How To Buy: Internet TV

Black Friday is here, and Christmas is right around the corner. This means we’ve entered the biggest shopping season of the year. Woo Hoo, let the games begin!

Of course if you are not waiting in long lines at the store or looking for a parking space at the mall, it’s probably a good idea to moderate the shopping by spending time with friends and family. No need to feel too guilty about shopping, because much of the shopping will be for gifts that help make our relationships stronger, or just take a friend with you on the next shopping trip. 

Today I want to go shopping for an Internet TV. This post is partly inspired by the start of the Christmas shopping season, but also because of feedback I received on my last two posts. Thank you for the comments. Please keep them coming.

I guess the best place to start is to consider what options you have when buying an Internet TV.  Here are a few things for you to think about …

Factors to Consider:

Content: TV, Movies, Netflix, YouTube, Home Videos, Music, Photos, etc.

Content Source: TV signal (Broadcast, Cable or Satellite), Internet Connection (WiFi or Ethernet), Home Photos/Video (Bluetooth or WiFi to Home PC Storage). etc.

Display: Screen Size, Pixel Density & Refresh Rate

Controllers: TV Remote Control, Keyboard/Mouse, Audio Control, Gesture Control

TV Applications: Web Browser, Netflix, YouTube, etc.

It’s sometimes easier to understand what you’re buying when you know a little bit about the technology used inside a product. One way to think about an Internet TV is to imagine a PC built inside the TV. It’s not quite the same, because you don’t have access to the PC’s Operation System (e.g. Windows) and desktop user interface. However, an Internet TV is different from a traditional TV because you do have an internet connection (WiFi or Ethernet) and access to content from the Internet (e.g. Netflix, YouTube, etc.) just like you do on a standalone PC.

I strongly recommend you visit a local electronics store and see how the Internet user interface works on the TV works before you make a purchase. Don’t make the mistake I made a few years ago when I bought an “Internet” TV on sale after Christmas, and I did not find out that the TV did not include a general web browser application until after I got it home. I think most new Internet TVs now have the web browser application. Also note: during the research on an earlier post, I read that Panasonic Viera TVs (past models?) did not include the Netflix app. Double check that the Internet TV you intend to buy supports the applications you expect before buying. This might save you from the dreaded “Buyers Remorse”. 

I took the following picture at a local Future Shop store (owned by Best Buy) to show you an example of applications found on an Internet TV. This is for a Samsung Internet TV in this case you were wondering.

The last last thing you may want to think about is whether you really need a PC tightly coupled inside your TV, at all. An alternative configuration is to simply connect your standard HDTV to a laptop PC using a HDMI cable (your laptop must have an HDMI interface for you to get the true value of the High Definition visuals). When you want Internet connectivity on your TV screen, plug in the the laptop with the HDMI cable. When you don’t need it, disconnect the cable and use your laptop as a regular laptop. Your controller will now be the laptop, of course. You won’t have the other controller options mentioned above, but this may or may not be important to you. 

If you want to add something to the topic or if you have any other questions, please write a comment. Otherwise …

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping Everyone!

More Resources

LG 
Panasonic (UK)
Samsung (Canada) 

Samsung (USA)
Sony

Sorry for sending you around the world to get more information on Internet TVs. I got these links from a quick Google search. You’d think that the international TV manufacturers would make it easier for us shoppers to understand what we’re buying at a generic level. Once we’re ready to buy, they could THEN send us down to country specific purchase points. Ugh.

 

Birthday Gift Shopping Experience

I think it’s important to understand the current shopping experience before improvements can be targeted. To that end, I plan to share my shopping experiences with you from time to time. You’re welcome to share your experiences too. Rants and Raves are encouraged. 🙂

So, I was shopping for my son’s birthday last week. Sometimes I’m on top of the gift list, but not so much this year.  James gave me a few helpful hints as his birthday approached. Unfortunately, I did not record the hints in a wish list. It turns out my memory doesn’t work so well when I don’t write things down.

When I finally started to shop for the gifts before his birthday, I surprised myself in that I successfully anticipated one of the gifts even before he asked for it (a Microsoft XBox wireless controller). I was able to buy it on sale when I saw it advertised in a newspaper flyer. I also remembered the most important present, an Xbox Minecraft game. It was released a day before his birthday. During my online research I found out that it could only be purchased online. Not my preference since I did not have an account with Microsoft, but oh well, I decided to wait until his birthday and let him order it online with my credit card. Last but not least, I totally forgot about the Electronic Arts Sims3 game. I felt a little guilty for not remembering the Sims3 game, but part of parenting is learning to roll with the punches and make a quick recovery. Maybe I can avoid the bad feelings next year if I find a better way to track the wish list.

So the birthday comes. James gets his Xbox wireless controller. Unfortunately, when we tried to order the Xbox Minecraft game, the Xbox website would not accept my credit card. The Microsoft website told me to call my credit card company. So, I did. The first person I talked to at Captial One Mastercard was very very unhelpful. To start with, I’m not happy with Capital One Mastercard, but that’s another story. When the customer service person repeated the same thing over and over and expected me to be happy, it only made me more frustrated. I finally had to speak to the customer service manager. She was helpful, because she gave me more information about what was happening and what I could do about it. Ultimately, I had to call Microsoft Xbox support.

I received great service from the Microsoft support process from this point onward. I found the support web page. It asked me if I wanted to chat with someone online or if I wanted someone from Microsoft to call my home. They even gave me an expected wait time for each option. Nice. The phone option was quicker, so I clicked on it and waited. Sure enough they called my house within a few minutes. I worked with a support person (based in the Midwest USA) for about 30 minutes trying different things. He finally decided the Microsoft payment system was not working, offered a month of Xbox Live for free and suggested that I try again later. I thanked him for his help and gave positive feedback about the excellent service to his manager. I don’t usually do this, but the service representative was particularly good.

The Microsoft support guy really was helpful, but the initial web error message sent me the wrong way and unfortunately for Microsoft they could not accept the money I wanted to give them.  In the end we went to Best Buy to get the Sims3 game that James wanted. It turns out it was even cheaper than ordering it from Amazon.ca.

All in all, it was a more eventful shopping experience than I had hoped for. James was happy with the gifts he got, but we still haven’t had time to go back and purchase the Xbox Minecraft game. I’ll have to make sure that happens soon. 🙂