DIRECTV-Ready TV or external client: The facts, 2015 edition

DIRECTV is on a mission. They seem to want every major TV maker to include a DIRECTV-ready system in their televisions. I get it, that cuts down on the need to make client boxes. So far, almost every 2015 Sony, Samsung, and LG smart TV are ready for DIRECTV with no client box needed. Should you try to avoid paying $99 for a client box and get a cleaner installation in the process? Here are the facts:

User experience
The nice thing about the current DIRECTV-ready TVs is that the user experience is dead on the same as if you had a client. Everything is there for you (at one time the DIRECTV-ready TVs didn’t feature Youtube but now that feature’s been removed for everyone. You can even program a standard Genie Remote to operate the TV so it really is like having DIRECTV with a DIRECTV box.

Right now the DIRECTV-ready TVs are as fast if not faster than the current crop of client boxes. That’s because they have more expensive CPUs in order to run the other things the TVs run. I’ve seen side-by-side comparisons and if speed is a concern I would definitely go with the DIRECTV-ready TV. This was not always the case. I personally have one of the first-generation Samsung DIRECTV-ready TVs and it’s dog slow in DIRECTV mode. I don’t use it that way, I don’t have the patience. But four years of development has made a big difference.

Clean install
While the DIRECTV-ready TVs don’t need a client box, they do need a device to convert the coaxial DIRECTV cable to the TV’s ethernet port. That’s right, you can’t connect the DIRECTV cable straight into the TV. While the adapter is smaller than a client, it still needs power and it’s not as clean of an install as you’d think. You can’t use the TV’s built-in Wi-Fi, unfortunately, that’s out of the question.

Here’s the big problem. DIRECTV isn’t responsible for upgrading the smart TV software; that falls on the manufacturers themselves. Typically the manufacturers have been 5-6 months behind at least when it comes to upgrading and that means you get new features later. DIRECTV is expected to have a lot of changes after the AT&T deal gets completely squared away but there’s no guarantee that all of that good stuff will get to your TV. That’s why at the end of the day I recommend the external client. It’s more expensive but it really comes with more peace of mind once you are two or three years out. It’s been over a year since Samsung pushed out an upgrade to my 2011 smart TV other than removing obsolete features. That says to me that the TV you buy today won’t be getting any manufacturer love by 2018, and that’s probably when you will really be wanting it.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.