What is a smart TV?

Gone are the days of a bulky and rudimentary cathode-ray tube box in the corner of your living room. The days when the technology was pretty standardised and pretty much only one type of TV set was available.

In the 21st-century – ie. this age of multiple forms of television set – “what is a smart TV?” is a question well worth asking. And you know us. We’ll always do our best to give you as much information as possible in easy-to-take-in terms, so it’s a question we intend to answer here, along with giving you lots of other information about smart TVs. Hopefully that will mean that you’re best placed to make an informed decision when you’re thinking about upgrading your old entertainment set-up.

There are so many variations on the basic principle of television that when you are looking to buy yourself a new set, there are different questions to ask and things to consider. Here we’ll help you answer them, from the perspective of talking about smart TVs.

For instance, you can get 4K TVs, or Full HD TVs, and many, many more variations. But smart TVs? Well, a smart TV is a television which has integrated internet capabilities.

There are two ways a modern-era smart TV can connect to the internet, and they are:

Built in WiFi : This is the most simple connection type as the receiver is built into the TV, like a laptop, tablet or smartphone. All you need to do is find your WiFi router and connect. Your TV will then automatically connect to the router each time you access the smart Media.

Ethernet :  This is a hardwired connection which is physically plugged-in, meaning the internet signal is direct. You can run a cable from your Ethernet port on your router or use a mesh system to run the signal around the house. This is often the best solution if your router isn’t great quality or your house has WiFi ‘deadspots’.

Note: If you’re going to be streaming 4K video, you will definitely require the best possible quality. Connecting via Ethernet will certainly give you that. Though Wi-Fi is exceptional these days, an Ethernet connection is more reliable and faster.

So not only can you watch ‘normal TV’ on your smart TV, you can also stream music and videos, browse the internet, and view photos. A smart TV will have a built-in homepage which gives you access to catch-up or on-demand TV services, your social media channels, and gaming apps. Some smart TVs also provide access (through your home network) to any compatible media content stored on your computer.

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Smart TVs access online content through the same broadband router or Wi-Fi that you use to connect your home computer or laptop or smartphone or other web device to the internet.

The smart TV displays an on-screen menu which details all of the available apps (similar to the apps on a smartphone). Some of these apps (such as really popular ones like Netflix, ITV Hub, Amazon Prime Video or the BBC iPlayer) are likely to be preloaded to your smart TV set when you first get it, but on many models you will be able to download more and add to your personal library of apps. There will be plenty of content for you to investigate – TV channels plus ‘the usual’ internet.

So a smart TV is basically ‘an internet TV’?

Well, sort of. You could say that. But no, not really. You shouldn’t confuse the term ‘smart TVs’ with the term ‘internet TV’, to be honest. The later of those terms refers to receiving television content over the Internet. So instead of traditional systems such as terrestrial, cable, and satellite, Internet TVs receive their content via the internet. But smart TV is something else.

When it comes to smart TV, a great and simple way to make the distinction is that a smart TV is like the computer system from a mobile device integrated within a television set. Smart TVs run operating system software which provides a platform for apps. So a really, really simple way to think of a smart TV is that it’s like a giant smartphone, but without ‘the phone bit’.

One of the major benefits of this for those of you who love their movies and shows is that you can switch between your viewing and the internet. So, in effect, you could be watching (say) a new episode of Star Trek: Discovery and hopping onto the internet to chat with other fans about it. Or, if you are watching a sporting event, you could quickly and easily engage with other supporters to discuss your team’s performance. Further than that, if you’re one of those people who likes to ‘research’ information springing up from what you are watching, you’ll find that the internet and your favourite search engine are a mere click or two away…

Let’s run through a few more questions related to smart TVs and see if we can offer you some more useful information now that you know what a smart TV actually is.

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Do I really need a smart TV?

Well, that’s your decision of course!

But hopefully we can sway you when we tell you that the main benefit of a smart TV is that it will have access to a huge number of channels which offer shows and movies without you needing to subscribe to a cable or satellite service. Although smart TVs can actually also receive programming via these means, many sets have opted for built-in streaming platforms. It’s not all about TV shows, though. You can use your smart TV for internet purposes.

Plus, some smart TVs allow you to ‘transfer’ content from your smartphone or tablet onto the bigger screen (this is known as ‘screen sharing’), while some are even able to send content from the television to compatible smaller devices, so you could begin watching your favourite show on the TV but finish it off in another room on your smartphone or tablet. How many times have you sat down to watch a movie in the evening after work, but found yourself pausing it and going to bed instead of completing your viewing? This facility of some smart TVs means you can ‘take it with you’ and finish off your viewing in another room – perhaps, as we say, from the comfort of your bed. For that feature alone maybe you do need a smart TV!

What are the best smart TVs?

This is quite a difficult question to answer ‘off the cuff’ as, obviously, there are many different answers depending on the criteria you’re judging by. What we can say here is that you should peruse the range Ebuyer has on offer to find the right set to match your own personal needs and wants. You’re sure to find something you like. But what should those criteria be? Perhaps that’s a slightly more useful and fairer question to answer. We suggest:

The more budget-friendly brands offer smart TV capability but may suffer from a fairly limited app selection due to the platform they are using. Obviously this means a general standard of performance below what you might now expect from this advanced technology. There may be certain apps you expect to be able to use on your smart TV which you can’t. It’s well worth checking out which platform the TV you’re thinking of will use.

Smart capability is now a pretty standard feature in the TV market, so like with anything if you want the best quality, the most reliable, and the most versatile you should go for something from mid- to high-end.

Is a smart TV worth the money?

You definitely won’t be able to get around the fact that smart TVs aren’t cheap. Sure, you will be able to find ‘budget’ models, or smart TV sets which will suit almost every depth of pocked. But the fact remains that they can be relatively costly. Is it an investment worth making? Well, we believe it is.

Smart TVs provide you with a range of extraordinary features and, therefore, great value for money should you use them to their full capabilities. Exceptionally good picture and sound quality is a given in a modern TV set so we’re at the point where you can almost take those things totally for granted. But just think about all of the internet accessibility and the opportunities to engage with the digital world. With streaming services, potential smart home control and, in some models, built-in smart assistants, a smart TV is worth any ‘additional’ cost.

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In summary…

If you invest in a Smart TV you will be making a really clever addition to your home life. A smart TV can integrate easily into your home set-up and, in fact, perhaps become the focal point of it – the device from which you ‘send out’ commands to all other smart devices, and control your smart system.

A smart TV is also, as we have explained, a fantastic way to connect to the internet and do you research, visit sites you like and keep tabs on your social media. It’s also – of course – a great way to watch TV!

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