External Streaming Device or TV – Which Has the Best Picture?


So you’ve got yourself a “smart” TV. It has a bunch of apps that your old, dumb TV never had. That’s pretty cool and convenient (once you figured out how to get the sound to your soundbar or AV receiver). But you’ve read online that you shouldn’t be using these apps? That you should get an external streaming box instead? What’s the deal? You just want a great picture (sound isn’t as important to you). Which will give you the best picture, an external streaming device or your TV’s apps? Let’s discuss!

The Hypothetical “Truth”

In all honesty, the real answer should be neither. An external streaming device and your TV’s apps should have the same ability to bring you the best available picture. Each streaming source (Netflix, Disney+, Max, etc.) has an upper limit on the video (and audio) quality of their content. This upper limit is low enough that either (an external streaming box or TV app) should be able to give you the best available picture. There are usually no hardware-related issues that would suggest one solution would be better than another.

The Real Truth

That said, you’ll find that some streaming solutions will do some streaming services better than others. This is often the case when a streaming service releases a new feature. It will hit some apps on some devices before others. Generally speaking, however, if you wait long enough you can expect that all those features will eventually be rolled out to your device of choice.

Before you go and upgrade from your TV’s apps to an external streaming device seeking the best picture, you’ll want to ensure that the apps you use will actually see an improvement. A quick Internet search for your specific gear will likely reveal any differences. If you are already getting the best picture, there are few reasons to switch.

“Few” is not “None”

We said “few reasons” purposely. Even though you may be getting access to the highest-resolution picture and audio, you may still want to switch to an external streaming device. If you are struggling with getting your audio from your TV’s apps to your AV receiver, for example, connecting an external box can be the best solution. You may also find that your TV is limited in some way.

In addition, you may not love the interface and response time of your TV’s internal apps. You may not upgrade from your TV’s apps to an external streaming device for a better picture, but because of the interface. Different devices handle switching between apps very differently. You may find one interface more intuitive than another. In addition, some devices/TVs allow you to connect an ethernet cable directly for the fastest possible Internet speed (important for high-resolution video) while others only allow a wireless connection. That may play a factor in your decision.

There are lots of reasons to stick with your TV’s apps or switch to an external streaming device. Usually, it is very specific to the services to which you subscribe. This means that there is no universal reason to prefer using an external box for streaming rather than your TV’s internal apps.





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