Question: If I buy a smart TV (TV with an Internet connection, apps and streaming) does that mean I don't need a Blu-ray with Internet connectivity? If this is correct, what is the advantage of smart TV over a Blu-ray with Internet? Shouldn't I just get the smart Blu-ray and save money on the TV?
St. Louis Park, Minn.
Answer: It would be best to answer your questions in reverse order, so first I will address, "Shouldn't I just get the smart Blu-ray and save money on the TV?"
Much like 3-D, Internet connectivity with apps and video streaming is a feature found on pretty much all higher-quality televisions, though not everyone uses it. I sometimes get reader emails saying, "I want the highest possible picture quality but do not plan on using 3-D." If you want the best picture quality, you are getting a television that has 3-D even if you never use it. If you try to save money on the TV by buying one without Internet connectivity (at least in the bigger screen sizes), your selection is going to be limited to entry-level models.
I've used both smart Blu-ray players and smart TVs and have come to prefer having it built into the television. It just seems more convenient and easy to access. Regular readers of the column know my top television recommendations are the Panasonic ST and VT series of plasma televisions, with the ZT series thrown in there for those who want the Rolls Royce.
I put my personal ST50 aside for a while to test the VT60 and I have touched upon the picture quality as well as the critical acclaim it has received. Now would be a good time to discuss the smart TV features. Implementation will vary across makes and models of TVs, but this will give you a small sample of well-executed smart TV functionality.
When you first turn on the VT60, you are greeted with a home screen to navigate between Apps, streaming content (Netflix, Amazon, Pandora, etc.) or television watching. There is a camera built in that pops up from the top of the TV for Skype video chat or to leave video memos for other members of the family. The camera works extremely well, and having it built in is very convenient.
Every member of the family can have a personalized home screen with the "my Home Screen" feature. Voice interaction allows you to control some TV functions with spoken commands, and "Swipe and Share" allows you to send content from your smartphone or your tablet with a simple swipe toward the screen. You can also draw on the screen with an electronic touch pen. This is just a sampling of what it can do. You can see more at http://panasonic.net/avc/viera/smartviera2013.
Finally, all modern Blu-ray players have Internet connectivity. Blu-ray uses the Internet for player firmware updates much as your computer updates its operating system from time to time. The connection is also used for BD-Live Web content. These features were part of the original Blu-ray specification. Streaming was added by the manufacturers later, and smart functionality sometime after that. If you have a small television or an older model you want to enhance with smart features, a smart Blu-ray player is a great choice.interact
Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com