The most crucial things to consider when buying a TV are screen size, sound quality, picture quality, and connectivity. However, the advent of smart TVs has brought another dimension of capability to your video experience.
Presently, Smart TVs are what the majority of homes owners are using, but do you really need one? To find out, let us explore:
- What Is a Smart TV?
- How Smart TVs work
- The Benefits of a Smart TV
- Extra Costs and Limitations
- Smart TV Privacy Issues
- Smart TV Alternatives
What Is a Smart TV?
On a whole, a smart TV comes with an operating system/platform that allows one to access, manage, and view online and network-based media content without the need to connect to an additional box like a Roku, or fire stick.
check also:Home appliance: smart refrigerator
How do Smart TVs Work?
Smart TVs access online content by connecting to the same broadband router, and Wi-Fi network or Ethernet that you use to connect your computer to the internet. Ethernet provides the most stable connection, but if your TV is in a different quarter or a long distance from your router, Wi-Fi might be more convenient.
Once your TV is connected and powered on, you will be prompted to enter any login information required by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). The smart TV will display an on-screen menu that comprises a list of available internet channels provided in the form of apps (similar to the apps on a smartphone). Some apps come preloaded, and with this, you can download more to add to the TV’s app library.
Once you click on the icon for a specific channel/app, you are taken to its content offerings, which you can select and view.
How you navigate through the smart TV menu and manage your apps exactly varies with the brand and model.
App Platforms by Smart TV Brand
Most TV brands come with one or more platforms through which they offer apps. This integrated platform is what really makes a TV smart. Here are a few of the brand/platform you’re likely to find when you purchase a smart tv
- Element, Westinghouse, Toshiba: Amazon Fire TV
- Insignia, Hisense/Sharp, TCL, Hitachi, Philips, Element: Roku TV
- LG: WebOS
- Samsung: Tizen Smart Hub
- Element, LeECO, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Westinghouse: Android TV
- Polaroid, Sharp, Haier, Soniq, Sony, JVC, LeECO, Philips, Skyworth, Toshiba: Chromecast
- Philips: NetTV
- Sharp: VEWD
- Vizio: Internet Apps Plus or SmartCast.
The Benefit of Smart TVs
The main benefit of a smart TV is access to a large number of channels that offer TV programs, music, and movies without the need to connect a TV antenna or subscribe to a cable/satellite service. In addition, some smart TVs provide gaming, web browsing, and access to compatible media content stored on your computer.
Although smart TVs also can receive TV programming through antenna or cable/satellite, Vizio has actually taken the bold step of removing built-in tuners and antenna/cable connections on most of its sets in favor of its built-in streaming platform as a comprehensive replacement.
Additional Smart TV Features
Furthermore, some smart TVs have internet streaming, which provides more capabilities, such as Miracast and Screen Sharing, which allow users to view content from compatible smartphones and tablets on a TV screen. Smartshare (LG) and Smartview (Samsung) are other labels for this feature.
A few smart TVs are even able to do the reverse: send content from the TV to a compatible smartphone. After sending, the user can continue to view that content on the smartphone, while he or she is away from the TV.
Extra Costs and Limitations
The hype surrounding smart TVs is compelling, but there are some cost considerations and limitations to reflect on.
Albeit smart TV platforms provide access to a lot of free channels and services, many require either a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. You could end up spending as much, or more, than a monthly cable/satellite bill, when you start adding up those costs. Still, you will be paying only for the channels and content you want.
The services and features you have access to are determined by the brand/model smart TV. Though all smart TVs access a lot of the same core services (Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Pandora), a lot of additional and niche channels might not be accessible on some smart TV platforms. In addition, for those who use iTunes to access streaming audio and video content, no TV as of 2018 has this capability — so even if you have a smart TV, you still need to buy an Apple TV box.
Can Smart TVs Spy on You?
Using smart TV might result in privacy issues. Smart TVs and/or the content app providers usually track your viewing habits to offer you viewing suggestions. For example, every time you log into Netflix, the menu displays what you’ve viewed recently, as well as updated suggestions for related movies or programs that you might like depending on your ‘watched recently’ list.
You might think that this type of tracking is a good thing because it cuts search time for movies or programs to watch, but a smart TV may be doing more than just track your viewing habits. If your smart TV has a webcam or voice control, there is a contingency that someone could hack in and see/hear you. Also, any credit card purchases you make using your TV might be trackable by third parties/persons. If your webcam or voice control is on, don’t say or do anything that you wouldn’t do or say in public — and be cautious with your online credit card purchases.
What are Smart TV Alternatives
If you recently purchased, or currently have, a TV without smart features or an older smart TV with limited options, you don’t need to purchase a new smart TV if your TV still functions fine and satisfies your picture-quality needs. You can simply add smart features to your prevailing TV viewing experience at small cost.
- Media Streamers
A media streamer is typically a small box that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and connects to your internet router through Ethernet/Wi-Fi. If you have an older TV without an HDMI port, your options are very limited, but using Roku Express + media streamer provides analog video audio connections for those cases.
There is another type of media streamer in form of a stick that is slightly larger than a USB flash drive and plugs into an available HDMI input. The stick-type media streamer provides Wi-Fi access to your TV, so be sure you have a wireless internet router. The stick also requires a connection to a USB or AC power source.
- Blu-ray Disc Players
Additionally, to playing physical media such as Blu-ray discs, DVDs, and CDs, almost all Blu-ray Disc players give access to a number of internet streaming channels (depending on brand and model you chose).
The internet channel selection is usually not as extensive as with a media streaming box or stick, but it is beyond doubt convenient: there is no need to connect both a media streamer and a Blu-ray disc player to your old TV, which cuts down on cable clutter. If you are a fan of DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and CDs but want to add streaming as an additional content source, a Blu-ray disc player might be the answer for you.
Amazing Companies like Channel Master and TIVO market over-the-air DVRs that combine reception of over-the-air (OTA) TV signals, video recording, and internet streaming in one box.
Just as with Blu-ray disc players, the internet channel selection may be limited, and recording features work only with OTA programs. It does provide alternative option that cord cutters can take advantage of, though. DVRs are more expensive than media streamers as well as Blu-ray disc players.
- Stereo and Home Theater Receivers (Audio Only)
Even though smart TVs and media streamers include some online music channels, music fans appreciate the capabilities of network-enabled stereo or home theater receivers. This option not only provides access to several streaming music services but also plays that music back via the stereo or home theater speaker setup. The result obtained is a much higher-quality listening experience than the built-in TV speakers or even a TV combined with a soundbar can deliver.
The Bottom Line
When shopping for a TV, just about all brands/models provides some level of smart functionality that expands your viewing options. it is important you pay attention to the variations in content access, additional subscription/pay-per-view costs, possible privacy issues, and the need to balance the attractiveness of a specific smart TV with other important factors such as sound quality, picture quality, and physical connectivity.
- If you want to add TV, movie, music streaming, and other smart features to your home entertainment experience but don’t know if you need a smart TV, below are some guidelines:
- If you are buying a new TV and don’t have any other devices that provide access to internet streaming content, then getting a smart TV is the right option.
- If you already have a smart TV that doesn’t give access to the number or type of streaming channels you would like, consider adding an external media streamer, or internet-enabled Blu-ray disc player rather than purchasing a new smart TV, or streaming stick.
- If you have concerned about privacy issues, consider adding an external media streaming device. However, it won’t prevent purchase or viewing habit tracking, but it does prevent direct audio/video spying.
- If your interest is in audio-only streaming, consider buying a network-enabled stereo or home theater receiver, which will provide better sound quality for music listening than a smart TV.
Note: A smart TV is just one way of adding additional features to your TV viewing experience. The guidelines above will enable you decide what is the best choice for you.