Smart TV: all you need to know in this tutorial. The most important things to consider when buying a TV are screen size, image quality, sound quality, and connectivity. The advent of smart TVs, however, has taken your video experience to another dimension.
Smart TVs dominate store shelves, but do you really need them? To find out, read on:
- What is a Smart TV?
- How Smart TVs work
- The advantages of a Smart TV
- Costs and limitations of a Smart TV
- Smart TV privacy issues
- Alternatives to smart TVs
Smart TVs are made by a variety of manufacturers, including those made by LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Vizio.
What is a Smart TV?
In a nutshell, a smart TV incorporates an operating system/platform that allows you to access, manage and view online and Internet-based multimedia content without the need to connect with an additional box (such as a Roku, Chromecast or Firestick).
How Smart TVs work
Smart TVs access online content by connecting to the same broadband router and the same Ethernet or Wi-Fi network used to connect the computer to the Internet. Ethernet offers the most stable connection, but if the TV is in a different room or away from the router, Wi-Fi could be the most convenient method.
Once the TV is connected and turned on, you will be asked to enter all the login information requested by your ISP (Internet service provider). The smart TV will display an on-screen menu that includes a list of available Internet channels provided in the form of apps (similar to apps on a smartphone). Some apps are preloaded and you can download more to add to the TV app library.
When you click on the icon for a specific channel/app, you are directed to its content offers, which you can select and view.
The exact way you navigate through the Smart TV menu and manage your apps varies by brand and model.
Types of apps that incorporate manufacturers on Smart TVs
TV brands incorporate one or more platforms through which they offer apps. (This integrated platform is what makes a TV smart.) Here are some of the brands/platforms you probably know or you’ll find in stores:
- Element, Toshiba, Westinghouse: Amazon Fire TV
- Insignia, Hisense / Sharp, Hitachi, TCL, Philips, Element: Roku TV
- LG: WebOS
- Samsung: Tizen Smart Hub
- Element, LeECO, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Westinghouse: Android TV
- Haier, JVC, LeECO, Philips, Polaroid, Sharp, Skyworth, Soniq, Sony, Toshiba: Chromecast
- Philips: NetTV
- Sharp: VEWD
- Vice: SmartCast or Internet Apps Plus
The advantage of Smart TVs
The main advantage of a smart TV is the access to a large number of channels that offer TV programs, movies, and music without the need to connect a TV antenna or subscribe to a cable/satellite service. In addition, some smart TVs offer web browsing, games, and access to compatible media stored on your computer.
Although smart TVs can also display channels via antenna or cable/satellite, Vizio has actually taken the bold step of eliminating tuners and antenna/cable connections incorporated on most of its televisions in favor of its integrated streaming platform as a whole – replacement component.
Additional Smart TV features
In addition to streaming on the Internet, some smart TVs offer more features, such as Miracast and Screen Sharing, which allow users to view content from compatible smartphones and tablets on a TV screen. Other labels for this feature include SmartShare (LG) and SmartView (Samsung).
Some smart TVs can also do the opposite: send content from the TV to a compatible smartphone. After sending, the user can continue to view that content on the smartphone, away from the TV.
Extra costs and limitations
The hype surrounding smart TVs is convincing, but there are some cost considerations and limitations to consider.
- Although smart TV platforms provide access to many free channels and services, many require a monthly subscription or a pay-per-view rate. When you start adding up these costs, you could end up spending so much or much more than watching cable/satellite TV. On the other hand, you will only pay for the channels and content you want.
- The brand/model smart TV determines the services and features you have access to. Although all smart TVs access many of the same main services (Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Pandora), many additional and niche channels may not be accessible on some smart TV platforms. Furthermore, for those who use iTunes to access streaming audio and video content, no TV from 2018 has this capacity – so even if you have a smart TV, you still need to buy an Apple TV box.
Can Smart TVs spy on you?
Using a smart TV can cause privacy problems. Smart TVs and / or content app providers usually track your habits of what you watch on TV to provide you with tips and advice based on what you like best.
For example, every time you log in to Netflix, the menu shows what you’ve recently watched, as well as updated tips for movies or related programs that you might like based on the “recently watched” list.
You might think that this type of tracking is a good thing because it reduces the search time for movies or programs to watch, but a smart TV could do more than keep track of your habits.
If your smart TV has a webcam or voice control, there is the possibility that someone may come in and see you / listen to you.
Furthermore, any purchases with credit cards made through the TV could be traceable by third parties. If the voice control or the webcam is active, don’t say or do anything that you wouldn’t do or say in public – and be careful with online credit card purchases.
Smart TV alternatives
If you have recently purchased or currently have a TV without smart functionality or a previous smart TV with limited options, you do not need to buy a new smart TV if the TV still works well and meets your image quality needs. You can add smart features to your current experience for a small fee.
- A multimedia streamer is usually a small box that connects to the TV’s HDMI port and connects to the Internet router via Ethernet / Wi-Fi. If you have an older TV that does not have an HDMI input, your options are more limited, but the Roku Express + multimedia streamer provides analog audio-video connections in this case.
- Another type of multimedia streamer is a slightly larger flash drive than a USB flash drive and connects to an available HDMI input. The stick-type multimedia streamer provides Wi-Fi access to the TV, so make sure you have a wireless Internet router. The stick must also be connected to a USB or AC power source.
- Turn your TV into a Smart TV step by step
- Buying guide, how to choose an Android TV or Smart TV Box
- How to transmit the screen of your Android on a Smart TV
When you buy a TV, almost all brands/models offer some level of smart features to expand functionality. Keep in mind, however, the variations in access to the contents, the additional costs for the subscription/pay-per-view, the possible problems of privacy and the need to balance the attractiveness of a specific Smart TV with other important factors such as image quality, sound quality, and physical connectivity.
If you want to add TV, movies, music streaming and other smart features to your home entertainment experience but you don’t know if you need a smart TV, here are some guidelines:
- If you’re buying a new TV and you don’t have other devices that provide access to Internet streaming content, then buying a smart TV is a good idea.
- If you already have a smart TV that does not provide access to the number or type of streaming channels you want, you can add an external media streamer, a streaming stick or an Internet-enabled Blu-ray Disc player instead of buying a new one. smart TV.
- If you already have a TV without intelligent features but are satisfied with its image quality and other features, you don’t need to buy a smart TV. Just add a multimedia streamer, a streaming stick or an Internet-enabled Blu-ray Disc player to the current configuration.
- If you’re worried about privacy issues, consider an external media streaming device. It does not prevent the purchase or display of habit detection but prevents live audio/video spying.
- If you’re interested in audio-only streaming, an internet-enabled stereo or home theater receiver will provide better sound quality for listening to music than a smart TV.
A smart TV is just a way to add Internet streaming and features related to your TV viewing experience. Use the guidelines above to decide if it is the best choice for you.