What Is A Smart TV – Beginners Guide to Smart TV

What is a Smart TV? If this question kept you wondering for a long time, worry no more! In this article, we will look at the introduction to a Smart TV. We will also look its basics and discuss what it brings to the table. We will also review the benefits and drawbacks of Smart TVs.

So, what is a Smart TV?

At the very basic level, Smart TV is a combination of a basic television set with an Internet connection. Using this that internet connection, the Smart TV can access a wide range of online services. It can be said that the Smart TV is the latest and the advanced version of a traditional TV.

Features of a Smart TV

Typically, to access internet-based content, you would need to connect your devices such as your laptop or PC to your television set. But with the arrival of Smart TV, you no longer need to do that. The Smart TVs themselves contain Wi-Fi and Ethernet support, so you will be able to access your home internet network without the need for any other hardware.

If you would like to know more about Smart TVs actually work, check out this article on: How does a Smart TV work?

How to control a Smart TV?

When you think of a Smartphone, its immediately understood that you hold the phone in your hand and you can touch its screen and operate it as you wish. But what about the Smart TV? Many people wonder if they should touch the Smart TV screen to operate it, but then how can they sit back and relax if they need to stand right next to the TV?

In order to solve this problem, the Smart TV manufacturers provide a remote control. This remote control can be used to operate the different functionalities of the TV and also use it to browse the web. In the recent times, Smart TVs are now shipped out with mini QWERTY keyboards that is as big as a typical TV remote and thus very handy. This remote is wireless and by using it, you will be able to control your Smart TV from a distance.

Samsung Smart TV QWERTY keyboard:

Samsung Smart Tv Qwerty Keyboard

Features of a Smart TV

Now that we have seen what is a Smart TV, let us review some of its features below:

Internet Connectivity

The “internet” support is the basic built-in ingredient for a Smart TV. This internet connectivity is generally achieved by using an internal Wi-Fi and most of them also include Ethernet ports. As the Smart TV makes use of internet connection, internal hardware of the device can auto-update itself to stay updated and to stay secure. Without an internet connection, Smart TVs don’t appear as much “Smart” as they should be, as you will be unable to use the apps that require internet connectivity, browse the internet, stream movies and other such activities connected with the internet.

For better understanding, let me rephrase it. If you are wondering if a Smart TV will work without Internet connection or not, then the simple answer is, “Yes, it will work even without an internet connection”. You will be able to watch TV using the antenna provided on the Smart TV. But due to the absence of internet, you will be unable to use streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix and other such apps that require an internet connection. Hope that clarifies any lingering question you may have had.

Tip
In order to make the most out of your online video experience, it is highly recommended that you opt for a reliable internet connect. The minimum internet speed that I recommend is 2 MBPS.

Connectivity with other “Smart” devices

Using Smart TV, you can connect to other smart devices such as Smartphones, tablet, computers and other video consoles. Via this connection, you can play games, browse photos, stream online videos and more.

Apps Support

For the most part, the Smart TVs come with pre-installed apps such as YouTube, HBO Now, Netflix, etc. and you would not need additional devices like Chromecast or Roku to play the online content. Some of these apps are free whereas some of the services may require a subscription.

Google Play Store support

Smart TV also allows you to download apps from Google Play Store, if it is running on Android platform. Typically, the Smart TVs have a “Powered by Android” label on them or is indicated in the product specifications guide. A sample screenshot is below:

Sony XBR X750D X700D Series Specifications

Bluetooth Support

Bluetooth connectivity can also be used to connect the phone your phone and stream the content from the phone onto the Smart TV without any loss in the video viewing experience.

Availability of Smart TVs

Smart TVs are available in a bunch of sizes, forms and shapes. There are different variants and models available. Some of them are: 3D, Plasma, Curved OLED, LED, LCD, etc.

Practical uses of a Smart TV

  • As a normal digital television
  • To play music
  • For performing social activities
  • Watch High-Definition (HD) movies
  • Watch TV shows
  • Voice search for navigation
  • Browse internet using Web browser
  • Play Online games
  • Face recognition facility
  • Use built-in Camera to take pictures
  • Motion control facility
  • Record TV programs
  • Supports user downloaded content and applications.
  • Stream audio and video from online services such as YouTube, Amazon prime, Netflix, Hulu, etc.

Play Games On Smart TV

How do I connect my Smart TV to the internet?

As mentioned before, some Smart TVs are equipped with Wi-fi, some just accept Ethernet cable at the back of the TV and some of the models have provision for both Wi-fi and Ethernet cable. In order to connect your Smart TV to the internet, you will have to set up a home network and the entire process is very similar to connecting to a PC or a laptop. So, if you have worked with any of these devices before and have set up an internet connection before, you will find it really easy to do so.

Here is how a Wi-fi configuration can typically look (varies from model to model):

Wireless Network Setup On Smart TV

Ethernet cable that you can purchase for internet connectivity:

Ethernet Cable

How did the term “Smart TV” originate?

Originally, before the Smart TVs were named so, they were referred to as “Connected TV” as they let you connect to online services and consume them. The software that drives the Smart TVs, allowed the users to search for multiple content at the same time such as Web apps, applications, TV, live content etc. from the same user interface and showed results based on the user’s behaviors.

As the device was regarded as “Smart” for being able to understand the user’s requirements and behaviors and serve the content dynamically, the term “Smart TV” was first coined by Samsung. Then as the term gained popularity, Google and other companies started adopting the “Smart TV” as the right phrase for the device.

Design criteria of Smart TVS

As we progress in the field of research and development the most important element that is being given more importance is the User Interface (UI). Smart TVs are now considered as a new media service and this was possible due to the advancements in the field of open platform software. Advancements in the field of hardware and the birth of reliable and high performance integrated circuits and hardware made it possible to run multiple software programs very smoothly and efficiently.

Are all Smart TVs the same?

As we have seen above, there are many new features that are really exciting and that makes Smart TV a really interesting device to use. Having said that, are all these features available in all Smart TVs? Most likely, not. This depends on the platform used by the Smart TV, operating system and other such technical factors.

The availability of the features differs from one vendor to another. It also differs based on the model of the Smart TV. It is highly recommended that you pay close attention to all the features beforehand. And stores do carry a good mix of Smart TV and non-smart variants of the television sets. So, make sure that you are picking up a “Smart TV” that has the internet access and app support.

Tip
If you happen to visit a Smart TV store for purchase, ask for a brochure of the Smart TV that you are interested in. This usually has all the specifications that you need to know. Do not trust the salesman to give you accurate information all the time.

Why do we need a Smart TV?

As we remember back in the days the televisions were really bulky and everything that appears on it, were usually black and white and even worse, without sound. As there were advancements in the technologies and as the research progressed, the quality of TVs started to increase and there were many more features that were added to it.

For example, some of the notable features that we still used today are:

  • Bright images
  • Surround sound effects
  • Color TV
  • High definition resolution offering high quality of visuals

Having said that, we can say that the Smart TVs were introduced with focus on some specific goals. They are:

  • Improve existing quality of audio & video communication.
  • Provide intelligent solutions to common problems.
  • The ability to access your favorite content without any mediator.
  • Provide a personalized experience and improve quality of life.

Benefits and drawbacks of Smart TV

Let us now see the different benefits and drawbacks of a Smart TV.

Benefits of Smart TV

Comfort and Convenience

  • Enjoy the convenience and benefits of a traditional TV.
  • The Smart TV makes suggestions based on social behavior of the current user. This helps the user in switching to the most interesting content right away, rather than switching channels manually to find something interesting.
  • The ability to connect to multiple online services from one centralized device.

Multitude of functionalities

Using online services via the internet such as:

  • To play online games.
  • Enjoy music online.
  • Watch online videos.
  • Access apps for applications online.
  • Interact with social media applications.

Drawbacks of Smart TV

Learning curve

Majority of the operations and interactions that happene between the Smart TVs and its users are via the “remote control”. Typically, a user who has never been exposed to a Smart TV before, the operations that a remote control offers can be really overwhelming. This can make it hard for the user to grasp how to operate the device and ultimately it might restrict the user from leveraging the full potential of the device.

Privacy and security

As the device can be connected to the internet, the possibility of the device getting hacked exists. An online hacker can gain illegal access to the device and steal information about the user that the Smart TV is collecting info about. Other data that can be stolen or tampered with are App specific data such as photos from the cameras, and many other such sensitive details. This does not mean that all Smart TVs are unsafe. It only means that if security is neglected, then there is a chance of sour experiences.

Relies heavily on Internet

Although it is possible to watch TV by using the antenna provided on the Smart TV, for all the instances where an internet is really needed, be it for streaming videos or for accessing online shopping, etc. an internet connection is essential. Without this, it is not possible to perform any internet-based activities.

In addition to that, any variation of speeds in the internet speed and any drop of connection will affect your internet-based experience negatively.

Application limitations

Although there are a multitude of software that could be accessed using the Smart TVs, there is a limit onto the applications that could be used. This could be determined by the manufacturer of the Smart TV. This could stop a user from being able to access anything and everything they want to use.

Factors to consider for purchasing a Smart TV

Here is an overview of the general factors, matter the most for making a good purchase (I will go in-depth of the factors that I like to review, in a later article).

Consistency and Quality

I would expect a Smart TV to meet at least the minimum standards of catering to the needs of a user. Having said that, I do not want to be concerned about the operating system that is running under the hood nor do I want to worry about the company that has manufactured the product. Heck, I would like a command to work the same in any Smart TV regardless of the difference of the brand. The consistency in the commands used will go a long way, as I don’t have to worry about learning the commands of a new Smart TV, whenever I purchase a new one.

Native language support

Nothing frustrates more than having to repeat a single word or multiple words just to make the system understand the way I speak or pronounce things. For this reason, I would expect the system to actually speak and understand my native language and also understand and train itself to my speech phrases, etc., so that it can perform the relevant action correctly.

Valuable User experience (UX)

Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to make things work, when especially it is obvious what you are trying to say and what you are expecting. For this reason, I believe a minimalist approach is the way to go. Dialogue popup should only provide the required information and get rid of the redundant data on screen. This will also help in ease of operation.

Live stats and feedback

If I am trying to access something on my Smart TV, I would like to know whether the action that I am performing is being processed or not. I hate it when I push a button or perform some kind of operation and the Smart TV starts processing my commands but does not indicate the same on the User Interface. Providing real-time feedback on the screen, is what I consider as an efficient manner of providing the feedback. Also, stats such as the time left or the duration left for finishing a process will also help me understand more about the Smart TV and its operation as well. This helps in managing my timely activities.

Preference for features in a Smart TV

Here is a compilation of the features that I would like to use the most when it comes to a Smart TV:

  • Watching HD movies
  • TV shows
  • Watching video, listening to music and browsing photos
  • Working with the web browser
  • Accessing different apps
  • Interacting with social networking applications
  • Comfort of accessing wireless transmission screen
  • Voice control and Motion Control
  • Face recognition

The above features are listed in the order that I prefer to use. Based on the feedback received from other friends and relatives, I have come to know that features such as watching movies, TV shows, browsing photos, interacting with apps and web browser are the most commonly used and popular features of a Smart TV.

Scope of improvement of a Smart TV

Based on the observations and research made so far, I feel Smart TVs could be improved in the following areas:

  • Being able to control the smartphone without the need of remote control and provide voice control as the primary functionality and the remote as a secondary tool for controlling the TV.
  • Gestures and motion capture is one more area where I think Smart TVs could perform better. I use my Smartphone a lot and I am used to the gestures available in it. So be it starting the flashlight in my smartphone, or being able to open the camera while the phone is still locked, I use gestures all the time. So, I feel that many people would also find it helpful to be able to make gestures and movements based on which, the Smart TV will perform the appropriate action. For this to happen, the Smart TV user might need to train it. So, this is one area where I feel the Smart TV developers could look into.

What kind of Smart TV should I buy?

If you find yourself asking that question, then I am here to help. If you have made it this far and ready to make the purchase, then here are some things to look out for:

  • Viewing distance or the viewing space that you have available (Surprising? Yeah, it is important).
  • Size of the Smart TV.
  • Type of the Smart TV. Some of them are as follows:
    • 3D
    • Curved
    • Plasma
    • Liquid Crystal Display or LCD
  • Choosing a brand
    • Samsung
    • LG
    • Sony
    • Philips
    • Vizio
    • Sanyo
    • Insignia
    • Sharp

I will cover a Smart TV Buyer’s guide in a later article. This article will contain all tips and tricks from selecting the type of Smart TV that you can go for, along with suggestions for the brand(s).

What if you are not yet ready for a Smart TV?

It’s totally understandable if you are not! Perhaps your current budget does not allow you or you are just not ready yet, whatever the case maybe, there is an alternate to this. Yes, you read it right. There are alternatives for a Smart TV. Does that make you jump with joy?

Alternative Ways Of Converting Traditional TV Into Smart TV

You can still convert your current TV into a Smart TV, although you may not get the complete benefits and features of a Smart TV. If you can do this conversion, you will be able to use some of the important features of a Smart TV and this can give you an idea of what to expect, from an actual Smart TV.

If budget is a criterion, then I suggest that you look for purchasing a TV on sale. Usually during the holiday season, there are huge discounts and you might get a good deal during that time.

Two most common ways of converting your traditional TV into Smart TV

Set Top Box

By connecting a Set top box to a traditional TV, you will be able to access some of the important features of a Smart TV. Here is how a typical Set top box looks:

Amazon Set Top Box

Some of the important features offered by Set top boxes (but not limited to) are:

  • Playing games
  • Streaming of TV shows and online movies
  • Storing photos and videos
  • Amazon Fire TV Streaming and Apply TV are some of the most reputed products in this category.

Typically, Set top boxes offer more features than their counterparts, the Streaming Sticks. Because of this, the Step top boxes are also more expensive than them.

Streaming Sticks

By connecting a Streaming Stick to a traditional TV, you will be able to access some of the important features of a Smart TV. Here is how a typical Streaming Stick looks:

Amazon Streaming Sticks

Some of the important features offered by Set top boxes (but not limited to) are:

  • Playing games
  • Streaming of TV shows and online movies
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick+ are some of the most reputed products in this category.

Some of the other devices that can be used to turn your traditional television set into a Smart TV are:

  • Roku streaming box
  • Apple TV
  • Chromecast

Conclusion

Smart TV is an internet powered, modern day television set that is used to accomplish more than watching just shows and movies. A Smart TV bridges the gap between a user and the social world thereby bringing them closer and also offering a plethora of comfortable options in the process. Now that you know about Smart TVs, the next time when someone asks “What is a Smart TV?”, I bet you know the answer, don’t you?

Leave a comment below and let me know how you liked the information. If you would like to know more, let’s start a conversation!

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