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In the era of smart technology, dumb TVs are still widely available. In fact, they’re considered the best TVs among customers who prefer a little less complicated TV experience. The best dumb TV sets generally offer basic features, such as a remote control, HDMI ports to connect external devices, and a small to medium screen size.
For those concerned with security, dumb TVs are considered more secure and reliable than smart TVs since you can’t connect them to the internet. Instead, you’ll have to subscribe to a cable service plan to consume visual content.
Keep reading our buying guide to learn everything you need to know about dumb TVs and how they could give you some peace of mind in an internet-dominated time.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This TV has a compact design that’s suitable for dorm rooms and apartments. It features an advanced backlighting method that delivers bright visuals with natural colors.
With its simplistic design, the LG 24LJ4540 24-inch design will appeal to people who want to enjoy traditional cable. It has an LED-backlit display that produces vibrant pictures that stand out. This TV comes with a sturdy stand that offers excellent support and it has a Triple XD Engine that processes images smoothly for great performance. It produces natural vibrant colors that will appeal to movie lovers and gamers. However, this unit’s maximum resolution of 720p is on the low side.
This model has an RF port for an antenna and an HDMI port for connecting computers and consoles. It has a 60Hz refresh rate that’s ideal for movies. This TV comes with two 3W built-in stereo speakers that offer audio playback, and the TV is quite compact, fitting easily on small TV stands in dorm rooms and apartments. An included full-service remote control enables operating this TV easily. With a USB port, this display connects to thumb drives and external drives. The display quality can also perform well enough in a bright space like the best TV for bright rooms.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This TV features a number of ports that facilitate connecting to a wide variety of devices. It has slim bezels, providing an immersive viewing experience.
The Sansui ES24Z1 24-inch TV boasts a number of modern features that will appeal to movie buffs. This TV has an HD 720p display that offers vibrant imagery. It has wide 178-degree viewing angles, delivering excellent pictures in all corners of the living room. Featuring a compact design, this TV is ideal for dorm rooms, apartments, and small homes. It has HDMI and VGA inputs for connecting older and modern computers. However, this display is too small for the typical living room.
A VESA interface on this TV enables hassle-free wall mounting. This TV comes with high-quality stands that offer stability. It has slim bezels on both sides to provide an immersive viewing experience. Users who want to display media files can mount USB drives via the TV’s USB ports. This model also features an AV IN port for connecting DVD players and other devices. A remote control enables operating this device easily. This model supports Dolby Audio, providing a rich auditory experience.
Award: BEST SCREEN SIZE
WHY WE LIKE IT: With a gigantic screen, this television is suitable for living rooms, home theaters, and game rooms. It boasts MHL tech for connecting to smartphones and MEMC 120 tech for producing smooth videos.
Users who need a large screen will be pleased with the Komodo by Sceptre 40-inch TV. This device boasts Motion Estimation and Motion Compensation (MEMC) 120 tech that provides smooth visuals that will appeal to movie lovers and gaming enthusiasts. This monitor supports Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) technology, allowing users to share content from smartphones in high definition. Although this monitor has built-in speakers, they don’t get very loud and lack bass.
It has a USB port for attaching flash drives and external storage drives. This TV has remarkably thin bezels that offer visual appeal and provide a hypnotic viewing experience. DTS SRS TruSurround technology delivers high-fidelity audio with deep bass and smooth treble. This computer has an HDMI port for connecting to computer and gaming consoles and it has conveniently located controls that allow navigating through the OSD menu easily. A VESA mounting interface allows fixing this device on the wall.
Award: BEST PORTABLE TV
WHY WE LIKE IT: This TV has a compact design, providing outstanding portability. It has a transparent polycarbonate shell that protects the interior components and provides visual appeal.
Users seeking a compact TV for travel or for outfitting a bedroom should consider the RCA Clearview 15-inch TV. This television has a 720p display that delivers outstanding picture quality. It has a 60Hz refresh rate that is ideal for movies and working with text. We like the see-through polycarbonate shell of this TV that provides protection against knocks and impacts. This TV is suitable for bedrooms, dorm rooms, and apartments. However, it’s too small for families.
The TV has both VGA and HDMI ports, enabling users to connect to a wide variety of computers and gaming consoles. It comes with a full-function remote that simplifies navigating and changing settings. This remote features a unique clear design that matches the TV’s polycarbonate shell. Equipped with an AV IN port, this TV is compatible with a number of DVD players. It has a transparent chassis, enabling users to view the interior components.
Award: BEST CONNECTIVITY OPTIONS
WHY WE LIKE IT: This TV has a compact design that’s ideal for bedrooms and dorm rooms. It has a selection of useful ports that simplify connecting to computers, video game consoles, and DVD players.
The Caixun EC24Z2 24-inch monitor impresses with its superb colors and detailed imagery. This TV has an HD 1366 x 768 display that offers fairly vibrant images. With 178-degree viewing angles, this screen produces consistent colors and lighting when viewed from various directions. It supports Dolby Audio, producing a spatial sound that will bring movies and gameplay to life. However, this television’s 60Hz refresh rate is not suitable for professional gaming.
This TV has a 100mm x 100mm VESA interface that allows mounting this device on the wall or on a third-party TV stand. It boasts a wide variety of inputs, including VGA and HDMI, connecting easily to newer and older computers. An AV IN port provides compatibility with DVD players and similar devices, while a USB port accommodates storage drives. This television comes with remote control, offering hassle-free management. It has vibrant colors and boasts LED backlighting tech, providing very bright images.
Award: BEST BACKLIGHTING TECH
WHY WE LIKE IT: This television has a range of connectivity options that simplify connecting to computers and consoles. It has a Triple XD Engine that provides flawless, stutter-free playback and produces vivid, vibrant images.
This Norcent N24-HD1 24-inch TV has a 720p display that is ideal for movies and gaming. This TV is ideal for people seeking a model for the bedroom or dorm room. It comes with remote control with comprehensive controls for simple operation. This television runs on a Triple XD Engine that offers outstanding image processing for flawless performance. It boasts a full range sound system with 3W dual channel speakers for audio playback, although the speakers don’t get very loud.
The TV comes with dual stands that provide stability, preventing the TV from tipping over. It has VGA, USB, and HDMI ports, providing connectivity with everything from laptops and desktops to video game consoles and storage drives. This model has a built-in digital TV tuner interface for connecting to cable. Featuring LED backlighting tech, this television offers bright visuals and saves energy. It has a high contrast ratio, displaying deep black colors accurately.
A dumb TV is a television that doesn’t feature built-in internet or any other kind of smart features. Before the advent of smart TVs, they were the only type of television on the market, but today, you’re limited to only a few models.
As mentioned, they offer the most basic features a TV could provide. But at the same time, you’ll be protected from personalized ads, third-party selling of your data, and continuous monitoring of what, when, and how you consume content. This way, you can have a solid TV experience without worrying about these additional privacy complications.
With smart TVs becoming a standard offering today, the market has almost completely phased out older, non-smart versions models. Dumb TVs, unlike smart ones, rely on cable service providers or an external streaming device, like Fire TV or Chromecast, to stream content rather than having an operating system and built-in streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube.
Since you can connect them to any app or platform on the internet, Smart TVs have completely altered how we consume content. In contrast, dumb TVs don’t connect to the internet and are still in demand by people who want to enjoy their TV experience in an old-fashioned way. This means they want nothing to do with unwelcome tracking and extra features like voice control, app-based remote control, and 4K resolution.
There’s no denying that you’ll get superior features with a smart TV like the best Android TVs, but some people just don’t prefer the extra bells and whistles of smart technology. Moreover, you can always attach a Roku streaming stick or Fire TV if you want to stream content.
Though most people dismiss dumb TVs as items of the past, they haven’t completely fallen by the wayside. These TVs are less complicated options as compared to their newer and smarter alternatives.
Since they lack smart functionality and cannot be connected to the internet, you’ll have to subscribe to a package provided by a cable service provider. Some people find this more convenient than dealing with smart TVs’ convoluted operating systems and interfaces. Plus, security and privacy risks are real. Internet-equipped devices use Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) to keep a tab on what you’re watching. Additionally, they have integrated cameras, giving enough room for hackers to spy on you.
Surfing through channels on a dumb TV is a straightforward affair as it requires just using the remote control to enter a number to view your favorite cable TV shows or local channels. Conversely, many smart TVs are riddled with poor interfaces requiring multiple button presses to type a single word.
With dumb TVs, you don’t risk exposing conversations with a mic-enabled system, as every aspect of watching TV is discreet. Plus, you’ll never run into glitches with a dumb TV unless there’s an issue from your cable provider’s end. Dumb TVs aren’t associated with content providers like YouTube and Hulu, but if you want to consume online content shows from a streaming service, you can attach a streaming device or connect your laptop to one of the HDMI ports.
As the advancement of technology makes our lives easier with smarter alternatives, why do people still want to opt for televisions with fewer capabilities? The answer is simple—more technology doesn’t always equate to simpler living. It can bring unnecessary complications that people don’t want to deal with, making non-smart or dumb versions a better choice.
The lifespan of a dumb TV depends on how frequently it’s used, how well it’s maintained, its quality, and above all, its display technology—LCD, LED, OLED, and QLED.
An LCD TV packs around 50,000 to 60,000 hours of viewing and can last for nearly two decades, but it’ll mostly stop functioning after a decade due to other reasons.
An LED TV offers between 40,000 and 100,000 hours of viewing at maximum or near-maximum brightness. Even with heavy viewing, these TVs will work properly for at least 5 to 7 years, and over a decade with moderate or low usage. But beyond that period, you’ll notice a decrease in picture quality.
OLED TVs perform better than LED displays but have a limited lifespan. After about 7 to 10 years of use at optimal settings, you may see a notable decrease in performance and image quality.
Lastly, QLEDs (Quantum light-emitting diodes) offer exceptional picture quality even after years of extensive use. At optimal settings, these TVs will last you between 7 to 10 years, or even longer.
To increase the lifespan of your TV, turn it off when you’re not watching anything instead of keeping it on standby mode. Additionally, a well-ventilated stand that provides approximately four inches of space between the TV and the walls will go a long way in ensuring your TV doesn’t overheat and get damaged.
Ash and dust can also reduce your TV’s lifespan, so you must regularly clean to prevent unwanted build-ups. And remember that the higher your TV’s brightness, the more power it will use, so adjust your brightness accordingly to ensure it lasts longer.
Now that you’ve decided to opt for a dumb TV, there are several factors such as resolution, display technology, budget, and more to consider. Let’s look at these below.
There are four common display technologies in the market — LCD, LED, OLED, and QLED. Most dumb TVs in the market currently will feature either an LCD or LED display.
LCD is short for liquid crystal display and these displays utilize fluorescent tubes to produce light and brighten the picture. These TVs are low on cost, but the picture quality on these is among the lowest.
LED (light-emitting diode) also depends on a liquid crystal display, but it uses light-emitting diodes to produce lights. This technology leads to superior picture quality and sharper images than standard LCDs.
Next, you have OLED TVs that use organic LEDs instead of backlighting. Each OLED subpixel creates its own light. These displays achieve a state of absolute black which is not attainable with LED displays.
Lastly, QLED (Quantum-dot LED) displays have traditional LCD panels that are lit by LEDs. A quantum dot layer fills the gap between the LCD panel and the backlight to create more saturated colors, but it’s not backlight-free like OLED displays. QLED displays are significantly brighter than OLEDs and are an excellent choice for sunny spaces that receive a lot of ambient light. But in terms of picture quality and realism, OLEDs usually perform better.
Resolution is the number of pixels that compose a picture on the TV screen. The greater the pixel count, the higher the quality and sharpness of the visuals onscreen.
At HD resolution (720p), you have 921,600 pixels, which increases to 2 million with Full HD (1080p). But with 4K, the pixels bump up to 8 million, which means all the visuals will have incredible clarity despite the size of the display.
You’ll not find dumb TVs with 4K resolution in the market, so your options are limited to HD and Full HD resolution instead of the 4K resolution that most smart TVs offer today.
The number of ports you need depends on how many devices you plan to connect to it. You can’t add HDMI ports later, so it’s best to select a TV with enough ports for your needs. You’ll need HDMI ports to connect the sound system and your game consoles, like the PS5 and Nintendo Switch, if you’re into gaming. You may also want to check if the TV has a USB port for connecting external hard drives.
When it comes to the screen size of a dumb TV, you’re limited once again. There are no 75 or 85 inch TVs in the market without smart features.
With dumb TVs, you’re looking at sizes between 23 inches and 55 inches. You should also determine screen size based on how close you sit to the TV. A general rule to follow is that the distance between you and the TV must be three times more than the screen’s height.
Dumb TVs are usually budget-friendly and fall between the price range of $150 to $400. Though you’ll have to settle for a small screen at low price points, on the upper end, you’ll generally find features like LED display, larger screen size (55 inches), integrated speakers, and Full HD resolution, depending on the brand.
Most non-smart or dumb TVs are manufactured by lesser-known brands, but that doesn’t make them inferior in any way.