In recent years, “smart” seems to be added onto almost every electronic device or gadget imaginable. First smartphones, then smart watches, and now smart TVs. So what exactly makes a smart TV better or different to a normal television set? If you’re confused, here is our handy guide to the features you can expect to find, and how to choose a smart TV that works for you.
Smart TVs started life as “connected TVs”, but were soon renamed to mimic the now-ubiquitous smartphones. However, connections are key, because a smart TV’s main feature is its ability to connect to the Internet - provided you already have a working router in your home, of course.
In most cases, you just plug the TV into the router box using an ethernet cable, which means you need to think about where your router is best placed, and whether its location works for a smart TV. If not, you can get a Homeplug extension, which allows you to connect via other household cables, or even wirelessly. Some top-of-the-range models even have their own built-in hardware that allows them to access the Internet, so check this before you make your decision.
One of the best things about a smart TV is that it can fulfil almost all of your entertainment needs as a single device. Most will have a home screen that allows you to access a range of TV channels, internet radio, catch-up services and online video streaming services such as Amazon Instant or Netflix; so long as you have the relevant subscription.
There is also a trend towards developing app stores for these smart TVs. Much like smartphone app stores, they allow users to download extra applications, or apps for short, both paid-for and free. At the moment, games are very popular, as are apps optimised for social media and video on demand services on a TV screen.
Despite the larger screen size, the games tend to be more akin to simple, addictive phone games, rather than heavy-duty console offerings, so it’s not designed as a substitute for high-powered gaming devices.
Some models will come with a browser app that you can use to access the Internet much as you would on a traditional computer. This feature is yet to become standard, so check if this is something important for you.
Other features vary by model, brand and price point. For example, some smart TVs have add-on extras, like a stylus pen that allows you to electronically “draw” on your screen. Others can be activated by voice-control or set gestures, thanks to built-in microphones and cameras.
Interestingly, Samsung have released the Smart Evolution Kit, which is a small box that plugs into the back of your existing Samsung TV. It provides a faster quad core processor, along with all the latest smart TV features. This means that you don’t have to worry about your TV becoming obsolete soon after you buy, offering great peace of mind - after all, TVs aren't cheap.
© Axonn 2015