We hear a lot about smart homes at the moment and it seems as though the world of technology is focusing on being better connected and enhancing the way that we interact with our various gadgets. From our must-have smartphones to smart home security systems and even smart fridges, being able to do multiple things from one device has been seen as the biggest step forward in tech innovation since, well, the iPhone; and smart TVs are at the very heart it.
Smart TVs have been around for a number of years now and there are all kinds of makes, models and sizes available with various features and functions that are set to revolutionise the way that we watch television and may mean that in the future you have no need for multiple devices around the home.
In the same kind of way that we can now control our smart homes from one device, smart TVs have incorporated various different technologies such as voice control and web browsers so that you hardly ever have to leave your sofa!
What is a smart TV?
To put it in the simplest terms, a smart TV is any television that has built-in Internet connectivity, enabling viewers to access all of the features they would normally enjoy from a television set. In addition to being able to watch their favourite soaps, live sport and the evening news, viewers are also able to access online services such as catch-up TV for on-demand viewing, social media and their chosen web browsers so that they can instantly act upon the advert that’s just caught their attention.
It all works thanks to the Ethernet port on the back of the smart television that you can connect directly to the broadband router in your home, or you can connect to your wireless Internet connection by locating your router and entering the password in a similar way to your laptop, smartphone or tablet.
The other smart thing about it, and something that really does appeal to owners, is that smart TVs are far more energy efficient than more traditional models in the sense that they combine your power usage into one device rather than leaving owners with a television, smartphone and laptop on all at the same time. Instead they have the ability to flick over to the web browser, or they can ditch the games console they use to watch Netflix and stream it through the app on their smart TV instead saving both time and power.
Top tips for buying a smart TV
When it comes to buying a smart TV there are a number of things to look out, but for many the biggest consideration relates to budget. With funds tight it can be difficult to buy a top-of-the-range model but that doesn’t mean that you need to miss out. A new smart television can still be a great investment even if you don’t have the funds for the very latest model, so whether you’ve got thousands to spend or a few hundred, here are some top tips for buying a smart TV:
Now, we all walk into shops and look at the huge televisions they have on display and think how cool it is, but would it actually be viable in your home? Televisions have got larger in recent years and the surrounds – also known as bezels – have got smaller, meaning that we actually have larger viewing areas than ever before already.
If you only have a small living room you don’t want to be climbing around a 49-inch smart TV every time you come through the door, so it’s important that you think about where it’s going to be positioned and whether or not it’s going to be too big or too small.
The same rule applies if you’re thinking of mounting it on the wall. What you could do here is identify the type of smart TV you’re going to buy and then put masking tape on the wall to the same dimensions, enabling you to decide whether it’s the right size, too big or too small BEFORE you place your order.
As each manufacturer attempts to out-do the other, they develop new and innovative ways of producing the very best televisions. In recent years it’s the screen type that has come to prominence as they seek to provide sharper and more vibrant pictures that ensure that viewers feel as though they’re right at the heart of what’s going on on-screen.
Organic Light-Emitting Diode, or OLED smart TVs as they’re more commonly known, have the benefit of higher contrast and brighter colours compared to other options; while LED smart TVs are more energy efficient and often show deeper and darker colours more effectively.
Then you have one of the biggest discussion points to deal with. Curved TVs have improved the way in which you can watch your television, meaning that you can now be sat side-on to the screen without missing any of what’s going on. Historically you needed to be sat right in front of the screen to see everything but the new curved screens provide a wider viewing angle as well as cutting down on screen reflections.
The simple way of deciding whether one television has a better picture than another is by looking at the number of pixels. The majority of modern televisions are classed as HD-ready which means that they are capable of showing high definition broadcasts but you will need to have a high definition package from your provider (such as BT).
4K Ultra HD televisions are one of the most popular types on the market today, and that is because they offer 8.3 million pixels and that is four times the number offered by HD-ready televisions.
The other option you have is Full HD, or a 1080p television, and these models are great for fast-moving content such as live sport making it an excellent mid-range option, so to speak.
We mentioned earlier that smart TVs connect to the Internet via the built-in Ethernet port or by connecting to the Wi-Fi in your home. The key thing to look for with the connections is where your television will actually be going as an Ethernet-enabled smart TV that is in a different room to your router isn’t exactly the most practical of options.
All smart televisions will have a list of specifications where you can find out how it connects to the web, so be sure to consider this when choosing yours to avoid having a 20-metre Ethernet cable draped around your home!
Finally, if you’re intending to use your smart TV to stream video from your phone or from YouTube it’s worth checking that the television is compatible with your device. The majority of smart televisions are compatible with all major smartphones and tablets but it’s important that you read the specifications closely to avoid disappointment, especially when it comes to a lesser-known brand.
Do I need a smart TV to enjoy the features?
Okay, so a smart TV sounds great on paper and you’re definitely interested in buying one but there’s a problem. Like most things the cost of a smart TV is the stumbling block for many people and when the existing television is working sufficiently it’s not exactly a justifiable investment for some.
If this sounds like your position then don’t worry, as you don’t need a smart TV to take advantage of the various features and functions. Some televisions already have the connections you need to connect either a dongle or a set-top box that will give you the various benefits without splashing the cash on a brand new smart TV when you don’t really have the money.
To find out more about any smart TVs visit the BT Shop website. Here you can also find out about our extensive collection of smart home systems including smart power, security, heating, entertainment and lighting.