certain program, which can occasionally make navigating more difficult. Fortunately, a Smart Hub multimedia tab that divides up content from apps and from your own USB sticks/home network makes it easier.

All QLED TVs as well as the majority of Samsung 4K TVs support Tizen. Additionally, Bixby will be included into higher-end models. However, Samsung SmartThings, which enables your TV to serve as the hub of your connected home, is included with every Samsung set.

  • Roku TV

Roku TV, which was first introduced in 2014 for TCL TVs, has gained support from low-cost US TV providers. A specific Hisense Roku TV model is available in the UK, and Roku TV is currently available on a number of TV models from Haier, Hisense, Insignia, Sharp, and TCL.

As a platform, Roku TV takes cues from the company’s well-known video streamers, including the Roku Streaming Stick, in terms of user interface and feature set.

This implies that there will be a global search function available to you that can search through over 30 different apps, including Netflix, Google Play TV and Movies, Amazon, VUDU, and more, to discover the best deal on the TV show or movie you want to watch as well as roughly 4,500 channels of material to watch.

Once a Roku TV is operational, you’ll discover an egalitarian operating system that consistently takes the top spot as the greatest operating system for the second division. It is simple to use, if a little dull, and as it is not affiliated with any one streaming service, it may impartially direct you to any location where video is available. 

This final point is crucial, especially if you’ve ever used an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. Both of these devices would much prefer that you stream from their own auxiliary streaming services rather than any of the third-party ones. Roku doesn’t force you in any direction you don’t want to go because it has no affiliations with major streaming services, aside from a hazy agreement to put FandangoNow on the OS’s home screen. Instead, it gladly supports everything from Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and Amazon to lesser-known channels like Pluto.tv, tubi, Crackle, and others.

Additionally, the platform has some cool features like a free TV streaming service built in, a dedicated app that helps you keep track of upcoming movies and TV shows via the My Feed section, and a private listening mode (using headphones that plug into the remote) when you want to watch TV without disturbing the rest of the house.

  • Android TV

The closest approach to a uniform operating system is Android TV, however brand executions still differ from one another. Sharp and Hisense in the US, along with Philips (via developer TP Vision), are all in favour of Android TV. Additionally, the Nvidia Shield streaming media player supports it.

The most extensive Google solution, however, is provided by Sony. For UK users, it has quite successfully addressed one of Android TV’s major flaws — catch-up TV availability — by layering a YouView program guide platform on top. With a roll-back 7-day EPG, this YouView software makes sure that all the major catch-up services are available.

While other TV platforms pride themselves on being minimal, Android stacks the screen with multiple layers of content: there is a row of content that has been specifically chosen by Sony, followed by apps for Netflix and Amazon Video, links to the Google Play Store, Google Play Music, Google Play Movies and TV, YouTube, and so forth. Disney Plus is included, however Apple TV Plus is still not available on Sony TVs.

Through Sony’s TV SideView app, owners of Android phones and tablets can operate Android TVs, and Google Assistant’s integration with Android TV makes it much more helpful. The built-in Chromecast feature on Android TV devices makes it easier to stream content from mobile Android smartphones (iOS users can download the AirBuddy app to Google Cast). Gaming without a console is another promise made by Logitech and Razer controllers.

A few enhancements tailored to Sony are also included in the most recent Android version 9.0 (Pie). For instance, highlighting a setting in the Settings submenu now displays a neat ‘exploded’ explanation of what that feature does. Additionally, there are improved external device identification and information, as well as additional voice control on screen “tips.” 

  • MyHomeScreen (Panasonic)

Although less developed than platforms like webOS or Tizen, Panasonic’s My Home Screen smart platform does offer a relatively unobtrusive UI for customers who just want to get on with watching TV. This makes it stand out from much of the competition for UK users.

There are three choices when you hit the Home button on the remote: Live TV, Apps, and Devices. The platform’s greatest asset is its simplicity, which makes it simple to explore and find items by conveniently putting all of the apps in one place. You can also pin your favorite apps to the home page for faster access.

Though it will operate more quickly and showcase its apps and content to the best of its ability, you can find this most recent version on all new Panasonic TVs.

The smart platform is responsive, strong, and crash-free because it operates on a small amount of processing resources because to its relative simplicity. My Home Screen simply provides all the streaming and catch-up services you require; unlike some platforms, it isn’t fractured or overrun with recommendations.

A thorough list of catch-up services, including BBC iPlayer, ITVhub, All4, My5, BBC News & Sport, and UK Play, is available thanks to Freeview Play. The iPlayer app supports 4K and HLG, which the BBC tested during the World Cup (Hybrid Log-Gamma is the broadcast version of HDR).

The app support is usually strong, although you are not able to use NOW TV or Disney Plus, the latter of which feels particularly strange given that it was the biggest TV streaming service to launch in the previous year.

  • Amazon Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV operating system, which powers the Amazon Fire TV streaming stick and an increasing number of televisions, must be mentioned while discussing the top smart platforms.

You can mostly find it on streaming sticks like the Fire TV Stick Lite or Fire TV Stick 4K, where it offers a wide selection of apps and services – even though it’s dominated by Amazon Prime Video content and channels – as well as a useful voice remote, with volume and AV controls that vary between models. The Alexa speech assistant is among the best available, if not the greatest, and the Fire TV platform as a whole is quick and flexible.

With TVs, it’s a different story because the Fire TV platform is frequently licensed to rather budget-friendly and subpar displays from Toshiba, Insignia, and JVC. While a few of these TVs function well, the majority do not, which weakens the advantages of the operating system they employ. More information about this is available in our buying guide, Should I Buy a Toshiba Fire TV?

If you’re interested in the speed and adaptability of Amazon’s smart TV platform, we advise purchasing an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K instead. If you’re not satisfied with your existing interface, you can plug it into any dumb or smart television.

  • Vidaa U (Hisense)

Although Hisense uses a variety of smart platforms, including Roku TV and Android TV, some of its mid-range TVs instead run an internal operating system dubbed Vidaa U.

Why is that its name? We can never be certain. But across all of our tests, Vidaa U has proven to be a dependably reliable smart platform. The O8B OLED’s constant (and undesired) screensaver is one of the OS’s more annoying quirks, but overall, it is well set out and manages to meet the expectations of a modern smart TV. It isn’t the flashiest operating system, but it does cope with most of these demands well.

Although it doesn’t have as many apps and services as some other platforms, you can still access popular apps and services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten, YouTube, and Disney Plus, all of which support 4K and HDR playback when available. Additionally, UK broadcasters will offer FreeView Play to UK consumers for catch-up streaming.

It’s probable that Netflix will be given prominence as well, most likely as part of a lucrative partnership with Hisense. In the UK, Vidaa U TVs do not allow you to move or remove an app from your home screen.

We’ll be watching Vidaa U to see how it evolves and improves, hopefully by getting rid of or expanding certain pointless elements, like “Vidaa Free,” which combines YouTube videos rather than specific free material.

  • SmartCast (Vizio)

On paper, SmartCast is a fantastic concept. It has a more logical interface and all the entertaining extras of the Android TV platform, like the ability to Cast video to your screen. 

Be ready to see three rows when you switch on a SmartCast TV: one for featured content, which features large marquee pictures to direct you to specific shows or movies; one for recommended content; and one for all of your apps. 

You can go to one of the other tabs (there are tabs for movies, TV series, Support, and Extras) or use the search box at the top right of the page to drill down into particular content categories or settings.

Sadly, even while SmartCast offers a wide variety of content to stream—it’s much better now than it was in previous years because of the addition of Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, and Peacock—it’s also one of the slower smart platforms and occasionally acts up.

Despite the Vizio OLED being one of the best TVs this year, we can’t fault it for its mediocre OS.

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