If you thought your TV was just for watching network and cable programs together with some DVDs or Blu-Ray videos, think again. New smart TVs are computers with very large screens. They will still carry out all the traditional TV functions, but they can also operate like a computer. TechRadar covers the smart TV functions and which models have them. Depending on the manufacturer and model of the TV, you may now be able to sit comfortably on the couch in front of a large screen instead of sitting at a desk in front of your computer.
Features on Smart TVs
Our Smart TV Buying Guide should answer most of your questions, but here are some of the more important features on smart TVs you’ll come to enjoy.
Almost all smart TVs can access the Internet in some fashion. If this function is important to you, get a TV that links directly to your home network and has a full browser to surf the net. Some TVs have proprietary browsers that can only see some Internet content, but others work just like a computer. Having a usable browser that includes Flash, HTML 5 and direct access to websites trumps proprietary software that limits what you can see.
Smart TVs: Apps
Smart TVs have taken on the software model that works well with smartphones and tablets. The TVs come with many apps already installed, and you can connect to the manufacturer’s app store to download more. Some are free and others, like many of the games, cost money. If you want to be able to use Facebook, Twitter and Skype from your TV, check out the manufacturer’s app store to make sure the corresponding apps are available.
Since smart TVs are more complicated and have many extra features compared to standard units, the design of the remote control system is critical. Some models address this issue by including voice commands, and others have remote control units that resemble a tablet computer. If you are considering a model that includes a remote with buttons, make sure the remote has back lighting because you will be using it a lot and it is more complicated than standard remotes.
Some smart TVs include Bluetooth, both for the remote controls and for possible use of a keyboard and mouse. If you plan to use the TV like a computer, you may need to type text. A Bluetooth keyboard is the most convenient way to get this function. Many models let you check email and access social media accounts. Having a keyboard allows you to reply and post rather than just read your messages.
3D Smart TVs
Whether you want 3D capability depends on whether you enjoy watching TV with glasses on. If you want this feature, make sure the TV comes with enough glasses for everyone in your household who may want to watch 3D TV simultaneously, especially if the glasses use the active 3D technology. Extra active 3D glasses are expensive.
Your smart TV can access content on your computers and home network, on your Cable or Satellite TV Service and on the Internet, but different models handle these sources with varying degrees of convenience. If you want to get most of your programming from the Internet, make sure the TV can access the services you want.
If you have videos stored on your computer, some TVs make it easy to share anything that can be accessed through your home network. Online search functions are important if you want to look for specific movies or programs, and some models deliver lists of shows you can watch if you type in keywords.
Most manufacturers have a platform that all their TVs use, and you have to make sure that the platform can handle the content you want in a convenient way.
In addition to connecting via WiFi and plugging in your TV Service, you may have other devices you want to connect. Most models have HDMI connectors and you may want more than one if you have several video players. While some devices can connect via Bluetooth, you may also need an Ethernet connection. For Skype web cams, a USB port may come in handy, and memory card slots for looking at pictures from your camera can be useful. On the output side, you need audio output connectors if you want to connect a sound system to improve audio quality, and you need video out plugs for recording what you are watching.
Most people get smart TVs for their Internet connectivity. With that starting point, check what browsing features and web services the TV can offer. Look for apps if you want quick access to specific functions. A critical decision is whether you are satisfied with mainly watching and reading material, or whether you want to be able to type text and require the higher level of interactivity provided by a keyboard. An easy-to-use control interface is important and you have to be able to connect the devices you need, either wirelessly or through available connectors. While most smart TVs are expensive models and have high-quality screens, you have to make sure the picture quality satisfies you before moving on to the smart features.