Best Smart TV Accessories Buyers Guide
Want to get more out of your home internet?
What Smart TV Accessories Are Worth Buying?
You just brought home a new smart TV, and it feels like the future is finally here. Your new TV can connect to the internet, stream Netflix and Hulu, even tell you the weather. A smart TV by itself is great, but you can make it even better with accessories.
Should you buy a soundbar for better audio, or should you invest in an entire surround sound system? Will AirPlay 2 and Chromecast just work, or do you need some kind of dongle? And what devices even work with your smart TV's operating system?
Fear not, Optimum has you covered with a handy buyer's guide. We'll go over the major smart TV operating systems and focus on compatibility, so you'll know if you need an Echo to use Alexa or if you can just talk right into your new TV's voice command feature. And we'll dive into all the accessory options worth considering: soundbars, universal remotes, and entire surround sound systems.
Let’s figure out what works best for your smart TV.
What technology is compatible with my Smart TV?
Before shopping for accessories, it's important to figure out what devices and services will work with your Smart TV. There are several Smart TV operating systems out there, and not all of them will work with certain accessories natively.
Let’s go through the major ones.
LG's webOS and Samsung's Tizen systems cover just about everything. The TVs have Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built-in, with no need for an external listening device. Streaming app support is robust, and each OS natively supports Apple AirPlay 2 for streaming content from your iPhone or iPad. The only thing they don't support is Chromecast. So if you want to sling your smaller Android-based screens onto the big new TV, you'll have to jump through a few hoops.
You'll find Android TV compatibility easy on Smart TV models from Sony, Sharp, and Phillips, among others. The operating system natively supports Chromecast for phone streaming, but only Sony models also support AirPlay 2. Google Assistant is also supported on these TV systems, though for Amazon Alexa requires a separate listening device (like an Echo) to use voice commands. Android TV has over 5,000 apps on its app store, and it supports every streaming service you can think of.
If you've got a Roku TV or TCL Smart TV, then you're dealing with the Roku TV operating system. It works just like an external Roku streaming device, so video streaming is a breeze. AirPlay 2 is supported, though Chromecast is not. It'll also work with Alexa and Google Assistant, though you'll need a separate device to interlink voice commands through your digital assistant devices.
That covers the major categories, but it's always worth doing some research before you buy an accessory. You don't want to take home a soundbar or universal remote that doesn't easily work with your TV.
Is a universal remote worth it?
Smart TV's work great on their own, but things can get complicated when you add in more devices. For example, if you want to connect a BluRay player or speaker system, those could come with their own remotes that are just as likely to get lost in the couch cushions or chewed up by the family pet.
Universal remotes help solve this conundrum and streamline your AV setup, with all of your devices accessible through one click.
Each universal remote type provides something to ease your entertainment experience. Some can connect with mobile device and voice system software like Amazon's Alexa and Google Home. Others expand outside of the TV with the ability to control your smart thermostat, lights, motorized shades, and more.
So when is a universal remote for your smart TV worth it?
Definitely if you're connecting multiple smart home devices through your new Smart TV. Using a universal remote will unify your at-home setup through a single point of connection, without need for a foray into the remote control basket every time you want to change device inputs.
And although Smart TV operating systems come with a mobile app for decentralized control, a universal remote also carries the added bonus of a more tactile experience. So as your fingers learn which button is where on your remote, you'll get better at navigating menu options without having to move your eyes from your phone screen to your TV screen and back.
Is a surround sound system worth it?
Surround sound systems are the centerpiece of premium home theater setups. If you want a movie theater-quality experience at home, they're pretty much the only option.
A surround sound system is a big investment. For 5.1-channel surround sound, you'll need five speakers and one subwoofer. For 7.1 channel, up that number to seven. Space is an important consideration: for true surround sound, you'll want the speakers sitting a foot or two above ear level. If your TV room is small or you don't want to mount speakers directly into the wall, a surround sound system may be a nonstarter.
An AV receiver is also essential - the system won't work at all without one. Picking the right one depends on what you're looking to get out of your speaker system. A receiver with excellent room audio correction is perfect for the hardcore home theater enthusiast, while one with Spotify, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2 support is great for those looking for versatility.
Buying a surround sound system is an investment. Between the speakers and receiver, expect to pay more than a thousand dollars - not counting professional installation and sound-dampening furniture and fixtures that help you get the best possible audio quality. In return, you'll get unmatched sound quality - more immersive than a soundbar, and light years better than any built-in speaker from a TV set.
If that sounds good to you, check out our home theater buyer’s guide for a deeper dive.
Is a soundbar worth it?
If your TV’s built-in speakers aren’t cutting it, and a full-on surround sound system isn’t feasible, you could look into a soundbar.
A soundbar is exactly what it sounds like: a bar-shaped speaker that sits under your TV. Some, like the Vizio Elevate, include a subwoofer and small external speakers. The resulting sound replicates a true surround sound setup without the need for five speakers and a separate receiver. Most soundbars connect to your TV via Bluetooth, with HDMI, RCA, digital audio, or 1/8th inch audio cable options as well.
Many soundbars also work as smart speakers. Models like the Sonos Arc have built-in support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant making them a good choice for people with smart home devices. Nearly every modern soundbar also offers some kind of music streaming, be it through wifi, Bluetooth, or Apple AirPlay 2.
Which soundbar is right for you?
It depends on what you're looking for. For affordable, better quality TV sound, look for a 2.1 channel system. If you're looking to get surround sound but want to skip the complex setup, a premium 5.1 channel bar with smart speaker support built-in is perfect. Whichever you end up picking, a soundbar can serve one of the first accessories you consider to upgrade your new TV.
Is a 4K Blu-ray player worth it?
Image-quality aficionados and film buffs may want to consider a 4K BluRay player. You can stream 4K content using services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, but the streaming process may compress the video unless your home internet hookup has sufficient bandwidth.
There is a downside of additional cost. The only way to get true 4K video is with physical media. That means making additional purchases of BluRay disks to fill out your home library. For people with shelves of movies and TV shows, a 4K BluRay player is a no brainer. If you've fully embraced the streaming life, the combined cost of both a player and films to watch on it can balloon in a hurry.
The upside is that BluRay players are much more affordable now than they were when they first came out. A solid player typically costs around a hundred dollars. Premium players are more expensive, but it's worth it if you want support for things like HDR10 or Dolby Vision.
Many BluRay players also have network and streaming capabilities built-in, which can complicate your new Smart TV home entertainment setup. It's worth practicing good discipline - only use your BluRay player for BluRay disks, but use your smart TV for streaming. Otherwise, navigating your home entertainment system can get confusing, and you may not immediately know whether you're watching Netflix through your Smart TV or BluRay player menu interface.
Is a Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X worth it?
If you're in the market for a BluRay player but also enjoy gaming, you could kill two birds with one stone and get a video game console with a disk slot. Both Sony and Microsoft's new consoles also work as 4K BluRay players.
If you're already a gamer, you probably already have a console. But if you're considering an upgrade to the newest generation of consoles, you should know that games currently on the PS5 and XSX look spectacular, and are likely to improve over time. Regardless, your new Smart TV can take advantage of the 4K gaming and HDR aspects of new games.
Consoles are worth consideration for non-gamers too, especially if you're already thinking about investing in a BluRay player. As gaming culture continues its ascent into the mainstream, it's likely that video games will become the new Netflix in terms of fuel for water cooler conversations. Games like Ghost of Tsushima and Assassin's Creed: Valhalla are great intros to gaming, and both have enough content to last hundreds of hours.
Is a pair of wireless TV headphones worth it?
Late-night channel flippers may want to invest in wireless TV headphones. These pair up with your TV via Bluetooth, though some models (like the Sennheiser RS 195 RF) include a transmitter that allow them to connect to any audio device - even a record player.
Benefits include watching TV at night without disturbing anyone else in the house, and being able to focus on an important program without interruption - you can even keep listening during that quick bathroom break. Look into options with noise-canceling technology to pump up the volume and completely immerse yourself in your favorite movie.
You can get a pair of wireless headphones for less than a hundred dollars, so they're very affordable. If you tend to watch TV as an insomnia cure, they're worth it.
Are you getting everything you need from your home internet?