What is a Smart TV?

Imagine pressing a button on your TV remote and have thousands of movie titles available to watch. Or watching your favorite sports highlights or live events.  Or viewing a slideshow of your recent family vacation. And all you have to do is plug in the TV to power and set it up with your home WiFi. When looking for a TV, you will undoubtedly run across the term “Smart TV.”  Smart TVs don’t refer to any kind of automated intelligence. Rather it has become synonymous with “connected TV,” “Internet enabled TV,” and “IPTV.” These TVs connect to the Internet and stream video, music, and even websites directly to your TV.

Smart TV

Streaming movies and music

Even if you aren’t familiar with Smart TVs, you have probably heard of Netflix. Netflix is just one of many online services that will send video to a device from an online library (“stream video from the cloud”). For a monthly subscription fee, Netflix streams an unlimited number of movies and (mostly) past seasons of TV shows to a Smart TV or media player device. Other streaming subscription services include HULUPlus for current TV shows, and Pandora or Spotify that stream music.

Smart TVs have built-in applications (apps) like Netflix, HULUPlus, and Pandora. You’ll see these listed as “App Based” Smart TVs.  Beyond movie and TV show apps, there are sports apps including ESPN and MLB.tv for baseball games and highlights. To see photos you have posted to online websites look for Smart TVs that have Picasa, or Flickr apps.

Some Smart TVs have a “hub” –a page that displays all of the available apps. This was made popular by Samsung who coined the term “Smart TV.” Others will have Netflix, YouTube, Amazon (or other service) buttons on the remote control to go directly to the app and start watching videos. The “VIZIO Internet Apps Plus” displays the apps across the bottom of the screen so it doesn’t interrupt your TV show while you navigate to the app you want to use. To access HuluPlus, Netflix, or Sony’s own Sony Entertainment Network on a Sony Bravia TV, press the Home button on the remote and navigate to the globe Network icon.

Other Smart TVs have a web browser similar to Internet Explorer or Chrome on your computer. These TVs stream Netflix, Amazon, and other services by going to their website in the same way that you would stream video to your computer.  Many App Based Smart TVs also include a browser allowing you to surf the web on its big screen as well as stream media to dedicated apps.

How to set up a Smart TV

To take advantage of the built-in Smart TV features, start by setting up the TV, connecting to your home network router and the Internet.  TVs over 2 years old may require an optional WiFi USB dongle that connects into a USB port on the TV. After pressing the menu button on the remote, find the “network” submenu.  Choose the name of your WiFi network (your router name), and then type in the password.

Viewing your photos and playing downloaded movies and music

Smart TVs usually include one or more USB connections to which you can attach a USB flash drive or external hard drive. This is an easy way to see photos or movies shot on your digital camera or camcorder, along with movies that you buy and download from the Internet. When a Smart TV detects the USB drive, there will be a notification on the screen that will bring up a menu with video, photos, and music folders where you can find the media you want to play on your TV.

To play music, movies, or photos saved on your computers, and network attached storage (NAS) drives in your home, you’ll want a TV that is Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) certified. These TVs display a list of the computers and drives on your home network. Once you choose the computer (source) to which the desired media file is saved, it streams over your home network to your TV.

Most TVs today are Smart TVs, so take full advantage of what is built-in. Once a Smart TV is connected to the Internet, you have a wide variety of entertainment–movies, sports, music, games–available without ever connecting the TV to any other device or antenna.  You may join the growing number of people today who find enough to watch on their Smart TV that you’ll want to “cut the cord” canceling cable TV services and eliminating the monthly TV bill - Barb Gonzalez ~ The Simple Tech Guru

Read Barb’s Recent Blogs & Guides

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  1. This is awesome. I can't get enough "smart" things in my life.

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