Q: I have spent significant time trying to find answers to my questions about TV's that are not "smart." Specifically, I am trying to find a 43" 4K UHD TV that can replace a Sharp 1080p TV and give me a better picture, for now and into the future.

My problem is I don't have a smartphone and I don't want to hook the TV up directly to the internet. The results of my search indicate I can buy a "smart TV" and just use a cable box. However, in most cases it requires that I use a smart phone or hook directly to the internet to get the appropriate downloads. I simply don't want to open the door to receiving unsolicited ads, or having someone take over my TV, or listen to my conversations.

I've spent a bit of time trying to find the most reliable TV—whatever the brand happens to be—but I am distressed by the number of problems reported by owners. And, most manufacturers are only shipping Smart TV's. I don't want to talk to my TV or play games—I just want to watch a good movie and get ready for more 4K content.

Perhaps I'm old school, but when a computer manufacturer made a computer, they had a "burn in" process to verify that all was well before shipping. This is apparently not the case with TV production—quality control seems to be a hit-or-miss proposition.

I presently use Roku for my films with great success and use a Harmony remote to control my receiver and components. Any help would be appreciated.

- Bob R. (Photon713)

A: Privacy is a great concern, as is malware, so I understand why you are hesitant to upgrade your TV to a "smart" model. And, you are correct to note that the clear majority of today's TVs have built-in connectivity. But, I don't think you need to be concerned about those features when it comes to the way you plan to use your 4K UHD TV .

Even if you buy a smart TV, during the setup process you can opt to ignore configuring a network connection. While the smart apps will still be there, the TV won't receive any updates. Since you are using Roku as your streaming platform, you shouldn't have any need to update the TV. If you do need to update the TV's firmware, but you don't want to enter your network password into the TV, then use USB or Ethernet to do that and unplug it when you are done. The key to making a "smart" TV "dumb" is to deny it access to Wi-Fi.

Even though there are plenty of 43" smart TVs, most of them don't have built-in cameras or microphones—check the specs to make sure the TV you buy can't listen to what you say. If you're explicitly concerned with spying—perhaps you recently watched Snowden—just make sure you don't connect your TV to the Internet.

I also wouldn't worry about malware or unsolicited ads. Once again, the solution is to simply not connect the TV to your network. The apps included with smart TVs have been vetted, the trouble comes when people start downloading new apps to their smart TVs. And even then, problems are exceedingly rare.

Regarding the reliability issue, looking at owner complaints online can easily lead to the impression that TVs are intrinsically unreliable. But reality is that most people's TVs keep working just fine year after year—even cheap TVs tend to last. That's especially impressive considering many TVs are used for multiple hours daily. Just watch out for out of the box defects in the first few days.

The key thing here is to ignore the smart features and connectivity options of the TV you buy and use your Logitech Harmony and Roku to control things. You'll be fine. Now for the hard part—choosing a 43" 4K UHD TV based on what really matters, which is picture quality.

Since you are interested in watching 4K content, if budget is not a factor, I recommend getting a TV that supports HDR. There are not a lot of options when it comes to 43" HDR-capable TVs, but the Sony XBR-X800D ($650) and the UN43KU7000 ($640) from Samsung can do it. You'll also need a Roku Ultra ($129) to stream 4K HDR. While it adds considerably to the cost of a 43", HDR support is worth it for a TV you plan to keep for years—these are premium models and when not showing HDR content it's almost like they are idling.

Unlike 4K resolution, the benefits of HDR are clearly visible from any viewing distance. When you stream the latest 4K HDR content from Netflix or Amazon or Vudu, or play an Ultra HD Blu-ray, you'll get the most out of it, even on a 43" TV. Moreover, even with regular (BT.709 SDR) content like Blu-rays, 1080p streaming, and broadcast TV, it's likely you'll appreciate the extra contrast and rich color offered by an HDR-capable TV.

Having said all that, there are plenty of non-HDR 43" options out there. Keep in mind that unless you sit quite close to a 43" 4K UHD TV , you won't get the maximum benefit from 2160p resolution content. Then again, when it comes to streaming, the 4K streams are often noticeably better than 1080p streams and basically match HD Blu-ray quality—that's a tangible benefit.

Also worth considering is that premium models offer better video processing—such as upscaling and noise reduction—than entry-level TVs. This can have a positive impact on less than perfect content, like cable TV broadcasts.

As an aside, if you buy a TV that's near the end of its model year (a 2016 as opposed to a 2017), you likely won't have to sweat firmware updates because the TV is a mature product. If you early-adopt a 2017 model then there could—in theory—be picture quality-related updates you'd miss out on. Also, some TVs have a USB firmware update option, if keeping the TV offline 100% of the time is a great concern. Otherwise I'd say use Ethernet—a wired connection—just to update the firmware and nothing else. The key is there's no password required.

I'm not sure what factors are involved in choosing a 43" screen size, but I recommend measuring your current TV. If you've had it for a while, it probably has a fairly thick bezel. Is it possible you could move up to a 49" or 50"? With 4K, the bigger the screen, the better.

To summarize, regardless of which TV you buy, use a remote control instead of a smartphone to control your TV, and don't connect your TV to the Internet—use your Roku. Voilà! Your 4K HDR smart TV can't spy on you or serve unsolicited ads to you. That is, aside from all the ads that are so ubiquitous on broadcast TV.

If you've got an AV question, please send it to [email protected]

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