Many years ago, buying a new TV was a simple task involving picking the brand and size you liked, taking it home and plugging in an ariel. Simple. Now, the days of plug-and-play ariel-only TVs are behind us – we are now in the era of the smart TV.
Though initially daunting, we’re happy to report that smart TVs are no more difficult to understand and operate than traditional TVs once you’re familiar with them.
So, if you’re new to the TV market, out looking for a new 43-inch TV for your living room or a massive 65-inch OLED screen for a home cinema, here are the basics of smart TVs.
What makes a TV smart?
A smart TV is so-called because it can connect to the internet and perform more functions than a basic TV.
These extra features live on the TV’s operating system, also known as an OS. Different brands use different OS systems that present things slightly different, but the basic functionality is all alike for the most part.
In addition to watching terrestrial live programming, smart TVs give you access to online and on-demand content for streaming and applications like those on your smartphone, granting access to things like the news, YouTube or social media.
Just as smartphones have changed how we interact with our phones, smart TVs have changed how we interreact with TVs. They can now be seen as complete entertainment hubs, providing access to thousands of TV and movie streaming apps like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
Smart TV owners can also access music apps like Spotify and Prime Music and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
Voice control tools such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are also great features found on newer smart TVs, as are smart home features.
How does a smart TV work?
To use the smart features of a smart TV, it needs to connect to the internet. There are usually two ways of doing this. This can be either by a Wi-Fi connection or a wired Ethernet connection.
A wireless Wi-Fi connection is often the easiest and tidiest way to connect a smart TV to the internet, while a wired Ethernet connection offers a more stable connection – the choice is yours.
Once you connect to the internet, you’ll have access to the smart features of the TV. These often include Freeview Play, Netflix, Prime Video, All 4, and YouTube. You may also see apps on the TV for other services, like news apps like Sky News and BBC News or social media apps like Facebook.
A smart TV is useable offline, but it will only allow you to watch terrestrial TV through an aerial.
While the internet lets you access these applications and services, you will likely still need to set up an account to access the content. Most of the time, this will require you to provide an email address and password.
Some of these services are free, like Freeview Play or YouTube. Others, like Netflix or Amazon Prime, will require you to become a paid-for member. Remember, just because a TV is a smart TV it doesn’t mean you automatically get access to all the streaming and content services available.