How Do I Know If I Have A Smart TV?
The simplest way to know if you have a Smart TV is to press the “Home” button on your remote. If you have Smart TV apps like Netflix, Spotify and Youtube will most likely show up.
Some other ways to know if you have a Smart TV:
- Look on the remote itself, on my LG Smart TV it even has a button specifically for Netflix and Youtube.
- Look at the packaging, it’ll have logos for Netflix, Spotify, Disney+ or Amazon Prime on it.
- See if your Smart TV has an “App” menu or section, this will indicate that it has smart capabilities.
- Look for a microphone icon either in the TV menu or the remote, this will indicate that it has voice control.
- You can also Google your TV model and specifically search for it.
- Alternatively, you can also check if your TV has Wifi capabilities, this will most often mean that its a Smart TV as well.
99% of all TVs today are defined as Smart TVs, so if your TV is newer than 2-3 years old it’ll most likely by default be a Smart TV.
What is a Smart TV exactly?
A Smart TV is defined by its capabilities to install and handle apps, like streaming services. The second definition of a Smart TV is its ability to connect via Wifi or Ethernet to the internet.
A Smart TV is a great addition to your smart home because it lets you connect it to your home network and thereby lets you control the TV and its apps through your other applications.
For example, I can control my TV via my Google Home, my Google Echo and I have connected it to my Logitech Harmony Companion and my smartphone and can control it from here too.
I can stream everything I have on my phone or computer directly to Smart TV with ease. One example is, if I’m watching something at my computer on Youtube or Netflix, I can easily just switch it to my Smart TV and continue from there.
Why you should invest in a Smart TV
Smart TVs are awesome because it lets you get rid of all the clutter from TV boxes and cables. The ability for it to stream everything you want to watch makes your library thousands of thousands of times larger than if you were running an old cable or satellite tv.
You’ll be able to watch everything on-demand, listen to music, rent movies and all this at the same time of you keeping the old TV channels as well but now with better quality and no stutter, because of it coming through the internet instead.
Smart TVs aren’t even more expensive than non-smart TVs today. Almost all new TVs today are smart enabled so it’s just a question on when you think it’s time to upgrade.
If however, you cannot wait to get a Smart TV when you want to upgrade, please read further as I’ll explain how to upgrade your current TV to a Smart TV.
How do I make my TV a Smart TV
With a Chromecast, Firestick, Apple TV, or Roku Premiere you can make any screen with an HDMI input into a Smart TV.
This actually also includes monitors. When I went to college I couldn’t afford a TV, but I had a monitor and with a Chromecast in the back of the monitor it became a Smart TV. You could also use it for a projector if you have a home cinema setup and you want to use it for streaming on Netflix for example. It’s really easy to set up and you avoid having a laptop or a media center connected to the projector.
How to set up a Chromecast to make my TV a Smart TV:
- Unpack and plug the Chromecast into an HDMI port.
- Turn the TV on and select the view of that HDMI port.
- The setup for the Chromecast will now begin and you should just follow the steps shown on the screen. At one point it’ll show a code.
- Now download the Google Home app on your smartphone.
- Open the app and select connected device > to connect Chromecast.
- Now enter the code shown on the screen.
That’s it, now your TV is a Smart TV. Try going to Netflix, Disney+, or Youtube on your phone, make sure you are on the same network as the Chromecast, you should be if you followed the steps on the screen. In the upper right corner, you’ll see a square icon with some signal lines. It should be a new icon for you. Press the icon and you’ll see the available Chromecast for streaming. When you’ve selected your Chromecast for streaming you’ll see the TV opening the app you’ve selected.
Once you get familiar with this style of selecting what you’ll want to see by using the smartphone as a controller instead of using a typical remote, I think you’ll start to notice how fast and easy it is.
Also just searching through content on your phone is much faster than you could ever do on your TV. I actually prefer the functionality of a Chromecast over typical Smart TVs.
If you are the type that really likes a remote control, you should buy an Amazon Firestick. The concept is 100% the same as with the Chromecast, but here you’ll be able to buy a remote specifically designed for it.
Alternatively, you could also buy a universal remote control like the Logitech Harmony Companion which is compatible with both the Chromecast and the Firestick, and a couple of hundred thousand more.
I wrote an article about universal remotes, you can check it out here to find out if it’s something you should go for:
A brief history of Smart TVs
The history of Smart TVs actually began in Japan way back in the early 1980s. But back then the definition was somewhat different. Back then a Smart TV was a TV that just offered more advanced computing capabilities than a normal TV which was just a screen.
So basically put a small computing chip on the TV and call it a day. Of course, it was a huge leap in engineering back then but this definition just doesn’t hold up today because almost everything has a computer chip nowadays.
Stuff having a computer chip doesn’t necessarily make it smart by today’s standard.
When Smart TVs really became a thing was when specific third-party applications were developed for them. This means when Youtube, Netflix, Spotify, Apple, etc. Actually got the ability to deploy their applications onto the televisions it really started to get smart. This was back in 2010 ish. So actually not that long ago.
Of course, a lot has happened since 2010 and today it’s just normal to have apps on your television.
What platforms or operating systems are used in Smart TVs?
Almost all TV brands actually developed their own platform for their own TV models in the start. Almost every platform however was actually based on either Android or Linux.
The most well-known platforms for Smart TVs today are:
- Android TV
- Linux TV Embedded OS
- Tizen (Samsungs Linux based system)
- webOS (LGs Linux based system)
Android TV was is essentially just like the Android running on your smartphone with a different UI. This means you can basically operate the TV as you operate your phone. You can download Android apps from the Google Play store or install other SDKs from the web.
A great example of how this integration is perfect is Google Assistant. You’ll be able to control your TV using voice commands by calling out “Hey Google” followed by the command. “Hey Google, play Frost 2 on Netflix”.
The UI for Android TV is really great.
It’s a horizontal scrolling layout where you have thumbnails or “Ribbons” which will show recommendations and stuff you have paused, where you can continue where you left off.
This means the Android TV is actually interconnected with the Apps you use. So for example, you don’t have to open let’s say Netflix to actually find content for you to watch. The content on Netflix, HBO, Youtube, Disney+, etc. will show up on the Home Page of Android TV.
WebOS is LG’s operating system for Smart TVs. WebOS was first created by Palm Inc which was later bought by LG. WebOS is a Linux-based operating system, so basically just a UI change like Android TV.
WebOS has a more minimalistic approach to its UI. This is great because this way fits all their models with different screen sizes. WebOS does well on all their models ranging from 32″ screens to 85″ screens.
The LG webOS runs quite well now. It’s well optimized for all screens even those with high refresh rates and it feels pretty fast. It hasn’t been this way always though.
My first Smart TV was an LG with webOS, I really like the interface design and yes it was pretty easy to use, not really any learning curve.
But hell it was badly engineered. It was constantly crashing and suddenly freezing during media selection, so you could forget about watching movies from your hard drive. Also, there were often multiple updates a week trying to solve these issues, often just making it worse. All the updates also kept piling on top of each other so after half a year or so the internal hard drive was full. I then needed to reset the TV completely, resetting all my settings for Netflix, Wifi, etc.
Nowadays webOS works perfectly fine and it doesn’t crash anymore at all. We have an LG TV at work, it’s been powered on for over a year.
If you buy a newer LG Smart TV with webOS, it’ll also have Google Voice Assistant and a nice LG Magic TV remote which also functions as a cursor. It has all the app capabilities as a Chromecast or Firestick and they even have their own app store where you can find games and other useful apps.
Tizen OS is Samsungs Smart TV platform. Funny enough also a Linux-based system. Many of my friends and family members own or have owned a Samsung Smart TV. They all seem to love it. It was actually also my first dream television. Tizen OS was the first to come with all the really cool features.
Tizen OS presented the first voice command capabilities and was also the first to introduce smart gestures with hand control. This was so you didn’t even have to use a remote for controlling your Samsung TV. If you are 25+ years old I bet you can remember the first Samsung Smart TVs that came with a camera on top.
If not, here is a photo of it:
Hell, this TV was so cool back when it came out. Gosh, this was the dream TV, but I was only like 18 or 19 years old back then so all I could afford was the cheaper LG Smart TV.
The Camera has since been removed from almost all newer models. People have large concerns with the security, like if it gets hacked then the hacker has a free opportunity to look inside your home.
Tizen OS is a brand that is pushing the innovation of Smart TVs forward. But it is Samsung after all. Tizen OS has voice command capabilities but it’s built on Samsung Bixby, which is already failing hugely.
Bixby doesn’t even come close to what Google Assistant provides on Android TV. Many people even say that they never bother even trying to use Bixby on a Samsung TV, because it’s just plain faster and more simple to use the remote.
If we take a look on the bright side though, Tizen OS is actually a fairly polished system that has all the wishable Smart TV functionalities and apps.
Let’s roll back a bit an conclude
We have several ways to see if our TV is in fact a Smart TV. But the greater point is that all newer TVs today are sold as Smart TVs so it isn’t something that you have to look specifically for anymore.
What you have to look for and consider, is the operating system.
What we’ve learned so far is that pretty much all platforms/operating systems for Smart TVs are either built on Linux or Android.
So today it doesn’t come down to how well it operates or functions but actually just comes down to your personal preferences and what interface you think is the prettiest.
All Smart TVs have pretty much the same capabilities, especially if you choose between the bigger brands like Samsung, LG, Philips, Sony, etc. So it’s almost hard to make a wrong turn in this really.
If you don’t have a Smart TV, there are also things to consider. Are you looking for a new TV or do you still like your old one?
If you still like your old one, definitely look into buying a Chromecast or Firestick, because these devices are insanely cheap and will provide you with, what I think, is the best Smart TV experience. So in my humble opinion, the best Smart TV experience is not actually delivered by any Smart TV manufacturer, but by second-party software companies.
Hope you like this article, I’ll strive to make you the best content and guide you towards living smarter with technology. Have a great one.
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Morten has been working with technology, IoT, and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected in this blog to give you relevant and correct information.Read more...