Television has come a long, long way since John Logie Baird first demonstrated his moving images in the 1920s. From sets with cathode ray tubes to infrared, from black & white to colour and from Plasma to LED, the pace of change has been fast.
But while 3D TVs hit the headlines in 2010, 2011 looks set to be the year of the Smart TV – a catch-all term for any television that is capable of connecting itself to the internet to deliver everything from apps to web browsing.
Here, with the help of Comet’s Vision expert Paul Davies, we reveal 10 things you need to know about Smart TVs, proving why you and your living room should be switched on to this technological evolution!
What is a Smart TV?
Well, we’re glad you asked. Smart TV is also known as Connected TV and simply it’s any telly that can be hooked up to the internet, giving you many of the features found on your computer or mobile phone.
- Samsung UE55ES8000 55″ Smart 3D LED TV available at Comet.co.uk
Smart TVs come in all shapes and sizes, from Plasma to LCD and LED. Most will also have built-in Freeview HD capabilities and some at the top end of the range will also include 3D. Comet stock Smart TVs from four manufacturers – Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic – with the cheapest priced at £300 all the way up to £4,800.
Why do I need the internet on my TV?
Another good question! Well, we’ve all done it, haven’t we? While glued to The X Factor or The Apprentice, we’ve had our mobile phones or laptops out and sat there posting comments to Facebook or Twitter about what’s happening on screen. Smart TVs allow you to download apps to them, just like on a smartphone such as an iPhone or Android device.
They range from social networking, to gambling, to downloadable videos and movies alongside catch-up TV streaming services. So instead of having to use two screens, you can do it all on one big one, with your social network updates appearing down the side of the programme you are watching.
This occurs on selected models only so check with each manufacturer for further information on what their TVs are capable of.
What other apps are there?
Each manufacturer will offer a variety of applications but the common ones are BBC iPlayer, YouTube, LoveFilm and Skype. That last one is very exciting as it means you can make video calls from your television simply by plugging any webcam into the TV’s USB port. If you’re willing to pay a bit more then you can also get wireless webcams!
More and more apps are becoming available and the choice will grow hugely over the next 12 to 24 months as developers turn apps they’ve created for smartphones and tablets into ones that utilise the larger TV displays.
How do I connect to the internet?
Smart TV is designed to be easy-to-use. All of the televisions will have an Ethernet port allowing you to plug in a cable that connects to your broadband modem or router. But this means your TV needs to be situated near to that box.
So, most Smart TVs come Wi-Fi Ready, giving the choice to buy a wireless dongle that plugs into the telly and connects to your current Wi-Fi home network. Some sets will include the dongle in the package, while others offer it as an optional extra.
It is important to know that you must buy one from the same manufacturer as your TV for it to work. More expensive Smart TVs do away with the need for a dongle and simply have Wi-Fi built-in.
How fast should my broadband be?
In order to get the most from any Smart TV and be able to download movies from LoveFilm, stream videos via YouTube or have Skype video calls without any jumps and jerks, it’s recommended that a minimum 2Mb internet connection is needed.
Do I need a special remote control?
Every Smart TV will come with a remote suitable for its use. To download apps you simply follow the instructions on screen and you can use pop-up on-screen keyboards to type. But LG offers a remote control that works more like a computer mouse on its top-end models while Samsung’s top-range sets come with a touch remote that has a small LCD screen, meaning you can watch another channel to the one that’s showing on the main set.
Many Smart TVs also allow you to use your smartphone or Android handset as a remote control too!
What else can I do with a Smart TV?
Smart TVs are an evolution of the DLNA standard. This stands for Digital Living Network Alliance, which is a piece of technology included in a range of gadgets and devices so they can ‘talk’ to each other. This means they will easily connect and allow you to wirelessly send photos or music to your TV for example from some mobile phones.
Do I have to buy a Smart TV to get apps?
Actually, no! Some newer Blu-ray players now come with apps built-in that will work on a normal TV.
Like the TVs, you simply plug the player into an Ethernet connection, attach a wireless dongle or others will have Wi-Fi built-in. They may have apps already pre-loaded but the choice may be more limited than on a fully-fledged Smart TV. For instance, many cannot download new apps as and when they become available, whereas Smart TVs are fully future-proof.
Can I access the whole World Wide Web from my TV?
On cheaper models, an internet browser won’t be included meaning you will not be able to view cyberspace like you do via a computer. You will only have access to apps. More expensive models will feature a browser though that is compatible with most websites, so you can sit on the sofa and both surf and search the web as well as TV channels.
What else should I be aware of with Smart TVs?
Smart TV is a major revolution in the way we interact and engage with a gadget that’s at the heart of every home.
It integrates everything into one single screen from video to communications and as the technology behind it improves, the systems will get faster, just like the way computers have improved.
But connecting your TV to the internet and streaming or downloading content will eat into the download limits set by your broadband provider. So check whether you pay for an ‘unlimited’ amount of data each month or whether your use is capped.
For most people, your limit will never be reached but if you do go over it, you may have to pay an extra charge.
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