The operating system is an important part of any smart TV and to make things more difficult, there is of course not just one. Whether it’s Android TV, Google TV, webOS or Tizen; most operating systems work well, although there are of course differences. We’ll help you look more closely at the various systems and present both the advantages and problems of the individual candidates in detail.
Nowadays, a well-functioning operating system is not only essential on the computer. Since TVs have become smart, they also need a good operating system to offer the user more than just the normal TV program. However, there are different systems, some of which come from the manufacturers themselves or bear the big names like Android or Google. But first things first, because “smart” is also a term in itself.
Smart-TV and HbbTV
First of all, we distinguish between HbbTV and Smart TV. The abbreviation HbbTV stands for Hybrid broadcast broadband television. This is a digital broadcasting standard that primarily provides classic television and other content that can be accessed via the Internet. This includes various media libraries or teletext.
Let’s move on to the common operating systems that are used on most smart TVs: These are Android TV or Google TV, webOS, Tizen or My Home Screen. There are also a few others, but they only serve a small part of the market and thus fall through our grid. In order to use the functions of a smart TV, you should of course have an internet connection to which the TV can be connected.
Android TV is used by various manufacturers. Sony, TCL and Sharp use the system that owners already know from their smartphones. Android is developed by Google, which makes it one of the big players in the business. Therefore, buyers can be sure that the system is continuously maintained and regularly updated.
The Android operating system offers common streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video or Disney+, but also live TV like YouTube or Twitch and of course games and other apps that can be useful. In this respect, Android TV offers the widest variety on the market. Adding new apps to your TV is very easy and the arrangement can also be customized. Moreover, Android runs quite smoothly and only older devices can be a bit slower.
Since Google is behind Android TV, the Google voice assistant is usually integrated into the device, so you do not have to rely on a separate device. The voice assistant can be easily controlled via the TV’s remote control, which also allows controlling other connected devices like smart lamps.
You can also conveniently stream photos, videos, music and other content directly from your smartphone or tablet to the TV via the integrated Chromecast. This makes Android TV the ultimate operating system that can do just about anything.
TVs with Android TV
After Sony officially switched to Google TV in 2021 and only older devices are equipped with Android TV, Hisense in particular is a big candidate to be supplied with the Android TV operating system.
The Hisense U8G is a wonderful all-round TV that not only has a good contrast but also an excellent operating system. It has a huge app selection through Android TV and is also compatible with both Google Assistant and Alexa.
Unfortunately, it does not have a twin tuner and only the USB recording function is available, but no Time Shift.
The budget version in the form of the Hisense U6G is also equipped with Android TV and thus already a very good choice if you only have a small budget. Moreover, it offers a really excellent picture quality for the price, which has to be beaten in the price segment first.
Thanks to Android TV, the TV runs smoothly and the huge app selection leaves nothing to be desired. While Google Assistant is already integrated, you need an additional device for Alexa.
Many current TVs now run Google TV, which is considered the successor to Android TV. It is faster, can be controlled more intuitively and still uses Android as software. Therefore, you can rather say that Google TV is a new name for Android TV.
You don’t have to do without anything, but the goal of Google TV is to make the TV experience more personal. Thus, there is significantly more personalized content that is offered to the user based on their habits. A big difference is also the user interface, which is more about the personalized content, rather than the apps themselves. This also makes the home screen look cleaner and generally tidier.
Thanks to the Google ecosystem, you can also use your smartphone with Android as a remote control. This has many advantages, such as an easier-to-use keyboard. You can also create a watchlist on your smartphone that is automatically synchronized with the TV.
TVs with Google TV
The Sony A90J offers everything you would expect from a smart TV. Thanks to Google TV, the app selection is huge and operation is intuitive and fluid. In addition, the two voice assistants Google and Alexa are accessible, with the former naturally integrated.
A twin tuner is also available and offers PVR, but you have to do without Time Shift. Apple users will also be happy with AirPlay 2 and Apple HomeKit.
The LCD flagship Sony X95J is also explicitly equipped with Google TV. The Bravia TV, which is mainly aimed at home theater fans, has the same features as its OLED colleague, even though it does not have a twin tuner.
Nevertheless, the operating system runs smoothly here as well, and the app selection is huge thanks to the Google Play Store.
TVs from the South Korean brand LG run on the in-house operating system webOS, which is based on the Linux operating system. The special thing about webOS is that you control the menu with the Magic Remote and thus with hand gestures, which is probably best known from Nintendo’s Wii. The whole thing works extremely well, but it is ultimately a matter of taste. Alternatively, you can of course use the remote control as usual.
There is no lack of content, since webOS also offers the common streaming services as well as other apps and games. The selection is smaller compared to Google, but you can still find apps like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, YouTube, Spotify or Maxdome. Meanwhile, LG has returned to the fixed home screen. The barren bar at the bottom of the screen has disappeared. This makes the operating system look less intuitive than before.
Like Google TV, you can also control your smart home via webOS, which is especially nice if you have other LG devices. Another advantage: Both Alexa and Google Assistant are usually already integrated as voice assistants.
TVs with webOS
LG OLED C1
The successful LG C1 OLED TV naturally has the in-house webOS operating system. Thus, it offers smooth navigation including gesture control with the Magic Remote and a large app selection. Even though it does not come close to the diversity of Android, you will still find everything you need here.
Furthermore, both Alexa and Google Assistant are integrated, and even Apple AirPlay 2 is available. Users can also look forward to LG ThinQ, which allows the C1 to become the center of the smart home.
Even with a small budget, you can get a good smart TV in your living room. LG’s UP8000 is perfect for this and shows that not only the expensive models of the South Korean brand are equipped with a good operating system.
Although you have to accept some technical limitations, the LCD TV offers a large app selection and the voice assistants Alexa and Google Assistant are also available. Compatibility with Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit is also available.
Samsung uses the free operating system Tizen, which is also based on Linux. Samsung itself advertises that it is “faster than other operating systems” and it definitely offers a quite simple and minimalistic menu. The app variety is also great here, although Tizen does not come close to the spectrum of Android TV either. Still, you can find Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, YouTube, Maxdome and other apps and games. Adding new apps is also very easy and does not cause any problems.
Tizen’s central hub is the Smart Hub, which can be accessed via the remote control. This is a toolbar at the bottom of the screen that can be used to access apps, read news or download new apps. This saves annoying searches in submenus, which are numerous in other operating systems. Furthermore, Alexa or Google are compatible besides the in-house voice assistant Bixby, so you can also use voice control. Apple users also have a clear advantage here since Apple TV and AirPlay 2 are supported.
A nice gimmick of Tizen is the Ambient Mode. This displays pictures, the weather, news, the date or even the pattern of the wall behind the TV when it is turned off, so that the TV no longer looks like a normal TV, but almost becomes invisible. It should be noted, however, that Ambient Mode is not available on every Samsung TV. Art Mode offers fewer features and is again only found on the Samsung The Frame. This is solely about the display of art for the lifestyle TV.
TV via Tizen OS
Samsung QN90A Neo QLED
The in-house operating system Tizen OS is naturally present on the flagship Samsung QN90A Neo QLED. The system runs smoothly and offers a large selection of apps and streaming services.
You are also well equipped with voice assistants, even if you need a third-party device for Google Assistant. Furthermore, the Neo QLED offers Apple AirPlay 2 and a twin tuner including Time Shift, PVR and Multiview.
Samsung The Frame 2021
The lifestyle TV Samsung The Frame also has the in-house operating system and benefits from the Art Mode, among other things, which allows the picture frame TV to display various works of art. This turns it into a real work of art on the wall.
Tizen OS also runs smoothly here and there is also a large app selection. Apple AirPlay 2 is also available and Amazon’s Alexa is already integrated. Unfortunately, it lacks a twin tuner, but PVR and Time Shift are possible.
Turning old into smart – Upgrading to a smart TV
There are also cheaper ways to enjoy the benefits of a smart TV without a fixed operating system on the TV. If you have an old TV that is not yet smart, you can turn it into a smart TV with little effort and a small budget.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
The easiest way to make your TV smart is with the Fire TV Stick from Amazon. All you need is a free HDMI port and you’re ready to go – even in 4K! The Fire TV Stick offers its own user interface and a smartphone or tablet is not necessary. However, it does require an Internet connection.
You can not only watch Prime Video content, but also use other streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Twitch, and even music services like Apple Music or Spotify are accessible.
You can also make your old TV smart with a Google Chromecast. Here, too, a simple HDMI connection is sufficient and you also need a smartphone or tablet to finally be able to stream content on the TV. The advantage is that the Google Chromecast itself does not need the Internet.
Google Chromecast does not have its own user interface like the Fire TV stick from Amazon, which is why the smartphone or tablet acts as a remote control. Accordingly, all streaming services that also work on the devices can be used.
Apple TV 4K
With the Apple TV 4K, you can not only use the in-house streaming service Apple TV, but also access other media libraries like Netflix or YouTube. You can also access other Apple services like iTunes or Apple Arcade, which even gives you access to a large games library.
FAQ – Frequently asked questions about operating systems
Does my Smart TV need to be connected to the Internet?
To watch the regular TV program or to use a Bluray player, no Internet connection is necessary. However, if you want to watch movies and series on the various streaming services, the smart TV has to be connected to the Internet. An Internet connection is also necessary to constantly provide the TV with updates.
Do I need a corresponding account to access all content?
The manufacturers of the various TVs naturally want to network with the user, which is why you need a corresponding user account for various functions. For example, you can open a Samsung account to access special content like Samsung’s own store “Samsung Apps” or to use the Samsung Cloud. For using or downloading streaming apps like Netflix or Prime Video, the Google Play Store is available and a manufacturer account is not necessary.
The same applies to a Google account for Sony TVs, for example. Many functions, such as watching the regular TV program or using home network functions, are also possible without a Google account. An account is mandatory though if you want to download new apps or rent or buy movies and series.
Ultimately, it is up to everyone how they want to use their TV. However, you can only enjoy the full scope of your smart TV if you have a corresponding account for the respective platforms.
Can I change the operating system of my TV?
No, it is not possible to change the operating system of a TV.
How can I disable ads?
By this time, there is no operating system that can completely do without advertising. As a result, not only the dashboard is overcrowded with ads that are annoying and distracting, but also additional ads appear when changing channels. It is not possible to turn off the ads completely, but there are some tricks to enjoy your TV evening without ads.
There is an option to deactivate HbbTV in the settings. For LG, you can find this setting under “Channels” and can deactivate “Auto Start” and “Ad Tracking” there. The process works similarly for the other manufacturers. Samsung requires you to remove the checkmark for the consent of display information services under “Terms & Conditions & Privacy”. You can also remove the checkmark “I agree to advertising based on my interests” there.
You can also use an adblocker on Android TV to block unwanted ads. However, you should be aware that some programs are not free of charge.
Do I need to update my operating system myself?
Usually, there is an option in the settings to activate the automatic search for updates. Then you do not have to check for updates manually and get a message that a software update is ready for installation when you turn on the device.
This post is also available in: Deutsch