Smart TV vs Streaming Devices

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Updated January 25, 2023

As technology progresses, there are more concerns when looking for the best TVs than ever before. One specific situation is understanding the difference between smart TVs vs streaming devices. Both functionally achieve the same thing, but there are some variances that are worth understanding. If you are specifically looking into Roku, you can check out this resource that compares Smart TV vs Roku TV.


  • Smart TVs have become just as affordable as regular TVs. They have built-in operating systems, Wi-Fi connectivity, and many different smart features.
  • Favorite streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Apple TV, and Roku Ultra typically have better user interfaces and extra features. They are affordable options for those looking to connect to streaming video services.
  • Both smart TVs and streaming devices will track your data, but streaming devices offer greater control over privacy settings.

Differences Between Smart TVs Vs Streaming Devices

Smart TVs come with a built-in operating system that allows the TV to function similarly to a mobile device. It connects to Wi-Fi and offers a range of streaming platforms and popular apps that can be downloaded and accessed through the TV. Once that is done, you can start streaming movies and TV shows directly from the internet. So how does streaming TV work? It works by transmitting audio and video data over the internet to your TV.

Certain models come with different internet options, and it’s good to understand the details about owning a smart TV with an ethernet port vs Wi-Fi.

Insider Tip

If you want to restrict how much data your smart TV or streaming device has, you can switch off its content recognition system.

Streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Apple TV, and Roku TV are set-top boxes that connect to Wi-Fi. They allow users to access streaming apps through their specific operating systems. If you have an Apple TV and are looking to upgrade your TV, be sure to check out our guide on the best TV for Apple TV to ensure you get the best viewing experience. Additionally, you can check out our comparison of a smart TV vs Android TV or what separates a regular TV vs a smart TV.

So which one is right for you and your streaming content? Depending on what kind of content you want to get TV to stream – movies, shows, or sports – there are different plans available. Below we’ll outline a few key differences to help illuminate the characteristics of each and help you come to the right decision.

User Interfaces

It isn’t easy to make a one-to-one comparison because each smart TV comes with a different operating system and range of apps available to the user. Similarly, every streaming device has its unique characteristics. So for these reasons, we’ll keep it general.

Smart TVs are nice because there’s little work to be done once set up and fewer wires which minimize clutter. However, users say that Smart TV interfaces are harder to operate and run slower than many set-top box options. If you’re on a budget, it might be a better idea to go with a streaming stick over a Smart TV because budget TVs are known to have lousier systems. Streaming devices typically have a faster processor, a more simple interface, and fewer software updates.

Data Privacy

Another one of our modern concerns lies in data privacy. As the conventional wisdom goes, for streaming services, Apple TV tends to be the safest when it comes to data sharing. Meanwhile, Google TV and Google Chromecast rank lower regarding the amount of tracking they perform. Roku streaming devices also rank near the bottom with data monitoring.

Smart TVs are also known to track quite vigorously and tend to have features that are harder to control. For example, it is easier to research and understand privacy controls with a streaming box. However, with smart TVs, this isn’t so much the case.


A streaming device requires an HDMI or USB port, so remember to keep this in mind alongside any other devices/wires you’ll need to the plugin.


Do I need an Internet connection to use a streaming device?

Internet isn’t required, but you’ll need to connect to the TV to stream the latest content or life viewing experiences.

Do you need a streaming device if you have a smart TV?

You don’t need one, but many people who purchased lower-cost smart TVs opt into using a streaming device because of the faster performance and more accessible UI.

Are smart TVs compatible with smart speakers and voice control?

Smart home devices are compatible with smart TVs and can be used almost as a remote control to adjust settings, change channels, and conduct a voice search.

STAT: The most popular streaming devices in North America are Amazon Fire TV (15%) and Roku TV & Roku Ultra (14%). (source)

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