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Smart TV vs HDTV: What’s The Difference? (2023 Comparison)

Smart TV Vs HDTV

Smart TV. HDTV.

I’m sure you’ve heard people use those terms as if they’re the same thing.

But let me tell you right now… 

They’re not synonymous at all.

Yes, there are a few similarities between the 2.

But there are also far more differences.

Continue reading to find out:

  • 5 main differences between a Smart TV and an HDTV.
  • Reasons why Smart TVs are better overall than HDTVs.
  • 3 ways to easily turn your non-smart HDTV into a Smart TV.
  • And a lot more…

What’s a Smart TV?

A Smart TV is a TV with a built-in capability to connect to the internet. And with this internet connection, you can install apps and stream media on the TV without needing an external gadget. Smart TVs also have at least a 720p HD resolution. So, in essence, all Smart TVs are also HDTVs.

What’s an HDTV?

An HDTV is any TV with a 720p or 1080p resolution. The HD in HDTV stands for High Definition. And it’s an upgrade from the standard 480p resolution of older sets. HDTVs can’t connect to the internet. This is the biggest difference between them and Smart TVs.

Differences between a Smart TV and an HDTV

The main difference between a Smart TV and an HDTV is internet connectivity. Smart TVs are all capable of connecting to WiFi and local area network. HDTVs, on the other hand, don’t have that ability. So you’ll need an external tool like a streaming stick if you want to install and use apps on HDTVs.

Now, to really understand just what separates a Smart TV from an HDTV…

I’ll be breaking down 5 of the main differences between them.

And hopefully, this should clear up any confusion. 

This should also help you weigh your options. That’s in case you’re shopping for a new TV set. 

So if you haven’t made up your mind between the 2, keep scrolling.

#1: Smart TVs are just HDTVs but better

To fully understand how Smart TVs are also HDTVs…

You also need to know what resolutions actually are.

A resolution simply refers to the number of pixels on a TV or computer screen. And pixels are just tiny dots with corresponding colors.

Essentially, the more pixels, the higher the resolution. And a higher resolution means your TV can produce a much better overall picture quality.

Now, there are different types of resolutions. Namely:

  1. 480p or Standard Definition.
  2. 720p or High Definition.
  3. 1080p or Full High Definition.
  4. 4K or Ultra High Definition.

Older TV sets from the 90s and early 2000s had a 480p.

And as a product enhancement… 

Manufacturers eventually released HDTVs in the mid to late 2000s. 

Those are models that initially carried a 720p resolution. And eventually, some came with a 1080p.

But, guess what?

All smart TVs today also have one or both of those resolutions. 

So you can safely say that every smart TV on the market is also an HDTV.

However, Smart TVs carry significantly more features. And I’ll get into those in a moment.

#2: Some Smart TVs have even better resolution than HDTVs

Some Smart TVs Have Even Better Resolution Than HDTVs

Let’s stay on the topic of resolutions for a bit.

So I just mentioned that HDTVs have either 720p or 1080p resolutions. And that smart TVs also have those.

Well, some smart TVs these days now have even better resolutions.

Today, you’ll find many smart TVs with 4K. And if you’re not aware, this is a significant improvement over 720p and 1080p.

You see, 4K has over 3 times as many pixels as 1080p. This means the picture quality is also much clearer and more vibrant. 

And because many of these kinds of Smart TVs are already out in the market…

They’re no longer that expensive.

As examples, here are just a few 4K Smart TVs that you can buy for under $500:

As awesome as 4K resolution is, though…

There’s an even better one today. And that’s the 8K resolution.

Recently, some of the best smart TV brands have released 8K models. Examples include:

And as you may have guessed…

They do cost a fortune. All of those are priced over $2000. But given the resolution quality, it’s well worth the price tag.

But the bottom line is… 

You’ll find many smart TVs now that offer a much better picture quality than HDTVs.

Fun fact: In 2015, Sharp became the first manufacturer to release a line of 8K TVs. And it came with an eye-popping price of $133,000 for each unit. 

Would you like to learn more about TV resolutions?

If so, this video’s for you:

#3: Smart TVs can connect to the internet

If you’re wondering what makes a Smart TV smart

Let me tell you right now. It’s the internet.

And that’s the biggest difference between a Smart TV and an HDTV.

Smart TVs have a built-in capacity to connect to WiFi. 

Some models even have a built-in ethernet port. 

That means in addition to WiFi, you can also connect them to a local area network. In other words, you can plug them directly into your router.

HDTVs, on the other hand, don’t have that ability.

So what does that mean?

Well, if you own an HDTV…

You won’t be able to stream from apps like Netflix or Spotify. At least not unless you invest in other gadgets such as:

  • Casting devices.
  • Streaming sticks.
  • Gaming consoles.

#4: You can install apps on Smart TVs

In relation to the previous point…

Because you can connect a Smart TV to the internet…

You’d also be able to install various applications on it. Including:

  • Games.
  • Web browsers.
  • Streaming services.

In other words, you can do so much more with a Smart TV that you can’t with an HDTV.

With a Smart TV, you can watch from apps like Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney Plus.

Moreover, you can listen to music via apps like Spotify and Soundcloud.

You’d also be able to browse the web with Chrome or Firefox.

And you can even play online games.

In a way, Smart TVs these days are no longer just TVs. They’ve essentially become personal computers as well.

And that’s something that you can’t say about HDTVs.

To be honest, while HDTVs still exist…

They’re a relatively outdated technology. So don’t be surprised if manufacturers soon phase them out of the market.

In fact, a 2020 study by Statista reveals that 70% of US households already use Smart TVs.

And that number will only continue to grow in the coming years. 

#5: HDTVs are generally more affordable

So I just explained how Smart TVs are pretty much better in every way than HDTVs. And this is whether we’re talking about resolutions or features.

But there’s actually one difference that favors HDTVs: the price.

Since HDTVs don’t have as much to offer as Smart TVs…

Naturally, you’ll be able to buy them at a cheaper cost.

How cheap, you ask?

Well, let me provide you with an example.

For this, we’ll be talking about Insignia. It’s a brand that still manufactures both Smart TVs and HDTVs.

So let’s try to compare the prices.

A 32-inch HDTV Insignia with a 720p resolution costs around $130.

On the other hand, a Smart TV Insignia with the same size and resolution costs $180.

So as you can see, you’ll be able to save a few dollars if you go with HDTV.

However, when you think about the considerable lack of features…

You might as well go for a Smart TV.

Smart TV vs HDTV: Which Is Better?

Smart TVs are better than HDTVs. This is mainly because all smart TVs are already HDTVs. You won’t find a smart TV with a resolution lower than 720p. Also, all smart TVs can connect to the internet. Meanwhile, HDTVs can’t do that. And the only advantage of non-smart HDTVs is that they’re cheaper. 

If you’re shopping for a new TV and can’t decide between a Smart TV or an HDTV…

I’d recommend that you go for the Smart TV. The price difference isn’t that significant. And you’ll be able to enjoy a lot more features as I discussed in the previous section.

However, if you already own an HDTV…

You don’t have to get rid of it just yet. 

You can actually turn your non-smart TV into a smart one. And that’s through the help of an external device.

There are plenty to choose from. But I’ll discuss the best ones available.

Screen mirroring using your laptop

Do you happen to own an HDMI-compatible laptop or computer?

If so, the cheapest way to turn your HDTV into a Smart TV is via screen mirroring.

Basically, you’ll just have to plug your computer into your HDTV via HDMI.

Then, you can start streaming from apps or websites from your computer. And watch it on your TV.

It’s cheap because you’ll only need to invest in an HDMI cable. And you can buy one for less than $10.

What’s also great about this method is it doesn’t require much setup. 

All you have to do is connect your laptop to your HDTV. And then go to your TV’s HDMI input source. And that’s it. You’re already good to go.

You might also be interested in: How To Screen Mirror a Non-Smart TV? 3 Easy Methods

Roku Streaming Player

If you’re willing to invest a few more dollars in turning your HDTV smart…

Then go for a streaming player. 

There are many available in the market. But arguably, the best among them is Roku.

All Roku players come preinstalled with the most popular streaming apps. Including:

  • Hulu.
  • Netflix.
  • HBO Max.
  • Youtube TV.
  • Disney Plus.

In addition, you’d also have access to over 300+ live TV channels for free.

You can also connect the Roku player to a headphone via Bluetooth. And you can control it using your smartphone through the Roku app.

Now, you’ll find several Roku models out there.

But the one that’ll work best on an HDTV is the Roku Express. It’s designed specifically for TVs with a 720p or 1080p resolution.

And it also happens to be the most affordable Roku model at only $25.

You might also want to know: Can You Use Roku On A Non-Smart TV? 4 Answers

Amazon Fire TV Stick

You may also go for Amazon’s Fire TV Stick as an alternative to Roku.

Like Roku, this device already comes with the best streaming services. So you won’t have to download and install them.

But what’s great about it is you’ll also have access to over 200,000 free movies and series. 

This is made possible by ad-supported streaming apps such as:

  • Tubi.
  • Pluto TV.
  • IMDb TV.

And of course, since it’s an Amazon product…

It also has a built-in Alexa. So using the Fire TV Sticks remote, you can just press the mic button and search for content via voice control.

You may even ask Alexa for recommendations if you can’t think of anything to watch.

And as for the price, the Amazon Fire TV Stick only costs $40.