They come under a few different names, connected TV, Internet TV and Smart TV. The question is though, what exactly are they and more importantly will your life be any better for having one in it? We look at the facts and offer a ‘Smart’ perspective on whether you should shell out for a smart TV and what alternatives are available.
First thing we need to do is find out what a Smart TV is?
What is a Smart TV
- Grab any standard HDTV and add a feature that lets it connect to the internet without needing a PC. In this new smart section we can watch some catch-up TV and on-demand content. Add into the mix downloadable apps and games that can be played just like the Android and Apple systems (but with some big limitations described later), and the option to connect to social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter, video sites like Youtube and also browse the web, all from the one screen with a single remote control. And that is how a connected or smart television works.
Next thing is to decide if you need the extra functionality offered by the latest flashy TV sets. Think about the following questions:-
1) Do you want to watch the many catch-up TV services that are available to watch online such as the BBC iPlayer and Hulu?
2) Will you be social networking and possibly making Skype calls on your TV?
3) Do you want to watch content from the home network on your TV set?
4) Will you be using your TV to listen to music and MP3’s?
5) Do you want to play loads of apps on your TV?
I would assume the answer is a big fat yes to all of these questions, but herein lies the problem.
Smart TV disadvantages
Smart TV’s are made by different manufacturers and there is no standardization in the market. The main manufacturers include LG, Samsung and Sony, and each has it’s own operating system. Once you access the smart area you will find a similar looking screen pre-loaded with popular apps. More can be downloaded, some being free and some having a cost associated with them.
The biggest problem with current smart TV’s is that not all streaming services will work. For instance, did you know that many catch-up TV services will still not work on a smart TV?
Also many TV’s can not be upgraded, so newer models can do more than older ones. Meaning you will need to upgrade all over again. The number and quality of apps and games available is pretty dire compared to the Android Play store and Apple app store.
Smart TV sets all come with a remote control which however cutting edge and revolutionary, cannot replace a mouse and/or keyboard for ease of use. You can find that you need to press a directional button and wait for ever for the cursor to travel across the screen. You will also need to get used to using an on-screen keyboard that will quickly suck the life from you.
It’s not al;l bad news though. Connected television sets are a young industry and improving all the time. Most now have downloadable remote apps for iOS and Android devices, so consumers can use their tablet or phone to control the TV and type much easier.
Convert your existing TV into a Smart TV
If the expense and lack of features is putting you off then there are several much cheaper ways to convert any existing HDTV with a hdmi port into a connected TV set. Options include:-
- Buy a Blu-Ray player with smart or connected features
- Use a games console such as PS3 or Xbox 360
- Buy a cheap streaming box such as an Android TV box or stick, WD Live player, Roku or Apple TV amongst others
The Smart TV industry still has a way to go before they become ‘must have’ gadgets. Currently you can get all the Smart technology features and more by connecting a device to any standard TV. The high cost mixed with lack of upgrade facilities on many current TV’s make the technology more of a curiosity than a must have.