It has been a few years since we discussed the topic of smart TV in detail. In recent years, however, a few things have changed and that is why in this article we will once again consider what a smart TV is and what you can do with it.
What is a smart TV?
Simply put, a smart TV is a TV that you can connect to the internet and that gives you access to interaction with the TV and online content through this internet connection and a user-friendly interface. Where a few years ago different terms were used for these TVs, almost all manufacturers have now switched to the term ‘smart TV’. Broadly speaking, the point is that the TV is connected to the internet and therefore offers additional functionalities that are described below.
The interface has become increasingly important in recent years. We have gone from very advanced and extensive menus and pages to a simplistic design, without bells and whistles and with only the most important functions. The current smart TV platforms are all about ease of use; with clear and easy-to-use menus that sometimes no longer occupy the entire image, but are placed over your image as a fan or bar.
A first part of smart TVs is the possibility to connect the TV to various devices and the internet, also known as connectivity. First of all, it is possible to connect your TV wirelessly (via WiFi) or via an ethernet cable to your router / modem and thereby gain access to the internet. This is very important since most functions depend on a (fast) internet connection.
In addition, smart TVs offer various options for connecting equipment in the house to the TV. Consider, for example, your laptop, your tablet, your desktop and your smartphone. There are various standards and techniques for connecting these devices and then streaming media to or from your TV. For example, you can display photos, music and videos on your TV via DLNA, Miracast offers the option to display images from your mobile devices on TV, Google Cast (Chromecast) makes it possible to show content from apps on your TV and so on but by. There are even manufacturers who make it possible to show the content of TV (for example a TV channel) on your smartphone or tablet. However, this is often included in the manufacturer’s app.
Since there are many different options for connecting devices and streaming media, we recommend that you read our article on connecting your tablet or smartphone to your TV . We also wrote an article about streaming media to your TV .
Both your TV with an app
The operation of smart TVs is also a lot smarter than the operation of traditional TVs. In most cases, manufacturers have developed their own application for smartphones and tablets with which the TV can be operated. This app offers access to your channels, the menus and even extra functions such as starting apps and streaming media. The possibilities of the apps differ per manufacturer, you can read more about operating your TV in our article about operating everything with one remote control .
Remote controls, voice and cameras
The operation of a smart TV can also take place in a different ‘smart’ way. LG, for example, has developed the Magic Remote with which you can select parts by pointing to the screen. This Magic Remote is therefore a kind of magic wand with which you scroll through the menus in the air. Philips chooses to place a keyboard on the back of the remote control so that you can easily enter texts. Consider, for example, search terms, URLs and passwords. We see less and less voice control and operation via the camera (movements). The webcam that some TVs had a few years ago – and which was also used for video calls and logging into your TV – appears to be too sensitive to privacy problems and voice control is still not simple and accurate enough.
Apps for smart TVs
Perhaps the most famous part of the smart TV are the apps. These apps are small programs that are on your smart TV or can be put by downloading them from the TV’s app store. Apps come in all kinds of categories and the offer strongly depends on the smart TV operating system that is used. Android TV, developed by Google, for example, offers many more apps than LG’s webOS platform. However, this says nothing about the quality; most platforms provide access to the most popular services. Below you will find a list of the services that you will find on almost every smart TV.
- NPO Missed
- RTL XL
- Pathé Home
Smart TVs provide access to an application store where you can download various applications (programs). See your TV as a kind of computer in that respect. You download an application (paid or free) and it is installed on your TV. By default, various apps are often already installed on the TV.
Now that we encounter more and more streaming services as an app on smart TVs, the speed of your internet connection is also becoming increasingly important. Of course you want to enjoy the videos in the highest quality. You can read more about this in our articles about optimizing your WiFi signal and the minimum internet speed for streaming video .
Surfing the Internet
A function that is receiving less and less attention, but which is still present on many smart TVs, is the internet browser. Many smart TVs still come with a browser as standard, with which you can in principle visit all websites that you also visit on your other devices. In terms of operation, it may not be as convenient as a smartphone, tablet or PC – although TV manufacturers can also supply accessories such as keyboards, etc. – but it gives you more options when you sit in front of your TV.
There are a lot of different smart TV platforms and the functions within those platforms can also differ per. It is therefore almost impossible to list all the features of a smart TV, but we can still highlight a few. For example, various manufacturers make it possible to display images ‘picture-in-picture’. This means that you see TV channel A on a small screen and a connected source (for example a media player) on the large screen. You can choose the sources per window yourself. It is also possible on some platforms to place a Twitter feed over the image so that you can tweet directly about programs, and various smart TVs offer the possibility to record programs on a connected USB disk.
Smart TV platforms
At the moment, there are four smart TV platforms that are the most important and therefore the most used. We see WebOS on LG TVs, Tizen OS on Samsung smart TVs, Firefox OS is used by Panasonic and Android TV can be found on TVs from Sony and Philips, among others.
WebOs and Tizen are basically comparable. The platforms offer similar functions and use a fan / bar that contains all options, functions and resources. The platforms are very user-friendly, fully equipped, beautifully designed and provide access to the most important apps.
Firefox OS was developed by Mozilla and is only used by Panasonic on smart TVs. This platform uses a slightly different layout for the menus but is still very simplistic, easy to use and most importantly, fast. However, the Firefox OS app offering is slightly less than that of WebOS and Tizen OS. Android TV is the largest platform and can also be found on TVs from multiple manufacturers. Android TV offers a very large library of apps and has a somewhat busier interface than the aforementioned platforms.