from the more-isn't-automatically-better dept
Historically, “smart” TVs aren’t always particularly smart. They’ve routinely been shown to have lax security and privacy standards. They also routinely feature embedded OS systems that don’t age well, aren’t always well designed, don’t perform particularly well over time, are slathered with ads, and are usually worse than most third-party game streaming devices or video game consoles.
Yet when if you go shopping for “dumb” televisions — as in just a high quality display with a bunch of HDMI ports and not much else, you’re usually going to be out of luck. There are options, but guides on this front will usually shovel you toward computer monitors (too pricey at large sizes), or business-class displays (ditto). This Lifehacker article ironically forgot to even list the few models that do exist:
The big caveat when it comes to dumb TVs is that they are absolutely not the priority in the market, and so it can be difficult to find a dumb TV that has the screen size, resolution, and other features of a smart TV. Still, it’s not impossible. Samsung makes a 65-inch 4K dumb TV, for example, as does Sceptre, but identifying and finding dumb TVs can be challenging.
Of course it’s challenging because TV manufacturers now make more money collecting and monetizing your personal data than they do selling the actual hardware. Last year Vizio noted it made $38.4 million in one quarter just from tracking and monetizing consumer viewing and usage data. It made $48.2 million on hardware (which also includes soundbars, and other products) in that same period.
That gap has likely closed in the year since, if it hasn’t slammed shut. Worse, TV makers seem insistent on pushing their luck and ruining the quality of their own products as they pursue new online revenues. You’ll routinely see smart TV GUIs slathered with obtrusive ads. And in some cases, greedy TV makers, like Vizio (previously busted tracking users without permission), are now pushing ads over live content.
“Smart” TV makers can’t just take the ad and consumer tracking money and be satisfied, they’re constantly pushing “innovations” seemingly invented to annoy you in a bid to obtain improved quarterly returns. And they’re always (always!) somehow framed as “innovative experiences“:
You used to own a TV for ten years, and you’d just swap in and out HDMI-connected hardware as technologies evolved. But by integrating an OS and trying to dominate the hardware space, TV vendors have created a new, wasteful paradigm that shortens the shelf-life of televisions. Frustrated by the slow OS of a four year old TV? Better just buy an entirely new one!
As a dumb TV fan who has bought several sets in the last decade, I’m usually told something akin to: “well, just don’t connect the TV to the Internet!” But that route locks you out of firmware updates, and some TV makers remove functionality if you refuse to participate in their online ecosystem. Many smart TV GUIs also need to load before you’re even allowed to switch laggy HDMI inputs.
For a decade all I’ve wanted is a quality, dumb-as-nails 65″ TV panel with an over-abundance of HDMI ports, no speaker, and a bare bones GUI. Yet it’s routinely impossible to find one, even if you’re willing to pay a several hundred dollar premium. I know I’m not alone in my quest for dumb technology, yet it’s positively bizarre that nobody wants to meet this market demand.